PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA

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Outside with Charley

By October 12, 2010

Sports columnist

Apple Hill time

Autumn is a wonderful time of year as the weather becomes cooler, the days grow shorter and the nights longer. The sights and smells of autumn are on us.

One of the most visited areas in El Dorado County this time of year is Apple Hill. At one time it was filled with pear trees, but a blight wiped them out and apples took over. ItÕs a perfect micro climate for growing apples much to our benefit. From apples come pies, tarts, jams, turnovers, donuts, spreads and other enjoyable concoctions.

There are more than 50 apple ranches that offer all kinds of apple treats. Dieters must test their resolve or stay in the car while the rest of the family launches into an apple-goodie food coma. The range of pastries and gooey, sweet apple things is extensive. Each ranch has its own special treat. One decision to be made is what treats to try. ItÕs impossible to get to all 50 ranches in one day.

Along with an amazing assortment of things to eat, there are craft shows at many of the ranches. Local artists and craftsmen are encouraged to set up their wares during apple season. YouÕll find paintings, jewelry, pottery, wood and metal crafts, dolls, signs, sculpture, and many other handmade items. You can talk with the vendors and perhaps find out how the craft markets work.

Apple Hill is truly family oriented with many activities for the younger set Ñ from face-painting to riding ponys and perhaps even a small train. There are animals, story telling and music. For the young at heart and those of a certain age, the workings of some ancient apple peeling and slicing machines, old farm equipment, stunning views and the wonderful smells of an active kitchen with a fresh batch of apple sweetness brewing can round out a fine day in apple country. Some of the ranches have a pick-your-own area or you can buy a box of apples to take home and make your own pies and goodies.

One of the best reasons to visit Apple Hill is the beauty of the foothill area around Camino. Each ranch has its own particular view and mix of apples and other fruits. The themes are all different and everyone has a secret apple recipe. Some have nature trails for the more sure-footed among us to enjoy.

Halloween is just around the corner so itÕs a good time to pick out the family pumpkins. They come in all sizes and varieties. Kids have a great time picking out the perfect pumpkin to carve. With pumpkins come pumpkin pies, another special autumn treat. ItÕs a tough time of year for dieting.

Its best to have a map, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area. Maps are available on the Web at applehill.com. ItÕs not necessary to have a plan but a map of the region lets you find your way around.

Weekends are quite crowded so the growers sponsor a free shuttle service, one starting in Placerville and the other starting in Camino. It runs on a regular schedule and if you would rather not struggle to find parking, the shuttle is a good option.

DonÕt be in a hurry when you head home. Westbound Highway 50 traffic is often backed up for several miles in the afternoon. ItÕs worth it after a glorious autumn day in Apple Hill.

Charlie Ferris

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