As most of you probably already know, this group of small farmers known as the Apple Hill Growers attracts a huge amount of agri-tourists (people interested in apples, wine, apple pies, Christmas trees, blueberries…essentially anything grown on the land) to our region. In fact, this area is the largest agritourism draw in the United States, getting somewhere near 750,000 people eating caramel apples, drinking wine, and choosing pumpkins each year.
You most probably also know that the majority of these tourists come and visit during the fall harvest season. Not only is there fresh fruit picked straight off the tree during this time, but the fall colors can be spectacular. Although the popular ‘harvest season’ starts in late August and finishes in December, the focus for many agri-tourists is October.
We small farmers are very lucky that families have been supporting us for so many years. And with fewer choices in California for experiencing these small farms, we’re getting more families from the cities visiting, showing a different type of life to their kids.
This in itself is wonderful for our region. However the impact is that several of the farms have gotten so popular that they can no longer handle their own parking (thus plugging up the local roads with cars). To add to the problem, some farms rent out booths for ‘crafters’ where there used to be parking. (On a side note, Madroña is located behind one of the most popular farms, High Hill Ranch. Ten years ago, everyone prospered. But now when they are crowded, you can be guaranteed it will be quiet back at our winery.)
Why am I giving you a bit of the history of our area? Well, there are some changes a comin’ this season.
The county finally said, “The region has to try something different.” Rather than work on the ‘crafter booth’ issue, the county is using information from a variety of traffic studies to help alleviate the situation in October. And here’s how it will go.
On weekends during the month of October, the following will happen:
- All left-turn lanes to Carson Road on Highway 50 will be closed (meaning only the off-ramps will be the exits for accessing Carson Road).
- Traffic will be allowed to head east on Carson Road (i.e. Placerville to Camino).
- Traffic heading west on Carson Road (i.e. Camino to Placerville) will be limited to emergency vehicles, the shuttle and locals between High Hill Ranch and Abels Acres.
- However, traffic leaving the ranches on Carson Road (between Abels Acres and High Hill Ranch) will only be allowed to head west on Carson Road towards Placerville.
- Access for Madroña Vineyards will be through the Christmas Tree farms on Michelangelo Way.
For a pdf of the shuttle map – AppleFarmsShuttleMap2018AHG-4
OK, so it sounds complicated, but here’s the crux of the whole thing. First of all, the Highway Patrol will be helping cars move along, never letting limited parking stop the flow of traffic. Secondly, there are huge other swaths of Apple Hill Growers to explore outside of this area of Carson Road (where the traffic will flow both directions). And lastly, this is all built on the timing of when people arrive and leave (per the traffic studies).
Now, how does this impact you as a Madroña/Rucksack lover trying to come up and get your October-Special case of El Tinto at $100? (Yes, we designed this incredible sale to get people to still visit us during this busy season, partly because it’s so beautiful in October!)
First, you will want to get off at the Schnell School or Point View Drive exits on Highway 50. You won’t be able to get to us from the Carson Road exits!
Secondly, remember to come though Michelangelo Way, just past Rucksack Cellars (on weekends). We’ll have plenty of signs out there as well.
Lastly, relax, be patient and enjoy the wonderful beauty of the region. Pick up some apples, pumpkins, a pie, and your wine, and know that you’re supporting a lifestyle of farming that is getting harder to find!
(And just to let you know, November is even nicer than October! But you’ll miss the El Tinto Special. Ah, choices!!!)