Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Elusive Huckleberry

This first weekend in August we did what we have done for most of the last ten first weekends in August, which is to travel in search of the elusive Huckleberry, the state fruit of Idaho. While Huckleberries are present throughout Idaho between about 4000 and 6000 feet above sea level, a trip to pick them is never a causual occurrance. Most people who go huckleberry picking border on the fanatical side.

Generally if you ask a person where they are going picking, they will only provide vague directions, such as "North". "North", of course means anywhere between East and West. It is difficult to nail it down any further than this.

A small group of us do travel as a group and camp together. When we enter a particular area to pick, that's when the friendship ends. We utilize FRS radios to keep in touch and make sure that no one gets lost. It is common to ask others over the radio how the picking is where they are at. The most common reply is "it sucks over here!". This could mean anything from "it sucks over here, don't come over" to "the picking is great, don't come over". The rules change when you are picking with your spouse as we pool our berries in the end. In these circumstances if your spouse thinks she is in a slightly better patch, she will tell you to come over. When you get there, more often than not, it is the same or not quite as good as where you were. This is the challenge with picking, the constant belief that a better patch is just over there.

The picking was a little thin this weekend in comparison with the last few years. The forest was extremely dry. A couple of our favorite spots had little if any berries at all. We were able to find some reasonable patches for picking. On our final morning we finally found a patch which warrants the "great" label. In a "great" patch you can sit down in one place and pick for 5 minutes before moving on. This enables you to pick with two hands. In these patches we can each pick a quart of berries in around 2 hours. The rest of the weekend we were in patches where you are constantly moving from bush to bush. We were also picking smaller berries. In these patches we only picked 3/4 of a quart in 3 hours. In the end, Karyn and I ended up with about 1.75 gallons of berries for the weekend. Last couple of years we picked 2.5 gallons. 1.75 is much better than our worst year which was less than 0.5 gallons! We also had a great time with friends making it a very successful weekend.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ok, calling this year a little slim is like calling the old Elvis a little heavy! The picking really did SUCK! Until you figured out how to ditch your friends and find some reall picking! Liked your article though.