Monday, August 3, 2009
When evening temperatures fall into the mid-40's, it's time to start thinking about berries. Not just any berries, mind you, but Alaskan blue and crowberries.
I was turned on to the sport of berrying my first summer in Alaska. Different from any other berry picking adventures I had ever had (I grew up in Issaquah, WA, where an annual pilgrimage to the strawberry farms in Carnation were hot, boring, and took too long), Alaskan berry picking means spending a day frolicking in the forest amid the laughter and chatter of one's own family.
Our favorite place to induldge is Arctic Valley, a high-alpine ski area/military installation a mere 11 miles from Anchorage. We can see the chairlifts and old NIKE missle site from our front windows and I watch every year to see when the time is right to head on up.
Yesterday was our day; the crummy weather seemed but a distant memory, we had no agenda for the afternoon, and I needed to get up there before our next vacation in a few weeks. I was poised and ready with my berry picking apparatus (a little shovel thingie with tines), buckets, snacks, and camera.
One of my favorite things about venturing up to the Valley is the appearance of so manhy other families. Kids, dogs, grandmas and grandpas; everyone is out for a fun day of playing in the midst of sweet-smelling shrubbery and a view to die for.
This year the biggest advantage was Bear's ability to run up and down the trails between Yukon and I. We attached a bear bell to his shoe so we could hear his comings and goings, and I relished the gentle clanking sound as he explored the terrain at his own leisure. He also spent considerable time eating berries, as was evidenced by the purple face and hands.
Four quarts of berries later, we were hungry, tired, and ready to head down the hill. Sun-soaked and happy and toting a good start to our winter berry supply.