Orchard at Altapass celebrates 25 years
ALTAPASS – This year the Orchard at Altapass celebrates 25 years as a working orchard.
Two and half decades ago, Kit Trubey purchased “277 acres of unrestricted land” along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The property was a declining orchard rimmed by spectacular, shadowy mountains. With her partners, brother Bill Carson and his wife, Judy, they realized its worth and agreed the land deserved more than a developer’s bulldozer. Thus, began the Carson legacy and the Orchard at Altapass.
The red barn was an ersatz home for more than a dozen folks, the apples hidden in the undergrowth and peach trees occupied an entire corner of the property.
It took two years of pulling weeds and cutting out poison ivy before any apples could be picked. Eventually, the rusted processing plant consuming the barn moved to the basement, where it continues to run long hours, and live music played to an audience happy to be sitting on actual chairs.
Hayrides began after a few years. Between rides, however, the hay became a favorite hangout for the many barn cats and eventually had to be replaced with benches. This turned the successful meanderings into “Heyrides” and still just as popular, with Bill telling tales of the Overmountain Men and the Revolutionary War as it was fought across the local mountainsides.
Between 2002 and 2006, two nonprofit charity entities were established. The first preserved the natural and historical projects of the land. The latter addressed the Orchard and General Store. Combined, and with the continued support from the community, they help promote and perpetuate the many Orchard operations.
Two years ago, Apple Core Grill opened in its building and replaced the cramped camper trailer with a wood-burning cooking stove. The Orchard was now a destination.
The Orchard at Altapass celebrates all season long with free live traditional music and dancing, storytelling and children’s activities, 10 walking trails, monarch butterfly and honeybee habitats, “heyrides,” special evening theatre productions and performances, the General Store, homemade fudge and 30 varieties of heirloom apples.
In the beginning, all the work on the more than 125 acres was done by volunteers; today many still have their boots on the grounds. Through their dedication, the faded red barn has been repainted, a deck added, stage lifted, and store completed revamped. And more apple saplings put into the ground.
“The principal joy after 25 years is the way the Orchard has changed and affected the people who visit,” said Bill Carson. “We call it, ‘Saving the good stuff.’”
The Orchard is located at 1025 Orchard Road just outside Spruce Pine (mile marker 328.3 on the Blue Ridge Parkway). Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
In May, the Orchard is open Friday-Sunday. From June through October, it’s Wednesday-Sunday with music and fun every day.
Visit www.altapassorchard.org and the Facebook page for updates.