Monday, September 26, 2005

Day 5: We go Huckleberry Picking in Montana

We left Jemma with her Grandma and set-out early for the two hour drive to Montana. This Western slope of the Rocky Mountains location had been where my Dad had been going for the last few years, so we would not be going to any place I had been before. Two hours may seem like a short time to get from Washington to Montana: (For those who are geography-challenged, these two states don't touch each other.) Spokane is only about 30 miles from the Idaho border, Idaho is pretty narrow in it's northern-most part and we went the whole way on I90. The reason we cannot go to the same place every year for huckleberry picking is that there is only a few year's window of high productivity for any given place. The bushes are everywhere up in the mountains but don't bear many berries unless they get lots of sunshine. If an area gets logged-off then there is plenty of sunshine for a few years until the next crop of fir trees start to take over. Huckleberries, both the bush and the fruit, appear much like blueberries and are probably related to one another. There are pretty big differences between them though: As one might expect the wild huckleberries are smaller and harder to harvest than domestic blueberries. Also, the kind of huckleberries we pick only grow up high in the mountains (there are red ones which grow at sea-level, but they are not as sweet or tasty). The flavor of huckleberries is much like that of blueberries--only much more intense. Huckleberries are purple/blue all the way through, unlike blueberries which are green on the inside. Two hours each way seemed at the time like a lot to bear for the pleasure of 3 hours of picking, but in retrospect it was well worth it. Of all the things we did on this trip, Surenna and Dahlia remember this outing as the highlight of the visit out West. When I was growing up, we went picking just about every Summer, but we all saw it as a welcome and enjoyable outing to go on. It was always much cooler up in the mountains and there was always a great view, plus the scent of the alpine meadows was invigorating. The girls loved it for all those reasons and it was their first time, so there was a novelty factor too.

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