2012 Apple Hill Time in Northern California

Downtown Placerville

Downtown Placerville (Photo credit: www78)

It’s still real warm in northern California, deep into September, but in the morning you can smell it.  Yes, you can smell apples in their crates inside of the barn.

No….I don’t live in a barn.  But I live in California and each year I love to visit Apple Hill near Placerville, also known as Hangtown, in Northern California.

You got to go and if not, you got to take a virtual trip and check it out.  It looks good, it smells good and it tastes damn good!!!

So check out the Association site and see what’s new for 2012.  Grab ourself a map & a guide if you need one.

What’s good there?  Well apples, of course.  Apples, apple pie, apple fritters, candy appled apples, apple juice & cide.

My favorite?  apple cider donuts.  Yum.

Plus BBQ lunches at some farms, train rides and fishing for the kids.  The smells and tastes.  A day out of the city.  Christmas tree tours, winery tours.  Pick ’em yourself farms.  Teaching the kids where their food comes from.

Petting zoos.

Filling up the car or truck with goodies to take home.  And even more goodies to give to famil, friends, neighbors.  Put in the freezzer.

The Blossom Trail Run at the other end of the season, usuall in April so mark your calendar.

And the Apple Hill Harvest Run, race day this ear is November 4th and the course is 8.5 beautiful miles and includes the Harvest Day 3.5 mile Run/Walk.  Check the links for info and to register.

But back to apple goodness…I am more about eating my way thru Apple Hill.  I don’t even do the wine drinking thru Apple Hill any more, so I eat.

And I look forward to it each and every year.

Roll Out The Barrel in El Dorado County

El Dorado County is the place to be for Roll Out The Barrel, a fun event featuring 27 wineries.

Everyone has heard of NapaSonoma wine in California but some people have not heard of the El Dorado wineries.

They bottle some of the very best California wines.

El Dorado Winery Association (EDWA) invites you to hunt for your next favorite wine during their annual Roll Out the Barrel event January 28-29, 2012.

The event is a self-guided tour of the El Dorado county wineries.

You get wine tasting hors d’oeuvres, cheese and prizes.

You can even win free tickets HERE

El Dorado County is just a short drive from Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe, and about 90 minutes from San Francisco.

You can find a map of the various wineries here

And you can check out the Apple Hill farms while you are there.  Buy or pick apples and other fruit, and get lunch and baked goods as well as some handmade crafts at some of the ranches.

And you can even visit Placerville and see that old Hangtown Motel sign made famous on the Dodge truck commercial this past fall.  Remember the “We parked it here, and if you find it you can keep it” commercial?  Placerville was named Hangtown in it’s early gold rush years.

Why?  ummmm…all the hangings?

Go, and have fun!!!

California and Fresh Fruit & Fresh Produce

Apple Hill

Image by ScottSchrantz via Flickr

One of the best things about living in California is the abundance of fresh fruit and fresh produce and the length of our growing seasons.

For lunch I had a big bowl of red grapes, strawberries and watermelon all grown in California and picked fresh.  I added fresh pineapple to the mix but that probably came from Hawaii.

And for breakfast I had an apple turnover purchased yesterday at Apple Hill.  The apples were probably picked and ready for the baked goodies in just the past few days.

So in California we stretched the spring/summer strawberry season across the mid/late summer watermelon season and mixed it with the summer/fall grape season and just added in the fall apple season.  Cool!!

And very good for me because fresh fruit is my favorite thing.

Fresh California produce is important for me too.

Last night I made boneless country-style pork spare ribs and added fresh asparagus tips and fresh corn on the cob, both grown locally.  Unfortunately the local season for white corn is over so I had to use plain old sweet yellow corn.  The potatoes probably came from Idaho but we do grow potatoes locally, especially the small red and yellow potatoes which are my favorites.

I know all of you live in some really great places, but I don’t know what I would do if I did not live in California with all of our fruit and produce choices.  It makes most of our restaurant choices so much better too.

I used to have a Japanese girlfriend who had relatives in Hawaii, Las Vegas, New York City and Japan.  Every time someone came to visit us we would have to go out on buying trips to local farm stands and farmers markets and buy fruit fruit fruit and some produce.  They would just stuff themselves while they were here and then they would pack up their favorites and take it all home to share with folks back where they had come from.

It amazed me.  But if I lived elsewhere and visited California I would fill up a few boxes with fruit and ship it all back home!

I’m not as good as some of my friends who have produce gardens and fruit trees and can a lot of what they grow.  But, I am spoiled because here we always have fresh fruit in our stores and as long as you know which stores carry the best and freshest fruit & produce you are good to go.

The Annual Highway 50 Wagon Train in California

1912 re-enactment of a pioneer wagon train in Utah

Image via Wikipedia

For the last 63 years a real deal wagon train has crossed over the Sierra, Nevada passes and made its way down the mountains along what is now Highway 50.  It is called the Highway 50 Wagon Train.

The road that is now Highway 50 was one of the original California wagon train paths and allowed the original wagon train participants to make their way over the high Sierra mountains and down into the gold ore laden foothills and rivers of California beginning is 1849.

Each summer Wagon Train participants load up their wagons, ready their horses and dress in their western & gold miner best clothes and ride down the mountains over a one week period.  many people use their vacation time to ride in the Wagon Train each year.

The Wagon Train treks down Highway 50 from Stateline and Lake Tahoe and, most years, ending in the Placerville/Camino area near Apple Hill.  A few times the wagons came all the way into Sacramento which is about 45 miles SW of Placerville.  They circled their wagons at Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento just as my family did back in 1849/1850.

It was always exciting to see the wagons and horses and peeps in traditional wagon train clothing with ropes, guns, campfires, saddles and all the gear that goes along with a wagon train.

Kids love it and if you are a history nut like me, nothing beats it.

How much does it cost to take part?

The full ride is just $120.00 and riding with the wagon train for one day is only $20.00.  Pretty affordable .  If you don’t have a wagon a buggy or a horse you can rent a “seat” on one of the wagons that are registered for the event.

Each night there is a Pow-Wow which is a lot of fun after a long, hard day on the wagon trail.  There are some simple rules about period clothing and some other minor things.

Who do I talk to so I can join the Wagon Train??

The wagon train has formed a non-profit (501c3) corporation.  The folks you should contact are:

Vi                                                 Tara, Event Coordinator (530)                                                 644-3761
Dianna                                                 Newborn, Wagon Master (530)                                                 677-2871
Jeanatte                                                 Smart, Membership (530)                                                 333-1654

By mail:

Highway 50 Association

P. O. Box 454

Placerville, CA 95667

The registration forms are here. (It id for 2011, the 2012 form has not been released but will probably be the same.)

What about food???  Wagon Training makes me hungry!!!

You can bring your own food or purchase meals prepared by the wagon trains cook.  The 2011 menu is here (2012 has not been released yet).  Meals for the full week (breakfast, lunch & dinner) are just $135.00, or $25.00 per day if you are not on the train for the entire ride.  Certainly a fair price since you don’t have to cook or wash dishes  🙂

If you are thinking of going the Association has put together a great list of essentials for you, clothing, camping items, horseback riders needs etc.  The essentials list is found here.

The wagon train has a shuttle service to move your supplies along the trail unless you are bringing your own wagon or buggy.

Wagon train riders face the same weather issues that the original 49ers (and early 1850ers) had to deal with.  Meaning early summer heat, late spring rain and sometimes even snow on the high Sierra Mountain passes.

In June of  2011, the Wagon Train stalled in the mountain passes with treacherous icy roads and snow.

As early as the 1840’s, a trickle of humanity began the arduous journey toward the great Pacific and the freedom they foresaw in settling there. In 1849, the cry of “Gold” from the foothills of the California territory rocked the world!”

In 2011 the Highway 50 Wagon Train held their very 1st Annual High Country Summer .  The event was held August 20, 2011 at High Hill Ranch in Apple Hill near Placerville, California.

Saddle up folks!!!

Apple Hill in California’s Sierra Nevada Foothills

Gold :: Locality: Placerville (Hangtown), Plac...

Image via Wikipedia

If it is September it must be time to make the annual trip to Apple Hill in the Sierra Nevada foothills close to the nice town of Camino, near Placerville, California.  Camino was originally called Seven Mile House.

From a review on Yelp:  “If you live in or near Sacramento, you need to come here. If you don’t live nearby, you still need to come here.  Regardless of your age, interests, taste in foods/wines/fruits, or mobility, you will LOVE Apple Hill!”

Update September 26th:

Well, my first apple pie from Apple Hill this season.  The pie was from Larsen’s Apple Barn (see below) a really good ranch on the Hill.  Bought some apple turnovers as well, might have one for lunch.

The pie was good but my mouth was expecting “great”, so I guess I have to go back and get another one!  I can try one from each ranch.  Good idea.  Anyway, a little whipped cream and had a very good dessert.

Apple Hill, Camino and Placerville are located in one of the nicest areas in  the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills , just below the snow-line.

The Association & the Basics

The Apple Hill Growers Association started many years ago as a fledgling association of 16 apple growing ranches.  Today the association has more than 50 ranches and includes Christmas tree farms, a micro-brewery, wineries, spas and vineyards.  The ranches grow and sell fresh fruit (in addition to the apples) and produce.  Some of the farms are “pick your own”,  while others have picked their goods for you.  There is a nice shuttle-bus service that runs thru the Apple Hill area if you want to save some gas and would rather not drive.  The shuttle runs each weekend during the month of October.  Personally, I find the drive to be half the fun!

Many ranches have other attractions like petting zoos, craft fairs, railroad rides, pony rides, pumpkin patches and a lot of fun things for kids.

Other ranches have on-site restaurants and some have displays of antique farming and ranching items.  There is a golf resort and Red Hawk Casino is just up the road.  The nice little town of Camino with a population of about 1,700,  has a lumber company, general store, restaurant and hotel.


The Camino Hotel, A Bed & Breakfast Inn has a nice little website and is in an old Victorian era house.  Their rates are fair and include a nice breakfast.  Make sure you spend part of your day in the town of Camino.

Do I call it Placerville or Hangtown?

Placerville is larger than Camino and is growing now. Placerville is an original old west gold rush town.   You will find hotels, motels, restaurants, (with the original ‘Hangtown Fry’ and shopping in addition to gold rush sites and museumsHere is a Hangtown Fry recipe for the adventurous.

Downtown has an authentic 1849/1850 feel.  The real deal, definitely.  Placerville was originally named Old Dry Diggings, Dry Diggings and (most famously or infamously) Hangtown.

Placerville was aptly named Hangtown in 1849 when robbers were hanged during the height of our gold rush.  You can find the original “hanging tree” stump in the basement of a bar on Main Street.  It’s actually called The Hangman’s Tree Saloon.


The buildings housing the old Hangman’s Bar has been empty for about a year.  Te buildings have now been sold to a local couple  who promise to restore the unreinforced brick buildings wich date back to 1853.  There have been at least 2 recent attempts to demolish the buildings and the “Hanging Man”.  The new owners will keep both on Placerville’s Main Street, where tey should remain for generations to come.

The reprieve also appears to mean new life for the so-called Hangman’s Dummy, an effigy that has been strung up over the Main Street site for most of the past 70 years.”

Read more at te link above.

Placerville also has the Gold Bug Mine, a classic California hard-rock gold mine.  You can visit the mine and even enter it.  Great place for kids and history buffs.

Check out the Hangtown Grill, home of the Tri-tip BLT.  As you pass thru town on Highway 50 you will see the old hanging tree with a stuffed peep swinging in the breeze.

And speaking of Hangtown…check out this cool neon.  Look familiar???

Yes, the motel sign appears in the Dodge Journey SUV commercial  “We left it here.  If you can find it, you can have it”.  Personally, I would rather have the apple pie.

Here’s that commercial.  But, first understand…..that Dodge has already been found!  But watch for the Hangtown Motel sdign.  It’s cool!

But the next 2 commercials start later in the month, so find that truck!!


A lot of the ranches now have on-line stores for you out of the area shoppers.  Make sure you check them out.

A guy on this Facebook page says he will just still a random truck and say “Well Dodge left it here.  And I found it!”

What about some Maps and stuff?

A map showing the Placerville/Camino area is located here.  A map of the Apple Hill area and reviews on Yelp are here.

Check out the Apple Hill Drive site for a lot of information on ranches.

Apple Hill growers host a lot of events as well, even during the off-season starting with the Apple Blossom Festival each April and the 32nd Annual Apple Hill Harvest Run in November.  A list of events is here.

A little video/slideshow of Apple Hill is here.

They divide the ranches up by west & east.

A map for the western ranches is here.

The map for the eastern ranches is here.

Here are the grower guides for all the various products showing varieties and picking seasons.

This link takes you to a really cool Interactive Map.  Each apple links to a “where to stop” ranch on the hill.  Click away to your hearts desire.

It used to be that an Apple Hill map was a small almost hand drawn affair.  Now the list of ranches and area covered is much larger and more complicated.  This map is a good way to go online and then when you get to the Hill pick up one of the Association maps, a fold-out affair with the map, names of ranches, listing of their products and some other good info.  But too big to put online even in a west/east type of affair.

And how about some eats and grub?

I try to make it to Apple Hill at least once a year.  I am a sucker for the apple pies, apple cider donuts, apple fritters…yum yum.  I’m getting hungry.  And one ranch makes killer charcoal grilled burgers and chicken.

Here is a list of growers that serve lunch and some of their specialties.

Click on the name of the Ranch for more information or their website for those that have one.

So what growers do I usually hit up?  (note:  you can’t miss at any of the ranches, they are all great and all different)

Abel’s Apple Acres  a large ranch with a ton of products including an on-line store with apple butter and killer terriaki.

Boa Vista Orchards  As you come off Highway 50 (heading toward Lake Tahoe) this is the first large ranch and always one of my favorite stops.  I love their pies and baked goods.  They even sell apple wood for your BBQ pit.  Nice!!  The other non-apple item I love and even buy online during the summer is their Vidalia Onion Dressing for salads.  I also use it as a marinade for chicken on the grill.

Denver Dan’s  One of the oldest ranches on the hill, established in 1962.  Jams & jellies and a gift store in addition to apples and baked goods.  They do “you pick” apples as well.  Fun for the kids.

El Dorado Orchards  The site of the very first Apple Hill Smorgy Days in the early 1960s, the precursor to what has become the Apple Hill association.  El Dorado is the home of “the Apple Ridge Express Train carries many happy children, school groups and adults in the fall season”.  This farm is also the starting line and finish for the annual Apple Hill Blossom Trail Run held during the April apple blossom period.  No on-line store, but do not miss this one when you go.

Kids, Inc  I like this ranch a lot.  “It’s a great story. 30 years ago when Edio and Joan Delfino began ranch marketing, they told their children that they could name the ranch. There were seven children and they sat down after dinner one night and thought up a few names–“Farm Kids”, “Little Safeway”, “Kids Incorporated“, and others less memorable. They took the final vote and “Kids Inc.” got the most votes… “Kids Incorporated” became the name of the apple ranch not because the ranch was for kids but because kids worked on the ranch.

HUGE apple pies!

Larsen Apple Barn  One of my favorites because this is one of the oldest continuously operated family apple ranches on the hill.  Established in 1860 and still growing and selling their apples.  It has been there so long they sit on a road called Larsen Road. 

Their bake shop is  “home of the original apple turnover on the hill” specializing in the Cream Cheese Apple Pie, cookies, apple butter, jellies and other delights”.  No online shopping so make it one of your stops!!

Para Vi Vineyards  What, no apple pie??  Wine, wine, wine.  The hill is a perfect spot for growing wine grapes and there are now a number of great wineries.  Para Vi is one I stop at.  A single bottle of Para Vi 2004 Estate Zinfandel Sold for $1,300.00 at the El Dorado Art & Wine Festival auction!  Must be good wine.

I can’t list all the ranches, wineries and spas so I will stop with those few.  Like I said, you can’t miss at any of the Apple Hill ranches.  In fact, stop at all 50 sites!!

I love the Placerville area and Apple Hill.  Don’t miss it, but if you can’t make it check the growers site and individual ranches websites for some great on-line shopping.


Lots of Apple Treats here.  The Association map has recipes as well and most of the ranches share at least some of their recipes (some are held secret!), so make sure you ask.

Sure, Apple Pies & donuts & fritters are great, but:

Apple Pie Cookies link

“These are soft cookies with a spicy apple flavor. The caramel glaze adds a sweet  touch.”

Apple Pie Salad link

“This salad features a brown butter vinaigrette and a pumpkin seed streusel.”

How do you get to Apple Hill??

From Sacramento:    Take Hwy 50, 42 miles East to the town of Placerville. Go past the third signal on Highway 50 in Placerville and go two more exits to the Schnell School Road exit.  Turn left at the bottom of the off ramp and go uphill on Schnell School Road to the stop sign at Carson Road. Stay on Carson Road and pick up a growers map at any of the Apple Hill ranches.  The map is great, listing all the ranches and their products, hours of operation etc.

Hotels or Motels or???

Besides that old Hangtown Motel (I hear it is a bit run down) there are a number of nice places near Apple Hill.

The Cary House Historic Hotel 

A Placerville hotel with “historical ambiance and modern amenities”.  Mark Twain, Elvis Presley and Billy The Kid have stayed at this place.

The Camino Hotel 

In the small town of Camino which is very close to the hill.  “The hotel boasts a rustic country parlor, old fashioned front porch, second level sun porch, 9 total guest rooms, (some with private baths) and accented with rustic flair.”

The Gold Country Inn  

In downtown Placerville.  You can walk the old streets of town to the shops and restaurants and the Gold Bug Mine is just minutes away.

The Robins Nest Ranch  and The Fleming Jones Homestead Bed & Breakfast Inn

In Placerville, The Fleming Jones Homestead Bed & Breakfast Inn is a charming historic 1883 homestead and working horse ranch on 11 acres nestled between art and antique filled Placerville and famous Apple Hill.

The main farmhouse has three rooms while the bunk house (where the cowboys used to stay) has two rooms and a spacious deck overlooking the horse pastures.  And this ranch has Wi-Fi!!  They provide a great farm breakfast.

You can find other hotels/motels/inns in the gold country at this link.

October 19th:

An apple a day keeps the Dr away:  new studies promote the positive helth effects of apples.

October 21st will be World Apple Day.  October is also National Apple Month, according to the U.S. Apple  Association

“Liz Applegate, a Ph.D. nutritionist at the University of California, Davis, is promoting the apple as  vigorously as she does all year.

“It does more than keep a doctor away,” she said, alluding to its  weight-control benefits.”

“It’s an affordable family day,” she said. Certainly cheaper than a trip to  Disneyland or Great America.

People – mostly from Nevada – are even showing up for whole weekends, she  said.

Quieter weekdays are better for romantic couples and seniors looking for the  tastes they remember, she added.”

Read more at the link above.