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Mountain air

September 24, 2007 |  4:23 pm

The first day of fall isn't always high season in Oak Glen, the small, family-friendly apple country just north of the Redlands and Yucaipa area, maybe because most mid-Septembers bring hot weather. But this past weekend brought a perfect change -- clear skies after a long-needed rain -- and the U-Pick and U-Buy-Pie apple ranches in Oak Glen were bustling with people who'd had enough summer fun and wanted a hit of cool weather, autumn harvest and fall feeling. Appleboy_2

Apples are the main order of business, of course, and after tasting some of the dozens of varieties grown in the area -- Spartans and Jonagolds and Crispins, say -- visitors were loading half-bushel boxes into their SUVs and enthusiastically lugging bottles of cider. Kids and their parents and grandparents were heading off into orchards and berry patches for apple- and raspberry-picking sessions.

But day-trippers do not live by apples alone, and there were a few other specialties sending come-hither aromas into the crisp, bracingly fresh mountain air. Corngrill_2

The grilled tri-tip and corn on the cob at Los Rios Rancho had folks lined up at lunchtime and for hours afterward (the pie there is also terrific -- full of several kinds of thickly sliced just-tender apples, deeply cinnamony and not too sweet). And at Snow-Line orchards, teenage doughnut makers in a rustic exhibition kitchen man a mini-doughnut machine that not only sends out enticing smells but is also fun to watch as you wait. For an afternoon snack of hot doughnuts and cold, fresh cider, of course.

-- Susan LaTempa

Photos by Susan LaTempa