Saturday, November 16, 2013

Apple Picking in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Last fall, Allyson and I spent a terrific weekend up in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Hendersonville, North Carolina. A former colleague of Allyson's owns a small cabin on Lake Summit, which is about 20 minutes south of Hendersonville or 40 minutes south of Asheville. This quiet lake got very little traffic (at least in the fall when we were there), so the dirt road around the lake made for a great place to walk or go for our morning run.

 The water was really low when we were there. Not sure if it is higher in the spring, but I would think so. I would've liked to have some kayaks to explore the lake by water. I recall seeing some rental houses that had kayaks, so it would be worth looking into that if you are planning a trip here.

The highlights of the trip, besides just hanging out at Lake Summit and in the precious cabin, were apple picking and our quick stop in the little town of Saluda. 

We went apple picking at Sky Top Orchard in Flat Rock, North Carolina. The Henderson County Tourism website has a list of all the apple orchards in the area. Our goals for our apple picking excursion were to pick our own apples and get donuts and warm apple cider. I have vivid memories from childhood in Michigan of our family heading up to Uncle John's Cider Mill for apples, cider, and donuts. This is what I wanted at Sky Top, and we definitely could have had this. Picking our own apples was super fun. Also, they had a store with bushels of apples already picked and lots of other food items, like apple butter. 

My only complaint about Sky Top was how crowded it was. It was like Disneyland in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Yes, this activity is a perfect one for little kiddos, so I understand why so many families chose to do this on a Saturday in late September. And we didn't get as early of a start as we could have, so we didn't get there until 11am or so - prime time for apple picking apparently. However, we easily lost the crowds because we were willing to walk farther than 400 feet down the rows of apples. The issue came when we wanted apple cider and a donut. The line was at least 50 deep when we were ready for our long-awaited snack. We were both really hungry, so we decided to head to Hendersonville for lunch and then we planned to go to one of the many other orchards in the area for our cider and donuts. 

The town of Hendersonville is a cute, historic town with several restaurants and some little shops along Main Street. We spent a couple hours in town for lunch and kept ourselves occupied with the wide variety of candy and toys in the general store while it totally dumped rain outside. 

On one of the streets in Hendersonville

Unfortunately, our search for apple cider and donuts was unsuccessful. We drove to two different orchards and a store, and they were either closed (the orchards) or didn't have cider or donuts (the store). We were bummed, but at least the drive was beautiful and it took us through Saluda on our way back to Lake Summit. 

Saluda is tiny. It is a few historic buildings along a Main Street that parallels the train tracks. We got here in the late afternoon when the sun was shining and the town was quiet. We found a little general store that had ice cream (always a reasonable alternative when plans don't go exactly right) and found some packaged apple cider to take home with us. 

All in all, this trip was exactly what we aimed for heading up to the Blue Ridge Mountains, except for the donuts.

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