1025 Orchard Road
Spruce Pine, NC 28777
Little Switzerland, NC 28749
The Orchard at Altapass pulls down the red barn’s garage doors on season’s end, Sunday, October 30, marking the end of another successful summer of “saving the good stuff” with apples, games, food and fun and friends reunited or recently welcomed. It also marks the start of more planning over the winter months. Of course, music will serenade the close—Homegrown will take to the stage on Saturday, the 29th. On Sunday, Sam McKinney, who has had the ear of a grateful audience for years will melodiously bid the Orchard adieu for another season. Both concerts are from 3:00 to 4:30, free, and open to the public.
It was a good year.
We missed most of the spring frosts; apples began ripening in early August; U-Picking out of the Apple Shed shortly thereafter. As the season wore on, more apples changed from green to red or yellow and filled the trees until the trunks were lost almost from view.
Music and dancing returned to the pavilion now walled on three sides with a fourth side still promised. Folks enjoyed the open air and views while listening to new and “seasoned” bands and dancing on the new plywood floor—the freedom of the outdoors was palpable, and although there were a few wild times, no one got wet or blown away.
And the “heyrides” returned with Bill Carson in the front seat, educating passengers about the apples and the history of the Orchard at Altapass. Of course, with a stretch of a fact here and there.
The Butterfly Garden, begun the previous year in honor of co-founder Judy Carson, bloomed vibrantly against the landscape and interpretive signage and map led visitors around to the different varieties, all pollinators. And although the Monarch migration paled from that of the year before, a few “babes” were gathered, nurtured in their habitat, and released on their way.
The train project continued its circle around the track, thanks to the Toe River Model Railroad Club, and with the assistance of tiny hands, tiny apple trees sprouted across the tiered miniature terrain. It was designed as a timeline from one lone revolutionary war soldier through the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway and into today. But the TRMRC determined there was too much regional history untold and spent the summer working on constructing a version of the Loops and the Altapass Inn, once a bustling getaway accessed by the Clinchfield Railway for the well-to-do.
The General Store continued to offer apple deliciousness—from fried apple pies to apple blossoms and caramel apples to hot apple cider and apple pie. With lunch from the reopened Apple Core grill, the umbrellaed picnic tables provided a venue to sit a spell and enjoy the scenery. And this year, we began to sell Molley Chomper’s hard cider made from the Orchard’s apples.
School groups came. Volunteers helped out. High schoolers worked the store. Books were signed, products demonstrated, samples were plentiful. It was a good year.
“Before the apples began ripening, we offered a place to watch the barn swallows nest, the train clacking along the tracks, to listen to music, play a game or take a walk, to learn about the heritage of this beautiful area. Of course, most came for the apples and most to U-Pick. They brought their children to show them what an heirloom apple looked and tasted like and where it grew,” said executive director, Beth Hilton. “That’s what we’re all about. We had a few anxious moments when we didn’t know if the weather would cooperate, but it did. We’re fortunate to have so many apples, so many varieties. It was a good six months, and we’ll spend the next six working on refining and improving the Orchard and the peoples’ experiences here.”
The Orchard at Altapass, 1025 Orchard Road near Spruce Pine at mm 328.3 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a not-for-profit working small batch heirloom apple orchard, educational, and music venue. Please check our Facebook page for winter updates. We reopen in May 2023. For information about the Orchard programs and opportunities, visit www.altapassorchard.org.
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