Monday, September 8, 2008

One more day in town

Sunday, August 3

What kept us moored at the dock for "just one more day" in Petersburg? It was a not-to-be-missed invitation to join friends on a berry picking adventure. A thoughtful Petersburg resident loaned them a family car while Doug waited for winch parts to be flown in. Overnight or even two-day shipping has a whole different meaning in SE Alaska. It usually means a minimum of two days to Anchorage, and then another day or two to arrive where you want it to be - unless it's a weekend, or it was shipped by barge instead of plane, or it was bumped off the plane for lack of space. We have learned to request shipment by US mail instead of UPS; mail takes priority over cargo. This works for small items, but not refrigerators (but that's another story from 2007).

We drove about 12 miles south on Mitkof Island, stopping occasionally to check out roadside shrubbery. The first good berry patch was at the turnoff to the city dump. Hmmm, both berries and garbage dumps attract bear so we stayed alert and made a lot of noise while harvesting blueberries and huckleberries. One for the bucket, two for me, two for the bucket, more for me... Farther south along the main road Britt and Ron scouted promising real estate with muskeg, bogs, ditches and hills. Swell stuff for berries, but tough to tromp through in our rubber boat boots. With each squishy, sinking step I expected a boot to be sucked off my foot.

Blueberries I recognize. Huckleberries I know. Salmon berries are distinctive and easy to identify in yellow, orange and red. But whoever heard of cloudberries? Well they do exist (Rubus chamaemorus) but are nearly invisible groundhuggers that live on the uphill rise beteen the soggy ground and the low hummocks. Red when immature, cloudberries are a pale creamy yellow when ripe and taste faintly like vanilla, or maybe baked apple. Once you spot a few, others pop magically into view, especially in ground you have already covered. We put a lot of energy into picking a few Ziploc bags apiece of these berries and loved the cross-country romp out of town. Too often we just see the shoreline as we travel.

Lunch was a decadent afternoon potluck of Britt Marie's homemade Swedish treats and my typical picnic fare, enjoyed at a sunny picnic site on the boardwalk at Blind Slough Park. The best deal of the day? we traded our day's berry hoard for two jars of Britt's huckleberry sauce.

Huckleberies and blueberries are fun to pick and eat straight off the bush - until you clean your first batch. Fill the sink with fresh water, pour in the berries, and watch the tiny green worms wriggle out of the fruit and float to the surface. Yuck! It's an effective way to sort the produce from the protein, but nibbling berries straight off the bush will never again be as tempting.

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