By LENORE RUTHERFORD
Like the trees stretching across the fields at their apple ranch, the Cover family's roots run deep.
Even a devastating half-million-dollar fire in 2000 couldn't destroy what the family has worked together to build.
Everyone who knows the industrious Cover family knew it was just a matter of time before they reopened their gift and bake shop at the picturesque Covers' Apple Ranch, although at the time, members of the close-knit, devout Christian family weren't sure it could be done.
The Cherokee Road business an 88-acre ranch with 23 acres of apple trees which this branch of the family bought in 1998, was closed after the Sept. 11, 2000, blaze that started in the pie shop's kitchen.
"We were vastly under-insured," Ranch Manager Jesse Cover said. "We sat for a long time and wondered if we even had the ability to take on the financial obligations of rebuilding.
"But the Lord opened some doors we didn't see in the beginning, and it finally all came together."
Branches of the Cover family have been part of Tuolumne County's culture for more than 40 years, and family members credit the community with supporting them through troubled times.
"People were always stopping by and offering to help," Jesse said, "and everyone was anxious for us to open again."
A new, enlarged bake and gift shop opened Aug. 13, and once again, people are buying pies, pastries and other goodies, plus fresh apples, cider and gifts.
"We are doing more business now than we ever did before," Cover said. "It has gone better than any of us anticipated."
Visitors can stroll the ranch and feed the small animals in a barnyard petting-zoo setting. A new miniature train ride is available, thanks to train buff Ken Keagy, who owns the train and runs Ken Keagy Excavating Inc. He built the new track that stretches into the orchards and includes two underground tunnels.