Living in the deep south I love traveling north or higher in elevation to search for autumn before it makes its way down south. This year, I found fall hiding in western Michigan. The little rascal tries to hole up somewhere, but the joy of these late-season trips is finding it.
Karen’s sister had a wedding in the Great Lakes State, so we headed north the last weekend in September. While they were doing wedding prep tasks and having girl time, I rambled the rural backroads of Michigan looking for signs of the season. With some sleuthing before our trip, I had three targets—a you-pick vineyard, a fall fest pumpkin patch, and an ancient apple orchard.
I found the you-pick vineyard with some prior searches of “Three Oaks, MI” on Instagram. Searching for place tags is a handy way to see what’s in the area before you travel.
No one was there when I arrived so I started observing and snapping photos under the gray sky to learn more about vineyards. This experience was ripe for me because I’ve actually never seen mature grapes on the vine before. Growing up in the south, most people don’t fool with grapevines, and sure, I’ve been to vineyards, but to see them plump and ready to pick was an enriching experience. Standing in the field I could smell that fragrance that lingers from drinking grape juice. I was also delighted to see some grapevine wreaths for sale.
Eventually a lady named Carol showed up to give me some change for my grapes. She told me this was part of the Kugler Farm and that the grapes were ‘Concord’, the quintessential Vitis cultivar. I clambered back in the car with my bag of grapes, double checked once more for any wasps trying to hitch a ride in the sack, and headed to my next stop, the pumpkin patch.
THE PUMPKIN PATCH
The next stop was just a mile down the road at Dinges’ Fall Harvest. I have to compliment them on their signage. It seemed like every intersection driving around that weekend I found had a pumpkin with directional arrows.
I parked and walked around admiring the assortment of pumpkins with well labelled markers. They also had an incredible mass planting of zinnias, which I thought was such an easy way to have a colorful backdrop for pictures.
THE APPLE ORCHARD
I left the fall fest and met up with Karen to go to Williams Orchard which dates back over 100 years.
After we paid a small admission fee and picked up the $11 sized bag, we went traipsing through part of the orchard’s 135 acres of rolling hills. Cultivars were blocked to allow for easy harvest once you found one you liked. I enjoyed ‘Jonathan’, ‘McIntosh’, and ‘Golden Delicious’. The trees were trained short with open centers, and most of the apples were right within reach.
I was amazed once we got to the ‘Golden Delicious’ to see how loaded the branches were. Some had broken from the weight.
We filled the bag and headed back toward the barn to pay and head to dinner as I mentally started repacking my suitcase to make room for all these apples.
While fall color was just starting to show on a few woodies like Rhus, the roadsides were replete with colorful wildflowers and seed heads. Since the part of Michigan we were in was rural countryside, I stopped whenever something beautiful caught my eye.
Asters seemed to occupy every unmown nook and crany they could find. I didn’t pause long enough to identify them all, but if you know their names, feel free to shoot me a message as I’d love to learn.
I chuckled to myself at one field as I admired how beautiful even the dreaded pokeweed can be this time of year. Maybe I need to let a few of these go at my place.
All in all, it was a great trip with a great wedding, and it left me longing to grow more fruits and flora for fall. It’s a bit harder to do in Texas since we get so hot in the summer. But, if we can’t do it here, I know west Michigan is yet another place I can travel to find fall even when it tries to hide from us in the south.