How's Them Apples?

Growing up in Northern California, we lived smack dab between the ocean and the mountains. Depending on the time of year, we'd take trips in one direction or the other. I have fond memories of both locations. At this time of year, though, I always grow wistful for one place. Snuggled securely in the foothills, there is a little haven called Apple Hill. It is, as it's name suggests, a hill, covered with apple orchards. At least twenty years have past since I've been there, and I can feel in my bones that it's time to start planning a trip with my own children.

Now, apples are nice fruits, especially when freshly pick in the crisp autumn air, the dark earth rich and leaf-coated under your feet. But jab a stick in one of those tart orbs, roll it in caramel and chocolate, and slap nuts all over the surface? That's like a ten-course meal, but yummier. Not your thing? Try apple pie. Thirty different ways, with a side of vanilla ice cream. And fresh pressed cider. Followed by warm cider donuts covered in cinnamon sugar. Without a doubt, these treats are what made this place so memorable to me. I mean, we were the family passing out sugar-free hard sucker candies on Halloween. I was a kid living the dream.

The crazy thing, especially if you know me, is that the sugar content is not what lives in my heart when I think back to those autumnal glory days. Nope. That spot is reserved for something even better: the place where I fell in love with a figment of my imagination.

One of the orchards, which sported a little apple cafe called Kids, Inc., let patrons walk back behind the cider press building, past the apple trees, and along a path through the forests beyond. And herein lay my dreams. My family would be taking a walk to work off the bazillion calories just consumed; I, on the other hand, was living in my head. With Robin Hood. And King Arthur. And the kids from Narnia. But, best of all, there was this car. An old, rusted, beat up car, in the middle of the forest, possibly with a tree growing inside of it. This hunk-of-junk captured my imagination like nothing else in the world. How did it get there? Who did it belong to? Did people die? Was there an escaped convict lurking behind the trees? Teenage sweethearts who came to a tragic end? Man, I wanted to climb down and explore. I wanted to sit in the driver's seat and grip onto the steering wheel.

I purposely never asked my parents about it; I didn't want them to ruin anything with some lame, boring story. So every year, this is what I looked forward to, the adding of imaginary details to the thousands of possibilities in my head. Once my imagination sparked, there was no way of turning it off.

It would be cool to pass that along to my kids. It would be great to have their imaginations take flight. And it would be really awesome to chomp into a messy, sugar-loaded, apple-icious treat before taking a long meandering walk ....