The nip of fall is in the night air, and that means it's time for the annual rite of apple picking at Angle Orchard.
For the past 90 years, Angle Orchard on Mount Graham has weathered its share of storms, cold winters, varmints, pests, droughts and "divine intervention."
Last year, the orchard took a rest, according to owner Betty Angle Larson, and did not produce any fruit. She said the job of managing the orchard was overwhelming and, after six years, God knew the family needed a break.
"I choose to believe the orchard took a rest," Larson said at the time. "I didn't have to do anything. Heavenly Father did it all for me."
The rest must have been just what the doctor ordered because this year, the fruit is back with a bang.
The legend of the orchard began with a logger who disposed of a peach pit near Ladybug Trail in the early 1900s. The pit grew into a fruit-bearing tree and withstood the frigid mountain winters to produce a sweet, delectable peach.
In 1922, Andrew Preston Angle tasted the fruit and made up his mind to plant an orchard in the same area. He and his wife, Viola Cooper Angle, obtained a 12-acre lease from the United States Forest Service and began planting apple, pear and peach seedlings from a nursery in Louisiana.
Traditionally, hundreds of families visit the orchard each fall to pick apples, peaches and pears. The peach season usually runs from the end of July through August, and, this year, the last peach from the orchard has already been picked.
Apple season runs from September through the end of October, however, and Angle Orchard boasts 10 varieties, including Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Rome Beauty, Gala, Red Delicious, Fuji, Arkansas Black, King David, Elstar and Jonathan.
Angle Orchard is open Monday through Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed Wednesdays and Sundays. The orchard is located on Mount Graham south of Safford about 7.4 miles from the intersection of Highway 366 (Swift Trail) and Highway 191. Shortly after Noon Creek, watch for the Angle Orchard sign on the south side of the road and follow the turnoff to the orchard.