Today I unexpectedly found myself foraging in the woods. I don't think I've ever used the word forage in my life, but today the word just came off my lips and it was the perfect descriptor of what I experienced.
My family set aside today as a Family Adventure Day. Initially, we had planned to visit the elephant seals at Año Nuevo, but at the last minute we learned the trail is closed for maintenance. So we headed up to Skyline Boulevard hoping to stumble upon adventure. As we cruised along, I spied a sign: Chestnuts Next Left. Chestnuts? Hmmm, I was intrigued by the property and requested a stop. I thought we'd pull up to a basic fruit & nut stand, little did I know what lay before us. The first curious clue was a field packed with parked cars; this was clearly a popular destination, but why?
Soon we discovered what felt like another world: chestnut gathering! Twenty minutes from the valley is the Bay Area's only gather-your-own chestnut orchard full of beautiful, mature trees. Forager families were everywhere, excitedly hunting for fallen chestnuts on the ground. The nuts sell for $6 a pound, and you can buy them without gathering them yourself, but this is a place you go for the experience. I learned so much today, and I won't spoil all the surprises for you, but I will say this: did you know that chestnuts grow in a cactus-like shell? Ouch!
Skyline Chestnuts' 2016 season began in mid-October and they expect next week to be their last. I highly recommend you put aside some time to go. It felt very special and festive. I couldn't get the chestnuts song out of my head the whole time we were there: "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose..." Now that Halloween's over, I'm ready to welcome the holiday season, and the chestnut trees concur.