The day after Cruz's birthday party, we decided to pack up our leftovers and head on a little road trip to the northeastern part of our state for some leaf hunting. This has been a tradition in my family since we were little, and its yearly staples call us back year after year. There's Shihata's Apple Orchard, their many varieties of apple butters and jellies to sample in their barn, wagons full of pumpkins, and famous apple cider that's the perfect balance of sweet and tart. There's Pikes Peak and the familiar red winged sumac trees, the smell of charcoal grills, and the frequent stops to look out at the mighty Mississippi from the lookouts. And then there's all our favorites sprinkled in between. The Cannery for Mom and I, the fish place for Jordan to stock up on cheese curds and 'tits on a ritz', Kelli's love of Pete's Burger Stand, and of course, Dad's annual stop at Stark's for cheap liquor. It's a little cheesy, a little far to drive in a day, and Beau and I have discovered just-as-pretty places in other areas closer to home, but there's something about this tradition that keeps us going back every year. In fact, we missed it last year and our autumn just didn't quite feel complete. :)
So with blankets, cheerios, a movie for the kids, and a white chocolate pumpkin latte for me, we piled in the car and headed in our own little caravan to the border early one Sunday morning. This time of year, you really never know what you're going to get as far as weather or leaf color, and we definitely lucked out in one area for sure. It was a beautifully warm, eighty degree day and felt like summer. And at first while I didn't think the trees were showing much color, the farther north we got, the more fall decided to show up. And as we climbed the bluffs and drove up those familiar curvy roads to Pikes Peak, with the maple leaves raining down on us, I could feel that familiar feeling of adventure settle in my bones.
We had a lot of leftover food from Cruz's party and ended up with a nice little picnic spread to start our day. Jordan and Kelli don't always go with us, so this year was especially fun for the these cousins who love spending time together. We had sandwiches and coleslaw, potato salad and banana bread, and lots and lots of cheetos, and the kids wasted no time rolling in the leaves and throwing them in the air like confetti. We found a large and scary spider, and then found a playground, to which the kids filled their shoes with sand and went down the slide over and over again. Mila learned to swing on the big swings, and felt very proud and safe with her daddy spotting behind her. Soon, we found our way on the paths that walked us by the Indian burial mounds, the bright yellow maples that were just starting to turn, and into swarms of ladybugs, that ended up being quite the pests throughout the day.
After a pit stop at the fish shop for cheese curds and a ride on the big fish, we stopped at the Shihata's for some apple treats. This was one of my favorite parts of the day, as the kids all made their way to a row of apple trees and grabbed a little treat to sample. We all congregated here for awhile, Charly lounging on Papa, Mila and Hayes on Beau's lap, and Cruz finding himself in the middle of another family's picture. The wind had picked up and the kids were starting to look sleepy, but these pictures are some of my favorite from the day...
We ended our road trip with a stop at Starks, enough wine and cheese to last us well through the winter, and two very tired kids. It was a fun day, filled with simple traditions for the taking. Fall brings out the best of them.
Our leaf hunting tradition, 2013, 2012, 2011
"I think the thing about fall is that we know it won't last. A few weeks and it's gone. It's the shortest of the seasons; easily the most brilliant and beautiful. I've always felt that the true beauty of autumn lies in its shortages. In its rarity. The earth dries to dormancy right before our eyes, and it's the most gorgeous thing to behold. It isn't till she's long past her prime that our earth is at her most dazzling. Isn't that something. Easily the most blessed reassurance of them all"