Monday, July 17, 2017

Biking and Fruit Hunting in the Apple Capitol of the World

While we are camping in Leavenworth, Washington, we made the 22-mile trip over to the town of Wenatchee. We read the big billboard at the edge of town that proclaims this the Apple Capitol of the World. We already knew that Washington is known for growing apples, and this is the capitol! Too bad we're about a month too early for the first of the apple varieties to be harvested. We did stop by the Visitor Center of the Washington Apple Commission, and learned about how the volcanic soil and the cool summer nights in this valley makes for the ideal environment for the best apples in the world. And added bonus was a cold apple juice while we watched their educational film.

We're too early for fresh apples, but we're right on time for a bike ride on the "Apple Capitol Recreation Loop." The ten-mile paved trail follows both sides of the Columbia River that flows through the town of Wenatchee. So we started on the west side for a beautiful view of the river with the rolling hills surrounding it. We have seen the Columbia River before, as we spent more than a week along its shores as it cuts through the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon over a month ago.

This bike/pedestrian trail follows some of the nice green parks that line the Columbia River on the west side. But more importantly, this side of the bike trail is wonderfully level.

But a loop that circles a river also includes some bridge crossings. That is the 105-year-old Pipeline Bridge, our first crossing over the river. It is actually the oldest road bridge built over the Columbia over a century ago.

Alas, getting up on that bridge was all up-hill. But this was an interesting ride. We were sharing the bridge with that 1,000 foot long pipe that has carried water to the 4,000 acres of orchards on the other side for over 100 years.

Where the east side is green and manicured, the west side is gold and wild and (ugh!) hillier.

But this trail took us right beside our first cherry trees. Denisa would love to taste some right off the tree, but those darn "no trespassing" signs kept her on her bike.

After a detour due to a section of the trail closed for tree trimming, and the steep hill up to the second bridge, we were pooped! With the hilly detour, it was an 11-mile loop made tougher by warmer than usual temperatures. It took a giant cherry limeade at Sonic to revive us. Then we started our second journey of the day--finding the best place to buy local fruit. We tried googling "fruit market" and our smartphone took us to a closed warehouse. The only good news was this picture of the loaded peach orchard next door.

The next thing we tried was following hand-written signs along the road proclaiming "Cherries" and an address. We arrived at the house with a side yard filled with trees loaded with fruit. But no one answered the door, so again we struck out.

We finally found a permanent fruit stand with real produce and people actually there to take our money. Too bad that everything was double and triple the price it should be. Strike three!

That's when we spotted the old truck advertising "Peach Man." We followed the arrows and small signs to the middle of an orchard.

We finally found a local seller with good produce and good prices. We got some fresh peaches, apricots, bing cherries, and Rainier cherries. Score!

We bought more cherries at an un-manned cherry stand with a hand-written sign that asked you to leave your money in the jar for the $1/pound fruit. Then we made one last stop at another road-side fruit stand where the Feil family has been selling only what they grow for over 100 years.

We really didn't need any more fruit, but how could we resist a whole box of seconds for a great price? This is close to ten pounds of apricots, culled because they were too big or too small, or just not quite good enough for top prices. So they put them in a big box and sold them for $5. Denisa sorted them by ripeness, and formulated a plan for using them up.

After a full day of biking and treasure hunting for fruit, now we had a project. We were dicing up apricots for a batch of freezer jam! We don't carry around those pretty little jelly jars that Denisa used for canning back home. Now we use whatever containers we have in the cabinet for a batch of jelly.

We also made a delicious apricot crunch, and froze some apricots for later. We feel like we have really found some golden treasures on our hunt for fruit today. Have we mentioned how much we like our new location here in central Washington?

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