Huckleberry Haul

Recently, Tara and I were in an upscale grocery store in NE Portland. She’d grabbed several pricey bars of dark chocolate and, suddenly worried that she might be spending too much money, turned to me and said, “Do you think it’s ridiculous to spend $16 on chocolate?”

Glancing at the expensive tins of Jacobsen sea salt I was carting around, I replied, “I’m probably the wrong person to ask, given that I’m buying $13 worth of salt.”

“Touche,” she said, and a woman in the same aisle couldn’t help but laugh at us.

It’s okay. I laughed at us, too.

Yes, we really did spend almost $30 on chocolate and salt. We’re a living, breathing “Portlandia” sketch sometimes.


Now that it’s September, I want it to be fall right now. ‘Cause I’m an impatient bastard. [Seriously: Tara had to talk me out of dragging the harvest bin out of storage and setting out pumpkins this weekend. “Let’s give it a couple more weeks,” she suggested. I decided to humor her this time.] Fortunately, though the calendar says autumn is still a few weeks away officially, the weather is cooperating. Our hot weather has given way to cloudy, cool, and damp.

I love it.

Yesterday, we decided to make our annual pilgrimage* to the Indian Heaven Wilderness to pick huckleberries. *Though I call it an “annual pilgrimage,” it’s actually been a few years since we’ve done it. But by golly, it’s going to be annual from now on, for realz.

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We got to Thomas Lake shortly after 11, and there was a definite chill in the air. It was only 49(ish) degrees, which felt great considering we’d baked in 100-degree temps a mere nine days earlier. I hadn’t checked in advance to confirm that the huckleberries had ripened, but experience has taught me you can pretty much count on them showing up come September, and sure enough, they were everywhere. In fact, it seems to be a banner year for these tiny, succulent fruit, which resemble small blueberries but taste even better. They were growing prolifically all along the trail, and quite a few other people were out there picking them with us. Everybody was commenting on how plentiful they were this year, and how big they were too. I have to agree. Maybe it was due to our more “typical” summer weather this year – except for the last few weeks of August, it wasn’t too hot most of the summer, and the nights cooled off nicely. Who knows? I’m no botanist. The point is, they were everywhere, and we filled two bags full.

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Huckleberries are unique. They only grow at a certain elevation (roughly 4,000 – 5,000′) and can’t be farm-cultivated or machine-harvested, which is why they are impossible to find in the grocery store. If you want huckleberries, you have to make a trek to the mountains and pick ’em by hand yourself. They are so worth the effort, though.

We also hiked 4.75 miles, enjoying the perfect weather. At one point we stopped for a lunch break in a lush meadow just a stone’s throw from a pristine subalpine lake, and the sun was playing peek-a-boo with fluffy white cumulus clouds that resembled cotton candy, and the whole thing was just perfect: the company, the scenery, the imminent change in seasons. And I thought to myself, Self, it doesn’t get any better than this. It’s great to have that self-awareness while you’re in the moment, rather than looking back years later and thinking how wonderful such-and-such a time was, and regretting the fact that you didn’t enjoy it more.

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After our huckleberry haul, we stopped in Stevenson (our future home) for dinner and drinks at our go-to spot, Big River Grill. Came home, made a big bowl of popcorn, and watched a really uplifting movie about a woman who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s and watches her life slip out of her grasp as little by little, everybody she knows and loves becomes a stranger to her. Fun!

All in all, not a bad way to spend a Saturday, especially one that kicks off a three-day weekend.

This week, we are heading to the Oregon coast for a few days to celebrate our third wedding anniversary (and five years since we became a couple) so our already-short week will be even shorter.

Happy Labor Day!

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12 thoughts on “Huckleberry Haul

  1. While in Romania earlier this summer, one of our stops between villages included a visit to Peles Castle. Along the shady route we walked to the castle, people with baskets of berries approached. “Buy some berries,” they urged. “They’re from the forest,” they persisted. Now imagine the voice of Oliver Twist saying, “Please sir, I want some more.” They seemed to be chanting “They’re from the forest” in that same imploring voice. Sadly, we who only get berries from the Winn Dixie (or Whole Foods or Trader Joes) did not buy the forest berries. Now I wonder what we missed. Love the photos!

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  2. “Now that it’s September, I want it to be fall right now. ‘Cause I’m an impatient bastard. [Seriously: Tara had to talk me out of dragging the harvest bin out of storage and setting out pumpkins this weekend. ”

    Mark, of course you know I smiled at that because like you, I CAN’T WAIT FOR FALL!!!!! And we’ve had the same kind of weather here lately, no heat, no humidity; nothing but cool, breezy weather. OMG…it’s been GLORIOUS! However, it’s not over yet because later in the week the temps go back into the 90’s!

    I’ve also been thinking about pumpkins, pumpkin bread and pumpkin butter! I just love fall food!

    Gorgeous photographs! The shot of the berries on the branch with the water-dropped leaves is just stunning! I’m so enjoying the pictures you’ve been taking with your new camera!!!

    Happy Labor Day to you and Tara!

    Cheers!

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  3. Sometimes, you just have to spend the big bucks when you have discriminating taste buds! I indulge in marcona almonds at $22 a pound. And hey, you saved money by picking your own berries!

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    1. Oh, I totally get your obsession with marcona almonds. I’m a fan myself! We first had them when we splurged on an upscale 9-course dinner; the dessert plate was salted marcona almonds with cheese. So good!

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  4. I am so very ready for Fall.

    Now that you mention it, I don’t believe I’ve ever had a Huckleberry, at least I don’t think I have. My parents used to feed us all sorts of things calling it something else, so who really knows. I need to rectify that.

    Was the movie, I’m still Alice? If so, I completely agree with your assessment. Non-stop laugh riot (please read this with intended sarcasm). I thought it was an extremely well-acted movie, but not exactly what one might call an upper.

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