Midwest Travels: Apple Holler
I recently went apple picking for the first time in my life. Four friends and I met up for an early city brunch and then ventured an hour away to Sturtevant, Wisconsin. We sang along to our playlist as the highway took us past corporate campuses and cropland. At our destination, we gorged on donuts and sipped hot, tart, spiced cider while a man wearing a dreamcatcher played Abba on pan pipes. The petting zoos and pig races and corn mazes were all swollen with people drunk on fall. We caught a hayride deep into the orchard.
I’m clearly not a veteran, but I think the magic of apple picking might lie in the fantasy that everything you see belongs to you. Even if just for a moment. We wandered up and down endless rows of dwarf trees. All ours. The entrance fee bought us the freedom to taste as many pieces of fruit as we wanted. Dozens of varietals growing on dozens of acres — flashes of red and yellow called to us from behind giant patches of green. The fields were quiet and calm. You could hear the crunch of a newly bitten Jonathan or Cortland from beyond the treetops, the sound jumping from row to row.
We wandered deeper into the property and found our way to the Enchanted Forest, a wild recess from the geometric farm park. The perfectly planted grove gave way to thick backwoods where dappled sunlight squeezed through tiny openings in the canopy. We walked slowly, eyes craning up and around, leaves crunching underfoot.
Eventually the forest receded, the sky widened, and we were back in the farm. We got serious about filling our half peck bags with as many apples as we could grab, searching for the most perfect specimens and standing on tippy toes to collect them. The light began to lean lower as we wandered back through the orchard, past the dusty pumpkin patch, and back toward the entrance gates. The sound of pan pipes returned. As did the sounds of teenage yelps and car engines and cash registers.
The transition back from nature to civilization is always an awkward one. Even a man-made apple orchard can deliver the feeling of escape that an urbanite craves after one too many cramped subway rides. For a few hours that Saturday, we disappeared. We climbed and stretched and tasted fruit fresh from the tree. We heard new sounds. We heard fewer sounds. We shared stories and laughed. We were quiet. We looked closely. We took a break from worry. We breathed.
And for the next week, we ate delicious apples that reminded us of our fall day in Wisconsin.