When we first arrived in Alaska, Nancy and I made a bucket list of experiences we hope to make happen while living in the 49th state. Last weekend we checked one of them off.
We've been hearing and reading about Alaska's epic berries since we arrived. Being a big fan of blueberry pancakes and jam, berry picking quickly made it to the bucket list. After doing minimal research about a location, we headed up above treeline to a rumored honey hole. There were quite a few groups of pickers already out, and I was initially nervous it might be slim pickings. We hiked beyond the farthest group of gathers before having a snack. After snapping a few pictures of Alaska's ever-epic landscapes, I declared, "lets go find some berries." About 10 seconds later I shouted, "I found the berries."
They were everywhere. It seemed the whole mountainside was composed of a number of different berries: cranberries, crow-berries and blueberries. We quickly opened up our ziplock bags, and started harvesting. The plants we first picked had relatively spare berries, and I was picking quite methodically, focusing on a singe berry at a time. A little farther up the mountain I found the mother-load. Here were plants with copious amounts of bulbous, blue morsels that could be raked off the plant by the handfuls. Working with two hands, I used my fingers to loosely rake the berries off the plants and into my bag. Before long, boots, pants and hands were all stained purple from squashing numerous fruits. It couldn't be helped.
In about two hours, we picked over 10 pounds of Alaska blueberries and a quart of cranberries. Three batches of jam and many servings of blueberry pancakes later, we still have half of the harvest left. The cranberries we'll save for Thanksgiving.
The amount of harvesting that goes on in Alaska is impressive. Everyday folks are out stocking the freezer with wild game, fish and berries of all kinds, more so than any other place I've lived. While I'm bummed not to be able to partake in dip-netting and hunting this year (not an official AK resident yet), I still get excited about heading out into the mountains and bringing home some hard won food.