When I was young, I looked forward to going apple-picking every fall. On one Saturday, usually in the beginning of October, my mom would pile my sister and me — along with a handful of neighborhood kids — into our old Chevy Nova, and we’d set out for Wilkens Fruit and Fir Farm in Yorktown Heights. I’m not sure why this particular orchard ranked so highly with us, but I suspect that it had something to do with the flatbed trailer that transported customers between the main barn and the actual orchards. I clearly remember the feel of the bumpy ride as the trailer slowly chugged along, my legs hanging over the side; just like on a school bus, the rockiest, most coveted ride was in the far back.
Once among the apple trees, the action began. The ultimate goal, of course, was to fill your white paper bag with the biggest, reddest apples known to mankind. This was not as simple as it sounds. Although we’d sometimes stumble upon low-lying, fruit-laden branches where we could pluck to our heart’s content, most often we had to resort to other measures. First was the pitching method: you’d locate a prime apple, or bunch of apples, high above you, pick up a rotten apple from the ground, and throw it skyward. Hopefully, it would dislodge the apple in question and send it spiraling to the ground. Alas, I didn’t have very good aim, so this didn’t work that well for me. Next up was climbing — either the trees or on each other to get closer to the branches. This method was fraught with peril; my sister would often let me sit on her shoulders, but invariably she would start wavering and I’d tumble to the ground (usually into a pile of half-rotten fruit, which helped break the fall but left me sticky and stinking like rancid apple cider). Although my sister would apologize, I didn’t believe she was sorry — she never, ever dropped one of her friends. Still, we absolutely refused to debase ourselves by using one of those long-armed apple pickers. We considered this to be cheating of the worst kind, and looked with scorn upon the clean folks who were so easily filling their bags with apples.
We loved our day of romping around in the country. After gathering our apples, we’d head back to the orchard store where we’d drink hot cider and beg my mother for more treats. Tired and full, we’d get back in the car and discuss the different kinds of pies and breads we were going to bake at home, and all would be well with the world. I’m happy to see that — although there are a million high-tech games, iPods, and other distractions for kids these days — apple picking remains as popular as ever. In fact, New York City friends call me all fall long wanting to do just one thing: go apple-picking (see page 24 for info on local orchards). By mid-October, I’m sick of it. But that’s partially because there are so many other ways to celebrate the season in the Hudson Valley. In our Fall Weekends roundup (page 48), we’ve compiled dozens of things to see and do on every weekend day right up to Thanksgiving. And if you like to travel, we’ve outlined four very special getaways (page 70) that will satisfy both your urge to take in some cultlure — as well as the fabulous fall foliage.
Olivia J. Abel
Editor in Chief