Trying for some Autumn

We live in the Sonoran desert.  It is October and hasn’t dipped below a high of 90 but one day, so far, but Halloween is coming and pumpkin spice crap is slathered all over the place giving us the vibe that we are totally missing out on fall.  I really crave crunchy rotting leaf smell and the need for a sweater.  In order to give us the feels of autumn, this past Indigenous Peoples holiday weekend we celebrated by visiting a pumpkin patch and then camping at Cochise Stronghold – showing a bit of indigenous acknowledgment if not respect.

The highlight, though, was Apple Annies.  This pick-your-own farm is located just north of Wilcox, AZ and has two locations for picking: the fruit orchards and the “produce and pumpkins” veggie patch.  We visited the veggie patch on Monday and spent the entire afternoon.  There are pumpkin patches out the wazoo, lots of desert-loving veg like peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes, plus a CORN MAZE!

We found the $10/adult, $8/kid corn maze and hay ride combo worth the cost, and started by riding the hay trailer out to the furthest pumpkin patch.   Note, that the whole place is easily walkable, but it is a big farm area – there are a few pumpkin “patches” a few acres each in my estimation.

Avi was first to find his favorite pumpkin, which was the biggest available, and then changed his mind to the next biggest, and then the next, and forever he kept running further into the prickly greenery yelling, “I found mine!!”  I would need to follow along with the cart and clippers provided.  Finally, I told him he must be able to pick the dang thing up and he settled on a huge round traditional looking pumpkin that he could barely lug to the cart. It was extra fun for him to cut it off the vine using the shears.

We lugged that thing all the way over to the furthest pumpkin patches – past the veggies.  These are the weird ones; the warty pumpkins, the white pumpkins, the odd stripey or blueish ones.  Basically, its the cool stuff, so it took us forever to decide each on one.  Avi changed his mind another million times, but ended up keeping is monster from the first patch. I was in love with a warty witch of a gourd, while Zoe was in search of a white one and ended loving a blue beauty.  We all agreed Bryan would like the pumpkins that looked nearly like old school camouflage; pinkish and grey!

Finally we were done with all that and walked back to the main barn as the hayride stopping point was further away because of our wanderings. We paid up a very reasonable cost, plus a military discount, thank you Apple Annies’s.

Then, we realized Avi’s hat was missing.  UGH.  I lugged the pumpkins all the way back to the car while he was to search around, but when I returned he figured the thing was way way way back at the warty gourds.  Groan.   He and I walked all the way back and it surely was there where he had been digging in the dirt.  Zoe waited in the barn and played some tiny-pumpkin checkers.

Now, we were ready for some food, but this location only had some kettle korn on this day – there is a BBQ food truck, but it was closed.  So, we had a snacky lunch from our camper stash and then hit the corn maze!  They claim there is an Intermediate route and a Challenge route, but we all found them quite similar in difficulty level and the ‘clue sheets’ to be super vague, if not inaccurate – its more fun without.

We started together in the Intermediate maze and took nearly an hour.  There are numbers 1-10 through the maze to assist in navigation; at the very least to let you know you are heading in a generally forward direction.  But, we kept circling back to the big open space with number 3…. three times!   Our error was at number 5 – which had four routing choices, and a completely wrong clue sheet.  If you go, *spoiler alert* turn hard left at five.  In any case, it was a blast, and actually quite fun to get lost.  There was a bridge as part of the course to rid the claustrophobia and get a good view of the entire maze.

For the Challenge maze, the kids really wanted to try on their own.  So, I let them in at five minute intervals, starting with Avi.  I assumed I would come upon them at some point, but no luck on the boy.  Zoe I found fairly quickly and we walked together a bit until my selected method took me a different way. I decided to test out a theory I once heard about solving mazes, and put my right hand out along the right-most wall, then never let the wall break; I followed that wall, if it turned, if that meant it went down and back a dead end, if it seemed I was skirting stuff, and sure enough, I pulled through the Challenge maze in 25 minutes of steady comfortable walking. And who was already out?  Avi!!   He said he ran (which is against the rules), but still!!  he didn’t get lost.   I was shocked.   Zoe was another 20 minutes.

We really had a lot of fun, and almost went in the maze again, but by now it was pushing closing time. We rode the hay ride again for a bit of scenery and fun, then cut our own sunflowers before leaving.

Tired and dry and hot is a good feeling when it means you’ve spent hours at a pumpkin farm!  But, hot we were, so we drove an hour to Cochise stronghold campground for the evening.  It was so much cooler up there!  The kids mucked around on the boulders; always on lookout for snakes and whatnot, then we had dinner and tucked into books early.  Zoe is enjoying The Hobbit with me.  Avi is loving him some Magic Tree House.

It was a cool night.  We slept in and went for a nice hike along the Cochise trail first thing in the morning.  The trail skirted and crossed the dry river bed a few times, and Avi got a kick out of fake skipping stones on the water.  There was also a very cool series of boulder caves to explore along the way.

In the end, our turnaround point was only a mile in at the Cochise spring, which actually had some water and a tiny bug filled pool at the head of the river.  We had a snack, then retraced our steps adding a .7 mile Nature Trail loop to the end.  Not a bad morning workout!

After that, teacher mom came out and we sat at our picnic table for some academics: math, reading, writing.  The essentials.

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