Apples! Apples, apples and more apples! And pears, peaches… the orchards of Wenatchee, Washington, are laden with fruit, ripe and ready to be picked. I can’t imagine where they get the workers to bring it all in; it was common to see signs proclaiming “Help Wanted – Necesitamos Ayuda” along the road as we traveled.
When we visited Wenatchee early in July, cherries were the crop of the moment – but I always think of Washington as the state for apples, and I knew I wanted to return during the apple harvest. After we set up camp at Lincoln Rock State Park (click here to read our review), we set off for the Washington Apple Commission Visitor Center.
The Washington Apple Commission is all about boosterism, and we watched their upbeat 16 minute video about apple farming in Washington while we munched on free samples… and learned a few things. One big surprise: when apple trees blossom, buds grow in clusters. The first bud to open is the “king” blossom, and all the other buds in the cluster (which looked like 6-10 more buds) are either removed by hand, or treated by hand so that they cannot open so only the king blossom will be pollinated and produce an apple. Can you imagine? These are big trees, covered with buds, and 60% or more of those buds need hand removal or treatment. Who does all that work?? Necesitamos Ayuda!
According to the video, Washington produces more than 15 billion (yes, that is billion with a B) apples each year. It looks like about 10 billion of them are still hanging on the trees in the orchards lining the roads around Wenatchee, and ALL harvesting of apples, pears and peaches is done by hand. It’s incredible!
Do you know Aplets and Cotlets? They are rather odd little fruit candies, been around for years, difficult to describe – a soft, jelled confection, cut in squares and dusted with powdered sugar. Well, the Aplets and Cotlets factory is in Cashmere, Washington, just up the road from Wenatchee, a stop on our way to Lake Wenatchee State Park.
We arrived at the factory around 11 am, just in time to miss the factory operation as the workers took their lunch break. We peeked through the windows at the slumbering candy line, sampled each of the three flavors (aplet, cotlet, and a strawberry version that didn’t have an “et” name), made a few purchases, and continued on up the road to Leavenworth.
Many, many people LOVE Leavenworth, Washington. I am not among them.
This small Washington town, surrounded by forested peaks of the Cascades, adopted a strict municipal building code for the city center in the 1960’s, modeling itself as a Bavarian village and, thereby creating a tourist attraction. It works, drawing over two million visitors a year.
When we first visited Leavenworth five years ago, I was annoyed by the rampant commercialism (how many Bavarian trinkets, music boxes, and t-shirts can tourists buy??) and irritated by the oompah music playing from speakers all over town. On this trip, I went with an open mind, thinking it couldn’t really have been as annoying as I remembered. Guess what? It really WAS!
We parked, walked a few blocks, had lunch in the outdoor beer garden at Munchen Haus (yes, yes, German spelling rules, except for Starbucks, which is Bavarian in looks only) listening to polkas. Each store we passed sold items ONLY a tourist would buy. I was SO READY to leave! But don’t worry, Leavenworth thrives without grumpy Laurie. :)
Lake Wenatchee, on the other hand, was calm and quiet, just about deserted. We hiked along the lake shore enjoying the weather and the views, exchanging smiles with the few others visitors we saw. Just my kind of place.
We pulled out of Lincoln Rock State Park this morning, headed for points south, our refrigerator bins laden with three varieties of apples, Bartlett and Asian pears, and a couple beautiful, perfumed peaches. Excellent time of year to visit this lush, orchard-covered valley.