So the leaves are going from green to crimson (and yellow . . . and orange . . . and red, and . . . .) and the wind suddenly packs a bit of a bite. It may be the heavy-hearted end of the season at the beach, but up here in the country things are just getting going. And after this summer’s record heat, sweater weather and all the brisk fun it brings is being celebrated in Ulster County with even more gusto.
Hudson Valley Apple Picking
A traditional autumn pastime in Ulster, apple picking, is a prime way both to get out in the bracing weather and to enjoy the crisp and luscious harvest. Several local growers offer plump apples and an invigorating environment. Route 213 is home to a pair of beautiful orchards—Mr. Apples in High Falls (www.mrapples.com ) and the Stone Ridge Orchards (www.stoneridgeorchard.com ) in Stone Ridge. Both places understand that no apples taste quite as wonderful as the ones you have plucked off the tree yourself.
Ulster County Pumpkin Picking
If you’re after larger game and picking pumpkins is more like it, check out Gill’s Farms on Route 209 in Hurley ( 845-338-0788 ). No one else offers pumpkin picking with such a bang. Literally. A giant artillery-grade, air-powered pumpkin cannon stands ready to fire pumpkins upwards of more than 3,000 feet at something like 600 mph. Why? Because it can. When it goes off (call them to find out the schedule), the boom can reportedly be heard over six miles away. Now that’s ushering in harvest season with a salute. Gills Farms also offers more traditional pumpkin picking and other seasonal farm stand items and flowers, as well as hay rides for the family.
Hayrides and Haunted Houses
Maybe carving pumpkins rather than turning them into cannon fodder is more your taste. If so, you probably look forward to Halloween. Good. You’ve come to the right place. Ulster gives visitors and residents a real fright at the genuinely spooky Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses in Ulster Park (www.headlesshorseman.com ). This creepy Ulster County fixture features over 45 acres of naturally landscaped property that includes forbidding woods, surreal ponds, eerie fruit orchards and more. Scary attractions include a one-mile hayride, a labyrinth-style corn maze, five professionally created haunted houses, four food concessions, as well as four separate demonic gift shops. It’s something for everyone with areas catering to smaller children and haunted houses scary enough to spook even a skeptical parent.
Of course the least expensive and best known way to really appreciate fall in Ulster County is to simply feast your eyes on the flashes of vivid color in the changing leaves. Old-timers at this all have their own favorite spots for savoring the amazing reds, oranges and yellows, but to tell the truth, the best way to experience this extraordinary once-a-year spectacle is to simply hop in the car and drive around. There’s hardly a bad view to be found this fall.