Apple Hill a fall family tradition

By: Penne Usher Telegraph Correspondent
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In the mid 1960s the area now known as Apple Hill was a farming community lush in pear orchards. Today the farms, east of Placerville are visited annually by thousands of locals and out-of-towners who flock to the area for homemade apple pies, pumpkins and apples. At El Dorado Orchards scores of visitors turned out on a recent Saturday amid sunny skies to peruse craft booths, sip cider and ride the "choo choo" train. Conductor Don Finger has been riding the rails of the “Apple Ridge” route that loops around a Geese laden lake and through a covered bridge, for 19 years. “I have a good time,” Finger said. “It’s great to see the kids from 9 to 90 years old enjoying the ride.” One rider, 9-year–old Missy, hasn’t missed a year in all her life. The dachshund’s owners have brought the pup out each year for the ride. Laurann and Art Castillo, of Fremont, make the outing an annual event. “We come up her every year so Missy can ride the train,” Laurann Castillo said. “We’ve been coming up here every year since she was born.” Art and Laurann come up to the foothills on a Friday to visit their favorite farms and beat the rush. They spent Saturday leisurely strolling some of their other favorite spots before heading home Sunday. This year Missy was decked out in her Halloween outfit, a witch’s hat and an autumn leaf wreath around her neck. The pooch was a hit with visitors who stopped by to shoot the pup’s picture while she sat atop hay bales amid colorful pumpkins. Decades ago, the farming community of Apple Hill was growing pears; however a disease killed the crops which prompted farmers to come up with a new plan. The unlikely group of partners banded together to form Apple Hill, according to the Apple Growers website. Today thousands head up the hill from the Sacramento valley to pick apples, gather pumpkins and enjoy the bounty of the foothills. At Apple Ridge Farm little Karly Bonaventure, 2, wound her way through a hay bale maze with her grandfather, Capt. Paul Bonaventure of the Folsom police department in tow. Her father, visiting his parent from Livermore, said he loves coming up to the area. “For the kids this is great,” said Chris Bonaventure. “There’s so much to do, with the pony rides, the petting zoo and the maze. This is great.”