10:35 am. We are bundled in the car on a chilly Fall morning, ready for the drive to Russell Orchards in Ipswich, MA. There are 7 of us going today, and the girls and I huddle together under a blanket in the back seat to keep warm.
11:54 am. We arrive in the very crowded parking lot. After snagging a great spot, we head toward the big barn. First stop - the bathrooms, a row of Port-A-Potties. They are smelly and not pleasant, but I'm thankful they have them at all.
Next stop: just inside the barn for cups of hot mulled apple cider to warm our hands. The men go stand in line to grab a bag of warm apple cider donuts, and we pay and head outside to enjoy them.
We walk past bins of both traditional and unusual pumpkins and gourds, and head over to a grassy area to sit down.
These apple cider donuts are the reason I come to this orchard, and will continue to come every Fall from now til eternity. They are warm and oily and not too sweet, but just right.
After eating our donuts, and with warm cider still in our hands, we board the hayride tractor that delivers us to the apple picking area of the orchard. We walk over to the little stand and buy 2 bags to stuff with as many apples as we can fit.
We go first to the Honeycrisp rows, even though the lady at the stand has told us that Honeycrisps are pretty much done for the season. We're hoping to find just a few left on the trees. The pickings are pretty slim here, most of the trees are bare except for a few small greenish apples here and there. We're pretty bummed about this because last year the Honeycrisps right off the tree were the best part of the apple picking for us, so I make a mental note to mark my calendar for next year: "Must come during September."
After picking over the Honeycrisp trees, we head back toward the trees that are still in season.
The Galas prove to be the best finds for us this year - crunchy, tart-sweet apples, 10 times better than the imported grocery store Galas.
We fill our bags with Galas and a few McIntosh that are still hanging on the trees.
Emma and I head over to try the Gingercrisp apples, one we haven't heard of before. We don't like them much, at least not for snacking. They are mealy and very sweet. We speculate that maybe they are a baking apple, but at least now we know.
We decide to forego the hayride wagon and walk back to the barn, passing some geese heading for the pond as we approach the crowds around the entrance area.
We look around a little more in the barn store, get a few more donuts and a frozen apple pie to go, and pile back in the car to head home. This is the best Fall tradition.
See more photos from our trip on my Flickr stream here.
Learn more about Russell Orchards here.