Hood River’s famous Fruit Loop is a great (and tasty) fall drive: Gerry Frank’s picks

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Enjoy the spectacular fall foliage from some of the most idyllic spots in Oregon with a drive along the 35-mile Hood River Fruit Loop (hoodriverfruitloop.com). From farm stands and local stores to restaurants, bakeries and more; the only thing more enjoyable than the drive itself are the stops in the communities along the way.

Apple Valley Country Store and Bakery (2363 Tucker Road, Hood River; 541-386-1971; applevalleystore.com) has been around for more than 30 years. Offerings include fresh fruit pies and pie fillings, as well as frozen pies that can be baked from home for your next holiday feast. They also sell a variety of small-batch jams, syrups, sauces along with freshly baked goods and locally-crafted gifts. But, it’s their huckleberry milkshakes that are at the top of everyone’s list. Visit them 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday (hours change seasonally).

The chocolate bars at Columbia Gorge Confections (112 7th Street, Hood River; 971-344-0148; columbiagorgeconfections.com) do more than satisfy chocolatey cravings; they are a work of art. Aside from the visual appeal of the chocolate bars, and most importantly the delicious and creative flavors, they stand out through the use of locally-sourced products which highlight landmarks in the gorge and the surrounding Pacific Northwest. A few examples include the Lavender Valley bar (strawberries, pistachios, rose and lavender), the Cooper Spur bar (toffee hazelnuts with two types of cinnamon) and the Dee bar (strawberries, raspberries, tart cherries and blackberries). To add, most chocolate bars are offered in dark, milk and white chocolate variations. Also on the menu are elegantly crafted truffles and bonbons, both creamy and decadent, as well as mini bars and seasonal offerings.

If you don’t have time to stop in and drool over the selection in person, they have a plethora of options online including beautifully-curated gift boxes (at a variety of price points). Not only are the gift boxes great for the upcoming holiday season, but they help support twenty three other local gorge artists by featuring their products (candles, coffee beans, nut butters, tea, wine and more) within the boxes – not counting the growing list of local wine makers which will be featured online and in-store. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Ask about specialty cakes, too.

Refuel with barbecue at Apple Valley BBQ (4956 Baseline Drive, Parkdale; 541-352-3554; applevalleybbq.com). I recommend the smoked pork ribs and the pulled pork sandwich. The meat is as tender as it is delicious. Other popular menu items include the meatloaf sandwich, baked macaroni and cheese and the prime rib special. Salads are available, too. Restaurant hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday or until they sell out of barbecue.

The all-new fourth edition of “Gerry Frank’s Oregon” guidebook is available through oregonguidebook.com; 503-585-8411; gerry@teleport.com; amazon.com; Macy’s; and P.O. Box 2225, Salem, OR 97308.

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