We wound our way up Pinnacle Mountain Road, each twist revealing startling views across the verdant, tree-covered peaks and valleys that surrounded us. At the higher altitude, the foliage had already begun to turn, and the bright, chartreuse and tangerine hues seemed to be celebrating our climb. As we neared the very top, the tantalizing aroma of fried apple-cider donuts wafted down to greet us, and despite some GPS mishaps, I knew we were in the right place. I hurried to collect my camera, and we headed towards the entrance, past hay bales and big, carving pumpkins, to a barn filled with rows of carefully-stacked apples.
The Honey and I were making a slight detour on our way to Asheville, to visit Sky Top Orchards, a pick-your-own apple farm in the heart of North Carolina apple country.
Passing through the main barn, the orchard unfolded before us – a breathtaking collection of apple trees in orderly rows dotting gentle rolling hills that disappeared into the distance. We set off, crimson basket in hand, to wander the orchard.
The farm was crowded – as to be expected for a beautiful, early-October afternoon in the midst of apple season – but as we made our way deeper into the orchard, the crowds thinned. We walked hand-in-hand down sun-dappled rows, the sky above a faded blue, the orchard peacefully quiet save for the breeze rustling through the apple leaves and a few goats foraging for fallen fruit.
“Babe, do you think you could make me a pie?”
His boyish grin belied the sheepish tone of the question. He already knew the answer – confident in my weakness for both apple desserts and baking him sweet treats.
We searched for pie apples, more determined now, with a sweet mission at hand. I prefer firm, tart apples for pies and baking in general, and like to mix and match for the best flavor. Each row was marked with a colorful, painted sign noting the particular apple variety – granny smith, fuji, pink lady, golden delicious… – and we collected a varied basketful before making our way back to the barn.
By then, more people had arrived, and the barn was bustling as visitors snatched up baskets of pre-picked apples and jugs of fresh cider. The line for apple cider donuts was long, but it seemed like a fitting way to cap off our trip. We stood in the grass, eating our warm donuts, cinnamon sugar spilling off our fingers, and I couldn’t help but think that this was one of those days – those moments – that makes life so wonderful. Just the two of us – albeit in a sea of many – at the top of a mountain, on a beautiful day, with beautiful food.
If you’d like to visit Sky Top, you can find their visitor’s info, picking schedule and more here.
And while we’re talking apples, check out this article about Why Your Supermarket Only Sells 5 Kinds of Apples.