Almost two years ago my husband and I moved back to Los Angeles from Ann Arbor and while California is now our home I often reminisce about our time spent in the Midwest city. We would bundle up for autumn and enjoy the vibrant leaves as they turn from green to fire red. This time of year is always a nostalgic time so to cure that seasonal longing for those cozy clothes we ventured back to Ann Arbor for a little getaway. The crisp October days beg for something warm to sip and in an area abundant with apples, coffee just isn’t going to cut it. This is where warm apple cider and their sugary counterparts, the doughnut, get to shine. Seek out one of the many farms or cider mills in the area and brown paper bags dotted with signs of warm doughnuts accompanied by plastic cups of steaming cider can be found. The setup isn’t gourmet or trendy, it’s the scenery and familiarity of the outing that makes autumn so special.
Coming off of the bustling work week into the relaxing environment of a Michigan fall day was only made better with a trip to one of these cider mills, but the addition of friends is what made it memorable. Tucked along the highway of a neighboring Ann Arbor town called Dexter you can find a little red cider mill along the Huron River. A group of us, familiar faces and friendly new ones, stocked up on cider and doughnuts then ventured to a nearby park to indulge in the tart and sweet treats. Bundled up under a wooden canopy and nestled among towering yellow, red, and orange-leaved trees we warmed our hands on ceramic mugs and tore open the paper bags to reveal fresh cinnamon coated cider doughnuts. We were the only ones there and the conversations drifted between artisan talents like crafting guitars and weaving fabric on studio porches, to local food and new restaurants to visit, to sneaking beers down to the lake during the summer. Quiet moments were spent admiring the river, bundling together to keep warm, and dusting cinnamon and sugar from a few beards. The doughnuts slowly disappeared and the cider warmed our hands until the last drop was gone, tiny rain drops scattered between the branches while a fall worthy wind began to pick up. The afternoon was impromptu, the snacks were simple, and the setting was sparse, but the gathering of friends on an autumn afternoon was abundant with stories and seasonal traditions.
We left Ann Arbor the next day remembering what fall used to feel like when we lived in town and getting that sensation of clean air, chilled faces, and layers wrapped over necks and chins. While vacations are often packed with sight seeing and your head is already on the plane home as the trip winds down, the feeling from that leisurely afternoon spent along a quiet stretch of the river is what will always draw me back to that little pocket of Michigan.
Photos by HMN Photography