Berry Picking on the Tundra

Living in Alaska often feels like one long string of adventures, mishmashed together with common, everyday moments.  It's always been one of my favorite things about life in Alaska. I absolutely love that my normal classroom routine in Juneau involved learning Tlingit language, or that walking the dogs meant carrying bear spray.  It's these little adventures that make living in Alaska such an experience.


One such experience that I had recently was berry picking.  Last Saturday, Melissa (the other teacher) and myself went out picking with a local woman, Sue.  Sue drove us down a bumpy, two-track that led out to the summer fishing camp (all the houses at camp were boarded up for the season). From there, we went on a hunt for berries and tundra plants.  As usual, I was amazed at the beauty and openness of the tundra landscape of my new home.


For my part, I've long been a berry picker, and I grew up in an agricultural hotspot. There's something just so different about berry picking here in the Alaskan Bush though.  It's sharply contrasting to the U-Pick farms in Michigan, or even to the groomed trails with their abundant berries in the mountains outside of Juneau.


Here, in Pilot Point, there are no berry bushes.  The berries grow in thick little clusters, scattered across the tundra.  This means that all berry picking is done in a sitting or squatting position.  Blueberries are much smaller than those in the lower 48 and SE Alaska.  They taste quite similar though and require handpicking and much care.  Comparatively, blackberries and cranberries are quite hardy and can be picked with a "picker."  These pickers are magical, and allowed me to collect a ridiculous amount of blackberries.  I did collect a few cranberries too, but mostly I am saving my picking of those until after the first frost (they are supposed to be much better after that).


The tundra itself makes berry picking in Pilot Point unique too.  If you've never been on the tundra, imagine it as a plush mattress or trampoline. The ground is so squishy that you sink several inches with every step.  It also holds an incredible amount of moisture, which will quickly soak the knees of your pants as you kneel to pick berries.  I learned my lesson about the wetness of the tundra quickly after kneeling to handpick a few blueberries.


After only a couple of hours I had over 1/2 gallon of berries to show for my hard work.  I was hot, sweaty, and feeling incredibly happy and content.  This feeling of happiness was only added to by the sheer vastness of the tundra, the great company of my new friends, and the delicious berries that I took home to pack away for winter.

Your turn...What are some of your favorite everyday adventures? 
Currently listening to...Alaska - Maggie Rogers

Comments

  1. Wow! Your pictures are so fun to see. I had no idea there were berries on the tundra! As a young girl, we lived in Ketchikan but I've never experienced the tundra. Thanks so much for taking us along!

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    1. What did you think of Ketchikan? It's one of the places in AK that I've always wanted to visit (or maybe even live!). I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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  2. Great pics, Alaska looks beautiful.
    Everyday adventures, hmm ... I kind of enjoy driving places actually :). My commute to work is about 5 minutes so that is probably why, ha.

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    1. I enjoy driving places too! In our village there really isn't anywhere to drive. It was the same when we lived on an island the last two years. Road trips are totally great vacations.

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  3. I love hearing about your adventures. I can only imagine! I am enjoying life right now because I am my own boss. The real adventure happens in two weeks when I head to Guatemala.

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    1. Did you take a similar trip last year? I feel like I remember reading about your travels. Guatemala should be an interesting one! :)

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  4. My question is what are your plans for all those berries?

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    1. A mixture of things. I drink shakes every morning (or at least I try to), so many of them will go towards those. Some will be for pies and jams, and a few more will be for akutaq (aka eskimo ice cream - check it out!).

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  5. Gorgeous picture. I'm happy to see your settling into your new life.

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    1. Thanks! It's been a crazy adventure so far, but we are starting to settle.

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  6. How fun. I love reading your blog, because my dream is to one day live in the middle of nowhere. :)

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    1. You definitely should try it! I love living in little, off the beaten path places. It's the best! :)

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  7. I love that first sentence - that perfectly describes how I felt about living in Anchorage. We hiked Flat Top one day in early fall and unexpectedly came across a bunch of berries. We were so thrilled with our impromptu berry picking experience, and the pancakes we made with them were delicious!

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    1. Thanks! People are always asking about our adventures out here, and I've found that we had just as many adventures living in "urban" Alaska (Juneau). It's interesting how even the cities up here are full of nature to explore.

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