Posted by J.W.
It only took a year from my first efforts and previous post, but I finally was able to go berrying yesterday! I have the family of Kjerstin, my friend (and regular commentator on here) to thank for having such a great experience: her mother has been going regularly ever since she was a little girl, and believes in sharing the experience with others.
It was a delightful experience, and, as you can see from the above, the local huckleberries look nothing like the pictures I was finding online! They're scrubby little underbrush, only about 2 feet high, which requires getting down on the ground to check for berries, since they often seem to hide under the leaves (I found myself gently bending entire little bushes over so that I could actually see what I was looking for on more then one occasion).
For those of you looking interested in trying yourselves, here are 5 simple hints:
1. Go high. You need to get up past the aspen woods to areas with pine and little forest wildflowers like globe mallow. We drove on dirt roads for quite a while up Kelly Canyon outside of Ririe, Idaho, then all bundled into a truck to take a road usually reserved for dirtbikes.
2. Practice good berrying etiquette: Jacqueline (my guide) told me that while it's fine to look for other berry pickers and seemingly abandoned cars, it's bad form to start picking where someone else is. Go farther along the road and find your own spot. Don't worry, they'll be there if you keep looking...it might take getting out of the car and poking around a bit a few times, though.
3. Right now is late in the season...but that's ok. While it's ideal to go in late July, berries don't ripen all at once. I was told that really high areas (like parts of Yellowstone) are just really getting going.
4. Use all of your senses to check for berries. After a bit, I got a pretty good idea of what Jacqueline was looking for when she got out of the truck, however getting down close to ground level, handling the berries, checking for that dark purple color, smelling them (they're more fragrant then any blueberry I've ever seen) and then tasting them when you're 99% sure is the way to go.
5. Make noise. It keeps bears away and insures that you don't get separated from your companions. The latter is shockingly easy to do when you're all kneeling and sitting in undergrowth, picking your way along where the berries take you. I was a little shocked at how I'd ranged all over the hillside. I'd gone far enough over that there were berries below me I hadn't seen on the way up.
6. Wear nothing you remotely care about, head to foot, and pack sunscreen/hats and bug repellant.
A big thank you again to Jacqueline and Eric and their great family. I will most definitely be going again, and am considering planning a camping trip next year to pick!