This time, we decided to go on a Saturday around 3 p.m.; hopefully we would avoid the mad rush we experienced a couple of years ago. We made it to the cider mill in no time and we even got a really close parking spot — score one for the Heitmanns! I was happy to not see the vendors, jumpy tents, horse rides and mobs of people mingling near the mill as there were last year.
Walking around, it seemed like a dead town compared to my family’s last trip. The visitors were taking in the sights and smells, relaxing and just enjoying the weather. A two man band of a banjo and fiddle played idly in the background and the aroma of sweet apples was everywhere. It was so peaceful and laid back — it just made me want to curl up in the sun and take a nap.
My family wandered around and watched the workers make apple cider in a century old barn that was restored in 1977. To make the cider, the apples are first cleaned in an apple washer and then transported up to a hammer mill that grinds the apple into pulp, or pomace. The pomace is laid onto a series of mesh cloths that are laid on top of each other. A hydraulic press puts 3,500 pounds of pressure per square inch on the pomace to extract the juice, which is collected and cooled down. Then, it’s finally ready for drinking.
The next barn holds the Country Store where they make their apple cider doughnuts. We watched through a window as a couple of ladies whipped up batch after batch of their famous doughnuts. Watching them and smelling all the apples made us hungry so we made our way over to a stand, labeled “Fresh Cider.” Five minutes later we sat down under a large, red and white tent to eat our snacks. The apple cider was very good and smelled wonderful. There was something different about the cider — it tasted almost spicy, but sweet at the same time. And the temperature was absolutely perfect.
The apple cider doughnut was small, dense, orange-ish and had cinnamon sugar on the top. At first, I didn’t know it was apple cider flavored, I just thought it was supposed to be pumpkin flavored because of its color. It didn’t have a clear, detectable flavor but I still enjoyed the doughnut with my cider. This visit was already turning out better than the first.
Next, my sisters and I wanted to go through the corn maze. From the pictures online of their witch-shaped maze, I was expecting a huge maze with long, tall stalks. But I was severely disappointed: the harvest of corn, cold weather, lack of rain and the traffic of thousands of people through the maze had done some damage to the stalks. They were short, brown, crunchy and overall, very sad looking. It was one of the mazes where you are looking for the letters to complete a phrase. You could easily see the letters through the bare stalks and pathways were purposely made as people just wanted to just get to the letter. I went to the bathroom halfway through the search, but judging from my sisters’ lack of enthusiasm of the maze afterwards, I don’t think I missed much.
Afterwards we walked about the pumpkin patch. Being the weekend before Halloween, the patch was very bare. We weren’t going to get pumpkins, but it was still cool to see the different kinds they had. I did have the unique experience of jumping on a broken pumpkin and smashing it, though.
I think my whole family can agree that this trip was a lot better than the previous visit. We took our time and the atmosphere was a lot more relaxing. I wasn’t pleased with the corn maze and didn’t think it was worth the $8. Maybe it would be earlier in the season when the corn is ripe and healthy and the pumpkin patch is well stocked, but getting the leftovers wasn’t worth it. After seeing the quality of the corn maze and other activities they offered, I began to get bored; my seven year old sister Kate really enjoyed the trip but these activities were more suited for younger kids.
Overall, I would sparingly go back. I enjoyed the cider mill and the atmosphere but I wouldn’t return for the corn maze. I did have a good time but it’s more of a once-a-season type of activity for people over the age of 10.