Do you like your cherries sweet, like the dark red Bing or the yellow Rainier? Or pucker-up sour, like the tart varieties that are best used for pies, juice, beer, cider and jam?
Indulging in cherries at the peak of ripeness goes hand-in-hand with summer adventuring in Oregon: Hiking or paddling, picnicking or eating straight out of the U-pick bucket.
The sunny, warm areas of the eastern Columbia River Gorge are a haven for fruit tasting, with the myriad of orchards growing everything from cherries and peaches to pears, apricots, plums and other mouth-watering treats.
Visitors can plan their tasty self-guided trips with help of the East Gorge Food Trail map, which highlights 30 farm-fresh businesses spanning from the idyllic little town of Mosier in the west, stretching 16 miles east to The Dalles, and dipping 15 miles south to Dufur. There are farms and orchards to visit as well as wineries, craft breweries and cideries, fruit stands, farmers markets, farm-to-table eateries and the historic Balch Hotel, with its own seasonally-driven bistro.
The map “shows folks how to plan a day here,” says Phil Evans, who runs Evans Fruit Company in Mosier with his wife, Davina, and their two children. The orchard is nearby the land where his great-grandfather once sold fruit in the Mosier Valley in the late 1880s.
Today, the family works year-round to open their U-pick cherries and peaches and farm stand in the summer: Cherries are typically ready in late June and peaches in mid-July through August.
In Mosier, you can stop for fruit at Evans’ orchard and either pack a picnic to enjoy on-site or fuel up afterward at the family-friendly Mosier Company, with great sandwiches and brews. Pick up some fresh fruit for the day from the Evans’ farm stand, then head up the 3.5-mile family-friendly Mosier Plateau Trail, which offers some of the grandest views you’ll find in the Gorge. Reward yourself with a little afternoon wine tasting at Analemma Wines, a biodynamic vineyard home to lavender and cherry trees.
In The Dalles, take a tour of the family-owned Muirhead Canning Company, bursting with the cinnamon-maple sweetness of the applesauce canning season in early summer (since they remain fresh in cold storage year-round), and pick up some applesauce and pears to go. (Check out a snapshot of the fresh cherry’s “bin-to-tin” canning process.) Then soak up the river views at Tierra de Lobos Winery; enjoy pizza and a pint at Freebridge Brewing (with dough made from their spent grain); and look for other fresh and artisan-made goods at The Dalles Farmers Market on Saturdays between June and October.
If you go:
Check the seasons: The small businesses, like the landscapes, change with the seasons, so know what’s in season and open before you go. Be friendly to these small business owners and make sure to take home mementos to savor at home.
Be prepared: When exploring, watch for posted signs and don’t hesitate to ask for directions and rules at each property. Also, keep close supervision of children around farm animals and equipment. Bring sunscreen, water and sturdy footwear for walking on uneven ground.
Consider travel options: See how the East Gorge Food Trail can be a car-free adventure, or book a guided tour with select stops or custom itineraries available through these companies: MountNBarreL, Martin’s Gorge Tours and Sol Rides.