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4: Apple Stands on Hwy 179 and in Oak Creek Canyon
If August tastes like a juicy ripe peach, then October is the satisfying, crisp crunch of a tangy apple. Bob Mertis, Sedona’s apple guru, satisfies our need with two fruit stands – Garland’s stand in Oak Creek Canyon at Indian Gardens, which Bob has managed for five years, and the stand at Oak Creek Orchards on Hwy 179, which Bob has leased since 2007. Garland’s Oak Creek Lodge has grown 15 varieties of apples for the past 36 years while Oak Creek Orchards grows 80 varieties, says Bob. Harvesting begins in mid-August for gala apples and ends in late October when the Arkansas blacks are ripe for pickin’. Both fruit stands sell beautiful bags of organic apples and, our personal favorite, raw apple cider, delicious served cold or hot on a chilly fall evening.
Apples have a long history in the Verde Valley – Slide Rock State Park, just up the road from the Garland’s apple stand, was originally a 43-acre apple orchard, planted by pioneer Frank L. Pendley in 1912. Several of the original trees are still growing and producing fruit in the park, which celebrates its apple heritage Oct. 14 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with the annual Slide Rock Apple Festival (the orchard produced 1,200 boxes of apples for the 2007 festival). The Jordan family also grew apples along Oak Creek in the early 1900s – their 3,300-square-ft. apple packing shed and apple grading machine are on display at the Sedona Heritage Museum (the museum’s logo happens to be an apple as well). Bob calls his apple stands a continuation of Sedona’s agricultural heritage. “I’m just following a tradition and bringing something back that used to be,” says Bob, who’s lived in Sedona for 21 years.
Unfortunately, a freeze this year damaged most of the local apple crop so Bob was forced to bring in apples from California. Bob says it happens every seven years or so, but he promises tourists and locals will still be able to buy fresh apples from the stands. Bob also plans to sell zucchini, pumpkins, corn, beans, and tomatoes grown at Oak Creek Orchards (those who’ve lived in Sedona for ten years or more will recall the health food store that previously operated at the site of the orchards) this fall. He has big plans for the future as well. Once roadwork is complete on Hwy 179 Bob hopes to build an apple barn where visitors can watch Sedona Sweet Cider being made, which he plans to distribute throughout the country. Bob says the freeze wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because it’s introduced him to quality fruit and vegetable purveyors, allowing him to mix other products (he sold excellent peaches and cherries this summer) with those that are locally grown and operate as a high-quality farmers’ market. Both stands might also begin offering homemade apple pie. Our mouths are already beginning to water…
Bob operates two apple stands – one at Oak Creek Orchards along Hwy 179, just south of Hillside Sedona, and the Garland’s stand at Indian Gardens on Hwy 89A in Oak Creek Canyon. While the Oak Creek Orchards stand is usually open seven days a week, at press time Bob wasn’t sure he’d have enough fruit to constantly supply the Garland’s stand.
3: Jerome Ghost Walk
The old mining town of Jerome, about 20 miles south of Sedona in the foothills of Mingus Mountain, often tops lists as one of the most haunted spots in America – just stop in at the Jerome Grand Hotel and read accounts of ghost sightings in the log at the front desk, and even the most cynical might feel a chill. The town revels in its spirited past: The annual Ghost Walk will celebrate its sixth anniversary this year. The event, sponsored by the Jerome Historical Society, takes place Oct. 11 with walks every 30 minutes starting at 4:30 p.m. – the final walk of the day leaves at 10 p.m. Each walk includes up to 50 people and lasts about 90 minutes; tickets sell out earlier and earlier every year, says Annie Kelly, an assistant at the society. This year, ghost lovers from all over the state began calling about the event in February. Tickets are $15 per person and on sale now.