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We had the afternoon off last Friday. Time was, we would have packed up our SUV and headed to a top-secret escape location in Chattanooga, Saluda, Blowing Rock, Atlanta, or elsewhere. But times are different. So we reverted to the habits of simpler times. Jumped in the Prius and headed for Skytop Orchard to pick apples in Flat Rock.

Skytop is the coolest place. It's on the top of a mountain, off the side of a side road. One of those old-fashioned, nothin' fancy places you used to find in the mountains of Western North Carolina-before we were overrun with Yankees and McMansions. At the top of the mountain is a wooden shed, where you can get caramel apples, mulled cider, apple donuts, and other cool apple-related stuff. Then, cascading down the hillside, are the orchards.

This really nice young woman, with a sweet smile and very little makeup, tells you the deal. You can either get this size basket (a bushel) for this amount, or you can get this size basket (a peck) for this amount. Then, you get to take a walk down the side of a gently sloping hillside...autumn leaves crunching under foot, down walkways between rows of apple trees. The whole place smells like cider.

We wanted Granny Smith. So we had to go down past the Fujis, between the Mutsu, across the gravel road, and there they were. We picked our peck. Then we walked, hand-in-hand, back up the hill. We took the long way, past the sheep and the ducks.

There is plenty not to like about these strange times. But one thing we've been missing for a long time, that I'm kinda glad we have back is ...

apple picking.

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