8/27/11

The Palisade Peach Pilgrimage


I won't lie. I was in desperate need of a couple of days away from the family to rest and return rejuvenated. So when I checked online and found that this weekend was the Palisade Peach Festival on the Western Slope of Colorado, I recruited my good buddy Cathy and we planned a mommies-only road trip to the other side of the mountains.

After an excited, chatty 4 hour drive through the Rocky Mountains, we rolled into the charming town of Palisade, CO to find a historic main street featuring few quaint stores and a lovely art gallery. We picked up a brochure for the fair at a cute boutique and attempted to navigate our way to the peach festival on foot, but Cathy and I are both navigationally impaired (my husband thinks it's related to our shared hair color) and we wound up miles from the fair and ultimately had to take a shuttle to get us back on track. (We did however get an interesting, albeit sweaty tour of parts of downtown Palisade.)


Once at the peach festival, we found it lacked some of the excitement we were expecting from the peach capital of Colorado. At one point, while we munched our overpriced fair food, a voice burst over the loudspeaker to announce that the entry table was in desperate need of $1 and $5 bills, as the Palisade Bank had been robbed that morning and was thus unable to provide them with change. On the bright side, there was a textile arts fair taking place at the same venue that captivated our attention for over an hour, as we got weaving demonstrations and chatted with llama experts about raising fiber animals.

 

We left the festival and began the trek to procure the peaches we would be taking home with us. Once in the growing region, it was clear why this is such a great place for fruit! The trees were gorgeous, the topography unique and compelling, and the climate hot with abundant water. Vineyards and orchards were everywhere and the fruit stands dotted the side of the road, each one urging travelers to stop and try their home-grown goods. We felt compelled to acquiesce.


 
We cruised from stand to stand, chatting with growers, sampling fruit and haggling prices. One stand had a variety of peach called Roza, which was the most delicious peach I've ever tasted with its intensely sweet nectar soft delicate flesh that simply fell off the pit. They are a relatively large peach, and we even came across one that likely weighed over one pound! We decided we'd come back Sunday for our 10 or so boxes of ripe fruit at $15 per box.

After our fruit exploration, we spent the rest of the day getting lost on our way to the hotel. At one point, as we chatted away, enjoying the blissful experience of being able to complete a sentence without a preschooler interrupting us for a potty break, we looked up to notice a sign saying "Leaving Colorful Colorado." Apparently, in our quest to reach Grand Junction where our hotel resided, we'd failed to get off the I-70 highway and wound up in Utah. A quick (illegal) U-turn on the highway got us back on track, but it made me think that maybe my hubby is right about the hair color thing.

On Sunday, we arrived at the first pre-screened peach stand ready to buy our 10 or so boxes of Roza peaches only to discover that the vendor had just 3 boxes left of the $15 a box peaches, but she was glad to sell us the firmer, less ripe boxes for $20 a box. Grrrr.

We hussled up to the other, emergency backup stand, where we had decided to buy our pears to see if they had any of the $18 per box peaches they advertised the day before, and as with the other stand, they were "sold out" but we could buy the "better" boxes (not Rozas) for $25 each. Well, we bought our pears there (pear price was the same as the one quoted the day before) and cruised back to the first stand to pay $20 a box for our favorite flavored fruit.

We loaded up the back of the SUV and headed back over the mountains, happy, satisfied and full of peaches and stories to tell the kids.

All in all, $20 a box for the best peaches in the state isn't a bad deal, nevermind the $80 in gas and $50 for lodging we each spent making the journey. Of course, $130 for a weekend of relaxation, fun, fellowship and a break from parenting was a darned good investment in my personal sanity if you ask me.

We did make a few notes for next time:
  1. Buy peaches when the price is right and the inventory is there, and then store them in the hotel room if necessary
  2. Don't go to Palisade Peach Festival weekend and expect to haggle for better prices on peaches
  3. Buy twice as many boxes as desired and sell them for twice the price at home to offset the fuel and lodging expense

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