And so, with an online tip that the dog-friendly Snow Line Orchard makes the very best apple cider donuts (another New England staple), Tucker and I hopped in the truck and headed east into the mountains for a hike and some special donuts at that orchard.
The hike itself, Wildwood Canyon, was not what I was expecting. But I fault myself as a New England girl setting my expectations too high.
In their defense, a fire had raged through the surrounding mountains only a couple of months earlier, so it’s possible that what was now just scorched earth used to be acres of deciduous forest abundant with fall foliage in previous years.
Oak Glen proper was just a stretch of a few miles on one road that had a few apple orchards. The roadside was packed with cars, and people and dogs walked along the shoulder to get to one orchard or another. It wasn’t the idyllic apple orchards I had thought of with sweeping views of trees in the landscape.
Snow-Line was the perfect place for Tucker and me. Not just because of the donuts or dog friendliness, but because of its out-of-the-way-ness. At the far end of the stretch of highway, long after the final fruit stand, I spotted a van coming down out of an inconspicuous dirt road. Next to it was a hand-painted sign touting its “hot, fresh cider donuts!” There were no cars parked along the roadside, and it was unassuming and quiet. Just what I wanted.
We wove our way down the short dirt road to a red barn-like building. A few people were there, and cars were parked around the back. We continued beyond it to the parking lot where there were a surprisingly good number of spots left. People lined the front of the building, all dutifully six feet apart (so really the line wasn’t long in terms of number of people, just geographically due to mathematical distancing).
Tucker got to see them making the donuts (not at all like what Dunkin’ Donuts dude used to do at 4am).
A sign at the other end of the market pointed the way to the bar where I could get my other favorite fall (or anytime) treat: hard cider.
There I got a beverage and Tucker got a cookie. Another upside for Tucker, making it much more interesting than our hike earlier.
On our way out, Tucker got a bonus treat from the cash register clerk as well.
I stepped outside, trying to juggle fresh hot donuts, a cold cider, and Tucker at the end of the leash wanting to sniff everything all at once. And of course, having my mask on, I couldn’t just sip the glass to reduce the liquid from spilling, or shove a donut in my mouth to lower the load.
When I compare New England to California in my mind, New England is always small, quaint—even the sky seems lower (a scientific impossibility). California’s towering mountains and craggy peaks are dramatic and imposing compared to the rolling “hills” of the Berkshires, the places I thought of as “mountains” until I saw the Rockies for the first time.
But when it comes down to the microcosms—the farms and the orchards—New England wins for sweeping landscapes. What they lack in mountain peaks, they make up for in rolling fields and meadows. Here along the San Bernardino Mountains, they planted trees wherever they could hold. They didn’t have miles of flat land in which to plant trees.