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in the Park
Tips and ideas for the traveling family
|Adrienne Krock, editor|
|Apple Picking: Family Fun Away from the Park|
I have to admit, my desire to go apple picking started because I was jealous of my friend Kelly. Kelly sent me e-mail with pictures of her family picking apples, including her daughter, who at 3, is the same age as my son. The photos were just wonderful, and made me want my son to have the same experience. There was just one problem: Kelly lives in New York. Where they have seasons. How in the world could my family go apple picking when we lived in sunny Southern California? As it turns out, it is possible to go apple picking near Los Angeles!
On a recent Sunday, our family had a wonderful time apple picking, in Oak Glen located in San Bernardino County, off of Interstate 10, just east of Redlands and Yucaipa.
From Anaheim, Oak Glen is just over an hour's drive. Located in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, the climate is well-suited to apple growing, and several orchards grow many varieties there. Some orchards welcome visitors to pick their own apples, while others sell pre-packed apples. To find out when specific varieties are ready for harvesting, visitors can call ahead to most of the farms (see the sidebar for some of those numbers).
We started our day by picking apples at around 10:30 on the southeast end of Oak Glen at Riley's Farm. Once in the orchard, a friendly hostess greeted us and explained how to pick apples correctly. We learned about Rome, Red Delicious, and Winesap, the three varieties available on Sunday. We learned how to pick them -- push up and twist -- so we would not damage the buds for next year's harvest. We had three choices: a bag for $5, a larger bag for $8, or a fifth of a bushel box for $10. We chose the box.
Kevin grabbed a picking tool and we crossed the street to a section with several full Rome trees. Wind and frost damaged the Red Delicious crop this year so those trees remain sparsely filled. As we picked apples and snapped pictures, Matthew munched on a fresh, crisp fruit.
After we put our box of apples in the car, we headed up to the main building and signed up for a hayride. Tickets cost $3 for adults and $2 for children. Two large horses, each weighing over 1000 pounds, pulled our wagon on a tour of the ranch. Ginger, our guide, told us the history of the farm during the course of our 20-minute ride.
According to Ginger, several apple trees at Riley's are over 100 years old. Underground streams irrigate the orchard so the trees grew even when left untended. When the Riley family purchased the farm, they cleaned up years of overgrowth and faced trees full of rats' nests! Water thirsty cat tails grow on the border of the orchard, revealing the location of the underground springs. Twenty-nine members of the Riley family live on the farm property, representing multiple generations.
Besides apples, Riley's farm grows pears, raspberries, corn, pumpkins, and gourds. We wandered through pumpkin patches admiring unusually bright orange pumpkins, interesting gourds, and pumpkins much bigger than Spencer, my 5- month- old son. Pumpkins sold for 30 cents per pound with a $1.50 minimum.
In front of the country store, corn was already picked and ready for sale. Inside, we shopped through several canned goodies such as apple butters, syrups, and Riley's own raspberry preserves. Matthew selected a unique hobby horse with a bark covered stick. Fresh cider, available for $7 per gallon, is made fresh in cider presses near a homestead cabin, on a large grassy field.
While many visitors enjoy picnic lunches on picnic tables throughout the farm, we visited the farm's barbecue and bakery. Our barbecue lunch was very tasty. And for dessert, we selected turnovers and handheld apple pies, which are like giant turnovers with a pie crust.
We had a wonderful time. Riley's is a great place for a fun family experience, offering several activities for children and a charming atmosphere: everyone working at Riley's dressed in late 19th century farm garb in keeping with the homestead theme of the grounds.
Up the road from Riley's is Los Rios Rancho. Los Rios Rancho proudly boasts that their orchards are organic, although it feels much more commercial than Riley's. Although Los Rios Rancho offers the opportunity to pick your own apples, we just purchased the pre-packed apples. A half-bushel box of apples costs $14 to $16.
The store also sells many goodies in jars such as apple butter and fruit preserves. A deli and bakery offer lunch and apple pastries next door. A beautiful grassy field in front of Los Rios Rancho provides a view of the foothills that is perfect for picnics.
Past Los Rios Rancho is Oak Glen Village, where visitors can browse through arts and crafts. Beyond Oak Glen Village is Parrish Pioneer Ranch, which includes both a restaurant and store. A half-bushel of apples cost $15 here. In addition to several varieties of pre-packed apples, Parrish also offers apple wine tasting.
As Yodeling Merle entertains guests outside the Parrish store, you might hear gunshots from the True West Stunt team up the hill. However with the clock approaching 3:00 and our 3-year-old hitting that "no nap yet" wall, we packed everyone back in the car for the ride home.
Next time I think I might curb my apple purchasing a bit, or have fellow bakers ready and waiting to help me use the apples. I will stop at a few of the craft and antique stores, too. Because in our car we had a half bushel box of Red Delicious apples, a half bushel box of Gala apples, and a 1/5 bushel box of Rome apples.
In case you don't quite realize how many apples are in a half-bushel box, let me tell you: A whole heck of a lot. Kevin took a bag of Red Delicious to work to share, my mother took two bags of Red Delicious to work to share, and Matthew is still eating Red Delicious apples. It took me two full days, but I made and canned Gala applesauce. With those Rome apples, I made two apple crisps, apple turnovers, baked apples and three loaves of apple bread. And I still have Rome apples left.
And now I am no longer jealous of my friend Kelly in New York. Where they have seasons I hear.
Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Adrienne here.
To get to Oak Glen: Driving from the "beach cities" or Orange County, one efficient route is to take the 91 East to the 60 East and exit in Beaumont, just after the 60 runs into the 10 freeway.
A sampling of Oak Glen , East to West: (Also see the Oak Glen Grower's Association)
Oak Glen Schoolhouse
Adrienne gathered experience taking children to amusement parks when she worked as a day camp counselor and director. She was an elementary school teacher before she started her favorite job: being Matthew and Spencer's mom.
Adrienne, Matthew and Spencer visit Disneyland several times a month, usually with Daddy.
Besides Matthew and Spencer, Adrienne and her husband Kevin created and maintain the award-winning Happiest Potties on Earth here at MousePlanet.
You can contact Adrienne here.
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