I skipped out on my Sunday afternoon run in favor of pursuing the first real berry picking expedition of 2008, finally. With our cloudy and cool summer weather, there was some doubt as to the fate of the berry season at all, but we trundled up our buckets, bug dope and goofy hats and drove up to our favorite berry location.
Arctic Valley is Anchorage's very-berry playground. A small ski area in the winter (Alpenglow), the valley entertains hundreds of berry-seekers young and old in the latter part of summer.
Almost immediately upon veering off the main trail, we discovered our cache of crowberries, the little, dark and not-very-sweet berries that I find make the best jelly and syrup. Bear brought his army trucks and amused himself quite well among the little trails and byways nearby. We didn't have to worry about real bears up this high; they are all down near the salmon streams, so it was a relief to let him wander with relative freedom.
My biggest asset (besides the endless energy of Yukon) is the berry catcher, a handy scoop with tines on the end that makes berry picking a thousand times easier. We collected almost five quarts of berries in our short visit and I am now cooking down a quart of them into juice before I go to bed. A lot more to do tomorrow. The juice will be made into syrup and jelly in time for our trip down South in a few weeks. Yes, I am indeed funneling syrup into a beer growler. It was handy and just the right size.
After such a stressful week, the berry ambiance was exactly what all three of us needed. The air smells like autumn, the laughter of kids traveled down the mountainsides, and berries plunked into our buckets (like my Easter Bunny one?) with confident "plops", noisy at first, muffled later as we filled up.
So Alaskan, so good.