What fall is complete without a trip to the apple orchard? Grab a picnic, grab a friend and grab some apples.
Stribling Orchard in Markham, Va., is a great one to hit. In the Blue Ridge Mountains, it's far enough from Washington that you can really feel as though you're getting away into the crisp, fall air for the afternoon. Owned and operated by the Striblings since 1819, the approximately 50-acre farm affords enough space to wander around in and lose the weekend crowds. (The orchard hosts 1,000 to 2,000 people on weekend days in autumn.)
Saturday is a bit less busy than Sunday, says Bee Stribling, who helps run the farm. But then again, "Nothing says Sunday like going to church and making apple pie," he says.
A sixth generation of Striblings now farms the land. Bee grew up in the Stribling house that you'll pass on the way in, where Striblings have lived since 1811 and where Bee lived without a shower or heat as a kid.
You'll most likely park right next to a small field and be tempted to plop down right there with your picnic. Earn your lunch instead and trudge through the orchard, away from the people. You'll find some quiet at the back of the farm among the rows of trees. Or you can drive into the orchard, but that could mean waiting in a line of cars.
Before you climb the hill with your lunch, grab some apple bags and a map and chat with Bee about what kind of apple you want to pick. The map and the markings on the trees proved a bit difficult to read, so if you want a specific apple, find a Stribling in a red shirt and name tag to direct you. With more than 15 varieties on the property, Bee admits, "most people don't know what they've picked." That shouldn't matter, though. Walk the lanes and grab the abundant low-hanging fruit. Go sooner rather than later. The trees are overflowing with ripe red apples right now.
-- Moira E. McLaughlin, Sept. 2008