The stretch of time from early October through New Year’s Day always gets my heart racing. I want to go to fall festivals, to pick apples, to visit the pumpkin patch, to jump in leaves, to decorate the house for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas (including visiting the tree farm to choose our perfect tree), to go hear holiday music performed and drive around to look at decorated yards, and to do something memorable for the close of the year. We rarely get to do it all, especially since the girls are with their father every other weekend. Last year the activity I most regretted missing was going up to apple country. So this past weekend, that’s what we did. It was a wonderful day, one I hope all three of us will remember forever.
The girls and I hit the road right after their gymnastics classes ended. It took 90 minutes to get up to Ellijay, so we had plenty of time on the way to eat the sandwiches I’d packed. Traffic on the 4-lane highway was at a standstill. That was okay; we hopped onto Hwy 9 and enjoyed the scenery through Coal Mountain and Dawsonville. A dubious history lesson on Prohibition, moonshine and NASCAR ensued. I hope the girls check the facts when they’re older.
We finally arrived at Hillcrest Orchards.The magic began as we drove through the property past the orchards to the “north 40” where we parked, eyeballing apples on the trees lining the driveway. The girls reached through a fence to pet a cow on the hike back to the orchard. It had such big beautiful eyes and luckily was tolerant, if not outright friendly.
We paid admission and bought our bags.
The posted signs had warned us that the you-pick season was ending and guests might only find 1-2 apples. Ha – we filled a bag and a half. Then it was on the rest of the fun stuff.. like arresting one another for being the “Notorious Apple Thief”…
The girls were too big for the jumping pillow. Judging by the size of the kids on it, no one seemed to care. So I eventually said “yes,” but they decided the line was too long and went on to the playground and mountain slide. I hung out in the shade while they raced up the hill and flew down the slides with joy on their faces.
“Can we go to the petting farm?” I handed over the $3 admission fees and told them to watch for me on the fence. Sweet calf, lots of goats, a couple of sheep, and chickens that tolerated being picked up. I never would have thought I would have to instruct my children, “Don’t rub your face on the chicken!”… but I actually did.
Wash hands, great, now humor me and go wash them again … “Where are the pony rides?” Somewhere in the orchard, I suppose. On the way to locate the plodding ponies, we found the bungee jumping. Pony rides are probably boring for girls who had been lucky enough to have riding lessons during the summer, so the kids opted for the bungee ride as their other extra-cost activity. Flying 20-25 feet up in the air (maybe higher) was “totally worth it” to them. For me, it was $7 a pop to have my heart fly up in my throat as each of my kids was flung up into the air. Their excitement was “totally worth it” to me.
What’s next? Missed the pig races, didn’t care much about the tractor ride. We went inside to buy some goodies to take to my father’s birthday party the next day – fried pies, donuts and such – but the line to pay was wrapped completely around. That was a no brainer; we skipped it and headed back outside instead for funnel cake, candy apples and cider. We ate some funnel cake, then got in the car and headed home.
The candy apples were unwrapped as soon as the kids were buckled in and lasted the entire 90 minutes it took to get back. The discussion from the back seat was hilarious. “I’m making a bald spot.” “Look at all the candy on the top!” “I think I look like I have blood all over.” “I love getting sticky.” The apples made the car smell nice, too. What a treat, red faces, hands and shirts and all.
I sent the kids straight into the bath when we got home. The pot roast had filled the house with that warm homey smell and it was nice not to have to deal with making dinner.
The day wasn’t perfect. The traffic was a hiccup both on the 4-lane and as we approached the farms. It took us 45 minutes to go the last 2 miles.
Also, with the winding roads, M got a little car-queasy. The apple house was extremely crowded. There were hundreds, if not over a thousand, people there. We waited 30 minutes for a bathroom break. The apples were sometimes hard to find (many still on the trees had already been partially enjoyed by birds). And tragedy struck late in the day when M unwrapped her candy apple and it fell off the stick onto the floorboard of the car. Luckily I had plenty of bottled water, so I picked off the dried grass pieces and rinsed it really well. The mess ended as a save.
What stands out to me was that none of those snafus caused any negativity, and no one wanted to rush from activity to activity. The girls set the pace and that was okay. They spent as long as they wanted doing the things they most wanted to do. So we missed pig races and milking Bessie, never found the ponies and skipped the corn maze. None of us felt rushed or short-changed. “Next time,” the girls said happily. They got along so well, were so cooperative, and enjoyed the time so much, it filled my heart with gratitude.
After their baths, I got a spontaneous hug from each of them, along with an “I love you so much, Mommy” and a “Thank you for taking us today, I had the best day ever.”
For me as well, it truly was one of the best days ever. I hope I never forget it.