A hay ride down memory lane

Hayrides and farm tours are part of the fall festivities at Mt. View Orchards in Parkdale.

Photo by Adam Lapierre
Hayrides and farm tours are part of the fall festivities at Mt. View Orchards in Parkdale.

For me, a trip to Mt. View Orchards is a trip down memory lane.

Parkdale was my stomping grounds, and the Trout Creek Ridge Road farm and fruit stand was just up the street; past a few hay fields, a couple notorious bike-chasing dogs, some noisy neighborhood chickens and a ginormous bull that would charge the fence if you got too close.

The 50-acre orchard is owned and operated by the McAlexander Family, with Ruth and Lyle at the helm for about the last four decades. When I was a kid, Ruthie gave me one of the first jobs I ever had, outside of mowing lawns and bucking hay for neighbors. The official Fruit Loop didn’t exist yet, but the farm stand was still a popular stop for people on their annual autumn pilgrimages around the valley in search of farm-fresh fruit and produce.

I can’t remember everything I did at the farm, but for sure my best memories are of operating the cider press (and taste-testing juice) and driving a four-wheeler through rows of trees in search of whatever variety apple or pear the farm stand was low on. Picking the fruit, if I recall correctly, wasn’t nearly as much fun.

A stop at the farm this weekend yielded a number of pleasant surprises, including something I haven’t done for probably 20 years but used to absolutely love when I was a kid: hay rides through the orchard.

I don’t know what it is about taking a bumpy, dusty ride behind a tractor while sitting on scratchy bales of straw that I find so appealing. I’m even allergic to hay.

It must be the nostalgia; the true country-boy memories it brings back of afternoons spent wandering through orchard rows as young explorers; playing hide and seek and capture the flag, catching butterflies and grasshoppers, playing water-wars with the big metal sprinklers, telling scary stories in the dark and, sorry mom, partaking in the most unruly rotten pear fights imaginable.

I remember as a kid, I always wanted to live in Hood River. Life seemed so slow and boring growing up in the country. My family didn’t own a farm; I just was just surrounded by them. What fun and crazy things were those lucky city kids doing down in Hood River? I felt like I was missing out on something, living waaaaaaaaayyy up in the sticks.

That angst is all but gone now, and I relish any chance I can to spend time in the country.

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