On the huckleberry trail

Castlegar News bi-weekly columnist Gord Turner with some tasty observations on a seasonal compulsion

Gord Turner contributes a bi-weekly column to the Castlegar News

 

A fellow columnist in a local online news source recently wrote about the huckleberries available around Rossland.  In fact, he was quite happy to have found abundant berries in several locations, and thus he coined the word “hucked.”  So overwhelmed was he by the berries, the picking, and the possibility of making berry wine that he felt “hucked.”

I know exactly how he felt because during several past summers I have found so many berries I couldn’t pick them all.  I came home with several pails full and went back for more until my wife yelled “enough.” I seem to become mesmerized when I enter huckleberry heaven and won’t leave as long as there are berries to be had.

I get in among the bushes and the purple-black berries, and somehow I drop the world far behind. I hear a crow yapping a ways off and the buzzing of insects nearby, but for all real purposes, I’m an entity unto myself. A cedar waxwing stops by to say hello, and a curious deer pauses in mid-stride in a nearby clearing. I sense them, but I’m interested only in the plunk-plunk of berries tumbling into my bucket.

Huckleberry picking is not for the timid.  Sometimes you have to travel several miles and find the right forestry road to get to a broad sweep of berries. Then you wind your way up into the cut block or into deeper woods, climbing over fallen logs and around stumps. In places, the alder and fireweed have taken over and have to be pushed aside. Here and there, a few huckleberries glisten on a bush, and you stumble to get to them.

In my recent picking toward Nancy Greene Lake, both my son and I fell and spilled some of the hard-won berries we’d picked. He had an excuse as he stepped on a large hornet’s nest and had to run to escape the swarm. I had no excuse other than I was scrambling over two large downed trees and had my eyes on the next berries instead of on my route.

I was amazed that my fellow columnist gave out the locations of where he found huckleberries. Here in Castlegar, the whereabouts of huckleberry patches is usually so secret no one will talk about it. They’re afraid that in talking about finding huckleberries they’ll accidentally pass on the location.

Anyway, I’ve picked huckleberries four times this summer—the first was in late June on a cliff along the Columbia River, so at a fairly low elevation. However, the cliff was so steep, I felt like a climber who needed ropes and pitons to protect himself. I held on to fir tree branches with a passion and often slid on my behind to get down to the next level.

A week later, I found berries in and around Kinnaird Park. In fact, while I was picking, friends of mine arrived and began searching the bushes nearby. I had picked the patch quite clean and felt a bit like Goldilocks after she had eaten all the porridge.  “Who’s been picking in my berry patch?” I thought I heard the tall one say.

Huckleberry ripeness moves to higher elevations as the summer progresses. Here in late August the picking has moved at least as high as Nancy Greene Lake. On one of the logging roads, we found berries in a cut block that once was quite open. Now grown over, we still found a few berries on low lying bushes, sometimes two berries at a time. Because I’m patient and retired, I have lots of time, so I still picked a bucketful before noon.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An image from Castlegar city council on Zoom.
Castlegar council decides to keep meeting online

City council meetings will remain online at least until January

There has been COVID-19 exposures at two elementary schools in District 42. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 24 additional COVID-19 cases

This includes three school exposures in Kelowna

The portion of highway is down to single-lane alternating traffic. Photo: Connor Trembley
Commercial trailer catches fire near Castlegar

Traffic was delayed along Hwy 3

Numbers indicate positive COVID-19 tests, January through September. Map: BC Centre for Disease Control
Twenty-five cases of COVID-19 reported in Nelson, Castlegar and Trail in 2020

New data from the BC Centre for Disease Control shows numbers of cases per community

Castlegar Search and Rescue members practicing their skills at the Kinnaird Bluffs. Photo: submitted
Why search and rescue is a free, non-judgmental service in B.C.

Castlegar Search and Rescue talks about why they do what they do

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

An elderly woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past an advertisement for a television series in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. has been under a COVID-19 state of emergency for more than half the year

Province has been under a state of emergency for 32 weeks – and counting

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Strong support for pre-flight COVID testing ahead of upcoming WestJet trial: YVR

Airport is partnering with UBC, which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

Most Read