Dreaming of apple picking in the idyllic Julian orchards...next year

I'm never disappointed when I stop for post-apple picking pies at any of the shops in Julian, but Julian Pie Company is probably my favorite spot to visit, in no small part because of their cider donuts. This photo was from a road trip there in August 2017. (Photo by Lauren J. Mapp)

Ever since I was a child, I have loved packing into a car, driving to a nearby orchard and picking fruits with my friends and relatives. 

Cheesing it up for the camera at Lyman Orchards in
Middlefield, Connecticut while picking blueberries
this summer. (Photo by Lorraine C. Gray)
Growing up in New England, my mom used to take my brother and I to Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, Connecticut throughout the year to pick blueberries and strawberries in the summer, then apples in the chilly autumn months. We'd have a little picnic there complete with fruit-flavored sparkling water by the pond, feed the ducks some stale bread, and return home with baskets overflowing with fresh fruit to fold into muffin batter or to make a bubbling pot of jam from.

During a trip home this summer, my mom took me back to Lyman Orchards for the first time in about 20 years to pick blueberries. It was supposed to be a way to delay me from arriving too early to the surprise bridal shower my cousin/East Coast maid of honor was throwing me that afternoon, but it ended up being a delightful trip through the memories of my youth and the perfect distraction from the absurdity that 2020 has been so far.

For almost every fall over the past 15 years that I've lived in San Diego, I've honored my family's orchard picking tradition by making the long, traffic-infested drive to Julian to pick apples with my friends. 

Even though I chose to move away to a place that doesn't really have "seasons" per say, I truly love autumn. 

The experience of listening to cool, crisp air rustling fallen leaves outside while sipping a glass of hot cider, watching "Hocus Pocus" or "Rocky Horror Picture Show" for the umpteenth time and snuggling into a cozy sweater is my absolute kryptonite. (Lex Luther: if you're reading this, please kindly forget the previous sentence). 

Traveling to Julian reminds me so much of autumn — even when it's 90 degrees out like it was during our trip their in 2019 — and exploring the quaint, rural towns of New England. 

Julian Pie Company is the only place in Southern California where I've ever found proper cider donuts, though smelling the aroma of baked good after baked good while walking past all the bakeries as I mull over the decision of where I want to get a slice of pie that day is one of my favorite past times. 

During our trip last year, we popped into the Julian Hard Cider tasting room to split a sampler set — our favorites were the Apple Pie and Razzmatazz ciders. And no trip to Julian is complete without stopping by the Julian Cider Mill to stock up on their housemade cider (one of my favorite fall cocktail ingredients), pumpkin butter, boysenberry preserves and whipped cream fudge. 

During our annual pilgrimage to go apple picking in Julian last year, we stopped by the Julian Hard Cider tasting room to sip on a flight of bubbly brews. (Photo by Lauren J. Mapp)

Of course, this year is going to be different, like everything else has been over these past six months. 

Skipping our annual trip to to Julian is just one more disappointment added on a list of things that have to be changed, which also includes not getting to celebrating birthdays with friends, meeting and holding my friends' new babies, postponing our full-scale wedding, and the upcoming holiday season. 

I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling sad that I can't celebrate all of these milestones and occasions how I might have prior to the pandemic — it has been a rough collective moment for us all. 

But as we inch closer to Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, I'm realizing that instead of leaning into this overwhelming sadness of having everything we know and love change as we struggle to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, we should instead find new ways to celebrate these wonderful occasions instead. 

My newly minted husband and I spent this summer re-planned our wedding to be a small, social distance picnic in lieu of the large celebration we had to postpone for next year. While it wasn't the huge party we had originally envisioned, it turned out to be a beautiful day 

Now I'm looking forward to celebrating Halloween with a spooky picnic with a tiny group of close friends, and heading out to camp in Idyllwild this Thanksgiving instead of hosting dinner with my new inlaws in our home. 

It won't be exactly like other years, but in the end, all that matters is that we celebrate these milestones safely so we can once again gather together to celebrate the next set of birthdays, holidays and life events.

I'm very interested to learn how other people are augmenting the autumn traditions this year. Comment below with what you're looking forward to over the next few months!


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