Granite State of Mind, #33: Applecrest Farm Orchards, Hampton Falls
Along Route 88 (also known as Exeter Road) in Hampton Falls you'll find the largest and oldest apple orchard in New Hampshire - in fact, the oldest continuously-operated apple orchard in America. And if you visit in September or October, you're in for one of the great traditions of the New Hampshire seacoast. The Applecrest Harvest Festival is a half-century-old classic that includes apple picking, pumpkin patches, and that quintessential New England treat, the apple-cider donut. Autumn weekends in New Hampshire mean apple orchards, and Applecrest is the granddaddy of them all. (An aside: I have to tip my hat to Ye Olde Allen Farm in Greenland, just down the street from where I grew up. I still remember watching the big barn burn down with my father.)
You have to love walking into the market at Applecrest during the fall, experiencing anew that patchwork quilt of scents and colors that have remained largely unchanged for generations. The crisp, tart smell of more than 40 varieties of apples. The reds and oranges and greens of bins full of locally-grown vegetables. Cooking caramel corn, new-cut hay, cinnamon and syrup and honey. Sweatshirts and jeans after the last gasp of summer heat, the sun still bright against the bluest skies, the oaks and maples and beeches donning their multi-hued autumn jackets. Every season has something to offer in New Hampshire, but it's damn hard to argue against fall being her finest hour. And nobody does fall in New Hampshire better than Applecrest.