I woke up last Sunday with this crazy desire to slip on a sundress and just get in the car and go! After all, I had been super good all week after being forced home by the government shut down. Upon seeing that Secretary Hagel was re-calling us back, I needed to do something to shake the furlough funk. How better to do just that than to go apple picking? Yes, apple picking was the perfect outing to refresh my mind-set.
Recalling lessons learned from previous years, I pulled out my tablet to check the pick your own availability at the orchards I was familiar with. “We have few apples left,” “No more pick-your-own,”…oh, no! No, no, no, no! After searching and searching for any other Northern Virginia orchards to know avail, I started searching for Virginia orchards in general. Two hours away, three hours away…my spirits began to sink.
It was Virginia Tourism to the rescue! Their Apple Picking site lists 21 apple orchards across the state. If I wasn’t going to find a place on this list, I probably wouldn’t find one anywhere. The list did not disappoint. An orchard popped up…and it was only 20 minutes further out than the orchard clusters of Markham: Rinker Orchards in Stephens City. After checking out their website and then their Facebook page I had a feeling Rinker would not disappoint. Off I went.
The ladies greeted me with smiles and were absolutely lovely. After assuring me there were plenty of apples, they asked what I was hoping to do with the apples I pick so that they could point me toward the right trees. “Hmmmm, apple jelly, apple sauce, apple pie…you name it!” I declared. I told them about Cork and Spoon to help explain my ambitious list. Excited, they handed me a flier for the Rinker & Friends Cookbook, a 43 year anniversary project collecting photos, memories, and recipes. “I can definitely share!” I said, as they handed me my 1/2 bushel bag. Waving to them, I headed down the lane towards the trees.
I stopped dead in my tracks the minute I hit the first row of apples. I swear my jaw hit the ground. The trees were just dripping in beautiful fruit! Row after row, completely laden with fruit. I had definitely hit the jackpot here at Rinker! I probably could have filled my bag in 15 minutes, but I spent a little over an hour at the orchard picking Nittany, Golden Delicious, Rome, and Ida Reds (I seriously debated buying another bag to fill. I didn’t even get to the Fuji and Red Delicious trees!).
Even with rambunctious children weaving in and out of the trees, I often found whole rows of apples all to myself. So unlike the uber crowded orchards I had been to before. I enjoyed aimlessly wandering the orchard, my bag swinging with each step. Afterwards, I stopped by the sales booth to pick up a Cider Pop, a popsicle frozen from Rinker’s own apple cider. What a refreshing treat after spending an hour in the sun. They even give you a paper towel to keep stickiness under control as the Cider Pop melts. Now there’s customer service for you!
Rinker has definitely become my favorite apple orchard. Just a few minutes further west, and the vibe changes from the fast paced, sardine packed NoVa vibe, to one of friendly neighbors stopping by for a cup of sugar. Brief, but sweet, and always welcome to stay just a little longer. I definitely plan to visit again next year.