Thursday, August 25, 2011

Meandering Thoughts on the Prairie: Weekend in the Mountains

The school year always seems to begin too soon, no matter the date. As our family's last farewell to summer, we headed into the mountains near Glacier Park to camp and work and play.

August is not my favorite time of year in the mountains. I find the heat stifling and the amount of pitch and dirt attached to my body and clothes nearly unbearable. If there's forest fires it seems to intensify all of the above. Add some hard labor,( cutting and loading three cords of firewood), a couple of teen-aged siblings, and some hard ground to sleep upon and you've got a pretty crabby lady. That's the worst of it.

The best parts are unique and varied.There is a mountain spring near the camp, gushing mineral-rich, ice-cold water to pour over my head and into my body. The culverts flowing with spring-water beneath the dirt roads with afternoon coolness let the "boys" slide through and splash into deep water to keep a sense of balance in our days. The campfire roars largely to cook marshmallows and hot dogs, hot chocolate and coffee. The night is Milky Way blanket that tucks us in. It is unusually silent. Deer step quietly through our camp.

My personal delight this year, was in the berry picking. In my 36 years on the planet, I had only ever harvested a few raspberries and strawberries and chokecherries in the mountains. A few, not even a handful, I'd say. On this particular trip, my fancy was struck, not with the huckleberries on low bushes beneath the trees (I picked six exactly), but with two I had never seen before.

The awe in which I looked upon a glorious thimble berry, I have not had since childhood. These berries are a fairy-tale ruby red and plush. They emerge at the tops of their plants, above the plate-sized leaves. Their sweetness is bright, not sugary and has a hint of prunes and cedar. They look like a half-of a raspberry and must be a cousin as I stepped on the canes of last year's growth while grooming the plants. I fell in love with their brilliance both in the ease with which to spot them AND the fact that in each cluster of four or five berries, only one was ripe, therefore leaving a long season of picking for two and four-leggeds alike!

The delight continued when the boys discovered currant bushes burdened with large clusters of perfectly ripe fruits. We even found more on our way home...what a treasure trove!

As Sunday began to leave us, we packed up and headed toward the plains again. A mandatory stop at a tiny grill (which I remember eating at when I was just a wee one) to refresh with burgers and milkshakes gave our bodies some reprieve for their labors.

Summer is drawing to a close, but canning has just begun!

1 comment:

  1. Ah, yes, the pleasures of berry-picking. Have you had any of that currant jam yet? Delectable. They're also great as sauce on yogurt.

    Thanks for the heads-up!