Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Huckleberry Hunting

Ugh, August.  Blazing hot temperatures......wildflowers beginning to wilt.......fall colors still over a month away.  What's the incentive to hike?

One word.


The prey!

These wonderfully sweet bits of goodness start ripening by mid-August, and by month's end are prolific in forests around the Pacific NW.  And the very best place to find huckleberries is SW Washington's Indian Heaven Wilderness.

Eagle-eye Young spots the first berries

No one loves picking huckleberries more than my good friend Young.  She's got a nose for finding them.  So when planning a mid-August hike into Indian Heaven, naturally I invited her along.

Busy bee

After a long drive down a dusty, gravel road, and navigation over a hairy washed-out area (super glad for my high-clearance Subaru), we arrived at the East Crater Trailhead.

Last of the asters

We hadn't traveled more than a few hundred yards from the trailhead when eagle-eye Young spotted the first ripe berries.  A harvesting session ensued - we'd both brought along containers for this very purpose.  I used an old Nalgene bottle, while Young packed a large plastic jar.

Scanning the bushes for berries

After a good ten minutes of combing the bushes, my friend and I continued our hike.  Young, jar in hand, continually scanned the forest for more berries, while I looked for wildflower photo ops. Plentiful ripe berries kept enticing us from the trail, and we succumbed to many "picking breaks."

Junction Lake

Despite the persistent huckleberry temptations, we did finally cover the two miles to Junction Lake.  The Indian Heaven Wilderness is also known for it's many sparkling water bodies, and this lovely lake is a favorite of my camera lens.

Trail junction

At the junction with the East Crater and Pacific Crest Trails (PCT) my friend happened upon the next huge huckleberry field.  Time for another picking frenzy!

Berry picking time!

Huckleberries resemble very small blueberries.  Their tiny size mean you have to gather a lot to fill up a container (in my case, a water bottle).  Despite the morning's frequent berry stops, Young and I's jars were barely half full.

Old PCT sign

Hanging out along the PCT, we happened to meet a group of northbound thru-hikers.  Young told them about the ripe berries, but those hikers seemed determined to cover miles, and weren't interested.

Follow the trail to Lemei Lake

I decided scenic little Lemei Lake would be our day's lunch stop, and persuaded Young to abandon her latest berry patch so we could arrive close to the noon hour.

Relaxin' at Lemei Lake

From Junction Lake, my friend and I traveled up and over a wooded ridge.  Winding down the other side, I was happy to see Lemei Lake's marshy shoreline peeping through the trees.  Aaahhhh......Time for a rest and lunch break!

Almost half full!

As we ate our lunch, Young and I discussed what we'd do with our huckleberry haul.  My full Nalgene bottle is usually just the right amount for a cobbler.  Young however, with the larger container, had plans to make jam.

Queen of the rock

Lemei Lake is such a scenic location, I couldn't resist a few photos posed on a large shoreline rock.

Now it's Young's turn

Young and I took turns being "Queen of the rock."

Looking for huckleberries

Lunch and photo session over, my friend and I continued on the trail, heading for more lakes and huckleberry fields.  We remembered gathering berries in past years from a large field just beyond Lemei Lake.  Hopes high, we eagerly crossed the lake's outlet creek and ascended the other side.

Scenic creek

But this year, there were no berries to be found......

No berries, but lotsa lupine

However, we did discover a huge field of lupine in peak bloom.

Another busy bee

Oh, it was gorgeous!  Berry picking momentarily forgotten, Young and I grabbed our cameras.

Young has a "Sound of Music" moment

It's not often we see large fields of wildflowers this late in August.  Young was so happy, she had a "Sound of Music" moment amidst the blooms.

Ultra-blue Clear Lake

Then we continued on our loop, past another ultra-blue lake until meeting up once again with the PCT.  A mere mile and a half would take us back to Junction Lake, completing the loop. 

Young's jar is almost full

But Young and I weren't going anywhere until we filled our jars.  This section of the PCT had the most ripe berries we'd seen all day.  A few stops along the way, and my bottle was full.  I pitched in and helped Young gather enough huckleberries for her jam making plans.

Huckleberry cobbler - yum!

Normally all I have to show from my hikes is a camera full of images.  But this time I also brought home enough huckleberries to make a delicious cobbler.  Not too shabby for a 10-mile ramble!

Maybe August hiking isn't so bad after all.... 


  1. Linda, I can see why this is a favourite place of yours! I love all the views and it is so nice to see the bees, too! Beautiful series!

  2. Mais uma bela caminha da entre paisagens fantásticas e até deu para apanhar frutos silvestres.
    Um abraço e continuação de boa semana.

  3. A wonderful area to ramble! Thanks for taking me along.

  4. I love picking berries! Fun post, love the lake and creek pics!

  5. Hello, the lake scenery is so beautiful. The berries and cobbler look delicious.
    I love the lupines and wildflowers. Gorgeous collection of photos. Another great hike, thanks for sharing. Happy Wednesday, enjoy your day!

  6. There's nothing like wild berries for good strong flavor. I like jam, cobbler and pie. But I don't like picking berries.

  7. we had a blast hunting berries in Montana this August...

  8. I've been hearing about huckleberries all year. I saw your 1st pic and thought,'well that's another word for blueberries.' Now it is all clear. A fun, fabulous, rewarding day and cobbler to boot! Must be why we like hiking so much.

  9. I LOVE hiking in berry season! Blackberries, salmon berries, huckleberries...they're all good!

  10. ummmm yummy berries and beautiful scenery. It doesn't get much better than that cept maybe for the cobbler.

  11. Can't beat the fruits of the forest.I mainly know huckleberries from the cartoon character as it was very popular growing up in the 1960s. I still think the first insect is a hover-fly as it's not got a furry body. :o)

  12. Great hike, and that pie makes me hungry!

  13. Enjoyable read, Linda, looks like you two had a lot of fun. I share your joy of the berries but I never seem to let enough of my harvest remain uneaten to fill up a bottle. South of Crater Lake is the Sky Lakes Wilderness, the berry hunting there is legendary. Your blog makes me think I should go out on a berry expedition there.

  14. We have wild blueberries that are also smaller than the commercial variety but also tastier

  15. I get distracted by berries on the side of the trail too. I once shortened a 20 mile run down to eight so I could spend three hours picking berries instead. Worth it!

  16. We were chomping down some late season huckleberries yesterday! They were sweet and juicy, even now. Love your pictures and story. :-)

  17. I think we call them bilberries over here. Kids love 'em

  18. I have never tasted a huckleberry - actually I only have heard of Huckleberry Finn and didn't even realise there was such a berry. You learn something new everyday.

  19. I was really excited about the idea of huckleberry picking there this summer, but I was in the area in June and got absolutely mauled by mosquitos so it really scared me off. Where the mosquitoes bad when you went?

    1. Yeah, the pesky buggers were still around, but bug spray kept them away. I'm sure they're gone by now though.

  20. The bears here are loading up on berries and acorns for their winter hibernation--do you have to worry about bears there? I bought huckleberry jam in Montana--so delicious!


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