A couple weeks
ago when I was hiking on Twin and
Pepper Peaks in the northern section of Chugach State Park I found a slope
full of blueberries and kept it a "secret" from other hikers with
buckets who were out for a day of berry-picking.
I picked only a few berries myself, thinking that it wasn't fair to
take a bunch when the poor bears and birds needed them as they gorge
themselves to make it through the long, cold winter just ahead.
Bear poop (!!) on today's hike --
full of blue and red berries; don't they digest them?
Well, since then I've come to realize that there are plenty of
blueberries and other kinds of berries that wildlife can access more
easily than we humans can. Berry picking in late summer/early fall is a long Alaskan
tradition and I shouldn't be messing with it!
Besides, it's fun, as we discovered today. Even the dogs got into it;
Casey-pup is very good at sniffing out raspberries and blueberries and
Cody readily scarfs down any berries we offer to him.
Jim and Casey on our berry hunt
Today was beautifully sunny and warm again (70 F. for the high in
Anchorage), perfect for a hike.
Before lunch we drove up nearby Arctic Valley
Road to the ski center where there is a trailhead I've used many times
to hike up to Rendezvous Ridge. Jim's gone up to the trailhead to begin
a bike ride from there to our campground at JBER but he's never hiked on
I love it up there because I can wander all over Gordon Lyon,
Rendezvous, and Little Teton peaks and the scenic ridge extending
south. Since it's all above tree line it's easy to find my way around.
I planned to take Cody with me today to just go up 1.5 miles to
the saddle above the south branch of the Eagle River and maybe hunt for
blueberries. Little did I know that this is a very popular place for
families to pick blueberries. I was surprised when Jim said he'd like to
go, too, so all four of us went.
The lower part of
Arctic Valley Road runs through military lands. This is the
first time in about eight trips up and down the road that I've seen any military activity
About a mile into the gravel section we were stopped by a Humvee
blocking the road just past a pull-off. We were told that troops were
training and it'd be about 40 minutes before we could proceed. About
five other vehicles were already parked in the pull-off and a dozen more
arrived before we were all allowed to go on up.
Leaves on some of the blueberry bushes are turning
One of the military guys came over to our truck to ask if we were attending
the wedding wedding??) or going blueberry picking.
Only two options?
We replied that we were going hiking. He just wanted to tell us not to
stop anywhere along the road the next few miles, until we passed another
Because of all the dust we let most of the other vehicles go on ahead of
us. Those folks were in a hurry to get to either the wedding or picking
blueberries. The parking lot is large so we didn't worry about finding a
We let the dogs swim in the pool of creek water near the parking area
(above), then started hiking up the main trail.
We could see little groups of people or individuals on the hillsides all
around us -- mostly the south-facing side of Gordon-Lyon where
there is the most sun -- either bent over or sitting down picking
Hardly anyone was just hiking, so we had the trail mostly to ourselves.
We decided to hike up the trail to the saddle first, so Jim could see
down to the Eagle River valley, then look for blueberries on the way
back down the mountain. That way we wouldn't have to carry the fragile
berries for so long (we just had small plastic bags, not buckets).
This was Jim's first time on the trail, which is much more moderate than
the one up to the Harding Icefield that he hiked with me last week in
the Seward area.
He enjoyed the views to the peaks,
down into the Eagle River valley (Hiland Dr.), over to Symphony Lake,
and down to Cook Inlet:
Lyon's ridges (above) and peak (below)
below: Eagle River Valley
Looking back to the trailhead, Anchorage Bowl, and
The fireweeds were very pretty, about the only thing blooming now. They
were closer to peak bloom the higher we hiked:
Plants in the tundra are beginning to turn red, and there were a
gazillion little red and blue berries at our feet:
Reddish leaves under the ski lift going up to
Little Teton Peak
Medley of blue and red berries
We spent a few minutes at the saddle, then began looking for plump, ripe
blueberries. The first berries we saw near the saddle and on
north-facing slopes were tiny, navy-colored, hard, and sour --
definitely not ripe.
Casey didn't care. She was ON them, stripping the tiny branches clean.
She ate more than she should have during the time we were up there. We
expected her to have some stomach distress and/or runny poop in several
hours. That didn't happen, fortunately.
Jim got a few ripe berries once we found a good place for them about 200
feet below the saddle, on Gordon Lyon's south face. Most of the time he
sat on the ground with Casey so she wouldn't continue eating berries:
Jim holds up
his bag of blueberries.
I wandered around picking ripe berries nearby. Cody was off-leash the
whole time, showing great interest in what I was doing and wanting more
berries than I gave him. He never did try to get any himself and I don't
want to teach him how to do it! One canine berry-picker in this family
Several other folks had dogs with them, too, mostly off-leash. We let
Casey play with a couple of them. She was just as interested in getting
attention from their people, however, so she had to stay on-leash most
of the time.
of Rendezvous Peak
We got a total of three miles hiking, lots of sunshine and fresh, cool
air, and had fun picking berries. They are much smaller than the ones I
get at stores, however, and not as tasty. It took me a while to cull the
best ones out after washing them.
Once was enough for Jim. Although I continued to pick and eat some
berries while hiking during the remaining time we were in the Anchorage
area, I didn't take any more home with me.
Next entry: moose and bear sightings during my first Williwaw
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup
© 2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil