Thoughts, ramblings, experiences and joys of an Alaska girl. Home is where the heart is, and my heart is firmly rooted in the Great Land of Alaska.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Berry Picking Locations

As I've said before, people usually closely guard their secret berry picking locations. However, I've been doing a lot of searching online, and have found a few locations that look promising that I'm going to share. Most of them are within the Chugach State Park system, but according to regulations: "Berries and edible plants may be gathered for personal consumption, but not for sale. Disturbing rocks, trees, or other plants is not allowed. 11 AAC 12.170."

Berries ripen at different times and are best picked when they are ripe. This past weekend, I found many berries of different types. Alaska Trekker has a great guide that describes when to pick berries and a few different types found in Alaska. If you haven't already gotten it, I'd also recommend the book Alaska’s Wild Berries and Berry Like Fruits to correctly identify what it is that you are picking. Not every berry in Alaska is edible, and those that are edible aren't always very tasty. When I went berry picking last, I not only found watermelon berries, raspberries, highbush cranberries, lowbush cranberries, blueberries, soap berries (not edible), and currants, but I found both colors of bane berries. Bane berries are very poisonous, and ingesting just a few can kill. Through researching other online blogs, state online sites, hiking sites, recipe sites and information concerning different "berry" topics, here's a list of locations that I'm planning to check out. Maybe I'll see you at 1 or 20 of them:

* Eklutna Lake Trails: Take the Glenn Highway to the Eklutna exit and follow the Eklutna Lake Road for 10 miles to the Chugach State Park campground. There is a fee for parking, unless you have a pass. There are several trail from the parking lot, and there is quite a hike to get to the Alpine area for blueberries, but highbush cranberries can be found in the woods. The hike starts in the parking lot and is 5 miles on foot or by mountain bike. Check specific day restrictions if you are going to be taking an ATV on the path, they aren't allowed every day. From the parking lot, cross the Twin Peaks Creek bridge and take a right onto the Lakeside Trail. This trail is rated as easy. It's a 13 mile trail. Bold Ridge Overlook Trail starts at mile 5 of the Lakeside Trail. This 3.5 mile trail (plus the 5 miles it takes to get to this trail, remember) is rated moderate to difficult. It's a hike of a mile and a half to the basin where the berries are. Twin Peaks Trail begins at the parking lot, crosses the Twin Peaks Creek bridge and continues to the alpine tundra. This trail is rated moderate to difficult also because of the steepness in some places. The trail is 3.5 miles. There are highbush & lowbush cranberries, currants, raspberries and watermelon berries along the lower trails, and blueberries, bearberries, crowberries and cranberries at the higher trails and the basin.

* Wolverine Peak Trail: Rated moderately strenuous. Drive about 6.5 miles south of Anchorage along the new Seward Highway and exit east on O'Malley Road. Go about 4 miles to a sharp left curve, and follow the curve to the immediate right. Turn onto Upper O'Malley Road. At the "T" intersection, turn left onto Prospect Drive. Another mile up, bear left where Prospect Drive intersects Sidorof Lane and continue .1 miles to the Prospect Heights parking area. From the Prospect Heights trailhead, mile 2 near Point Trail.

* Flattop Mountain Trail: just above the Flattop trail parking lot on the mountainside above Glen Alps on the Anchorage Hillside. Go back along the Powerline Pass Trail into the South Fork of Campbell Creek.

* Rendezvous Peak Trail: short, easy trail at the end of the Arctic Valley Road next to the Alpenglow Ski Area. Take the Glenn Highway towards Eagle River to the Arctic Valley exit and follow the road about seven miles to the parking lot. There is a fee for parking. This place may be crowded, but there are blueberries, mossberries, crowberries and cranberries enough for everyone.

* Peters Creek Trail: Take the Peters Creek exit off the Glenn Highway and turn right onto Ski Road. Go up about a mile, and go right on Whaley. It turns into Chugach Park Road. Go left on Kullberg, and then right onto Malcolm Drive. Parking is a quarter mile ahead, parking is limited. Use the cleared parking spaces along the right of the road near the trail marker. The trail leads to the slopes of the Mount Eklutna and Bear Mountain above Peters Creek. You have to hike in several miles from the trail head to get to the alpine berry patches.

* Mount Baldy Trail (up the backside, not the face) in Eagle River. Take the Hiland Drive exit. Pass through the light at Hiland, go up the hill. Pass through the light at the Walmart. On your right up about a 1/2 a mile will be Skyline Drive. Take Skyline Drive all the way to the end. The road changes names several times. At the end of the road is parking on the left. The trailhead actually goes through the gated section at the end of the parking lot and up around to your right. The face section is straight up from the parking lot, avoid that section.

* South Fork Eagle River Valley Trail: Drive up the Glenn Highway towards Eagle River. Take the Eagle River Loop/Hiland Drive exit. At the light, turn right onto Hiland Drive. Take the road up and over the South Fork of Eagle River. Just after the South Fork Bridge, take a right onto South Creek and follow it to West River Drive. Take a right and park on the left in the lot. No parking fee. You will have to hike a while to get out of the trees and into the alpine for low bush blueberries. Take either the Hanging Valley Trail or the South Fork Trail.

* Lazy Mountain Trail: This is a steep trail. Take the Glenn Highway north to Palmer. Follow West Arctic Avenue (the Old Glenn Highway) through town and across the Matanuska River Bridge to Clark-Wolverine Road. Turn east and go less than a mile to Huntley Road. Turn right on Huntley and follow the signs to the Lazy Mountain Recreation Area. Take the narrow footpath, NOT Morgan Horse Trail (which will be obvious because it's a wide trail), on the uphill side of the far end of the lot. Bear right, keep bearing right at the fork in the path a half-mile up the trail. The trail climbs for about a mile and a half, but at an elevation of 2500 feet, there's a picnic table and the trail moderates. This is where the berries are.

There are a few other Wild Berry Picking Spots I plan to check out that others have told me about, such as a few off of Abbot Road on the hillside, the Eagle River Nature Center trails, the rest stops along the New Seward Highway, a few camping sights along the New Seward Highway close to Seward, Hatcher Pass near Palmer, and a few near the Kennicott Mine in McCarthy when I head up there next weekend. Now, all I need to do is figure out exactly what I'm going to do with all the berries I get!

Happy picking!


Kim said...

Have you hike along Mt Baldy for berries yet? Been thinking about it since it should be a half day adventure, but I am unsure which side is suppose to have the berries. I have climbed that trail twice in the early summer, so of course I never saw berries. I am wondering if its on the side that is facing E.R. Loop Rd or the side that is facing more north. If you know, drop a line!

Cristine said...

Kim, I read somewhere (I don't remember where) that southwest facing slopes are the best places to find berries above the treeline. I think that the Baldy area is Northwest Facing, so it may have berries, but maybe not as much. I did go for the southwest facing slope up Harp Mountain, and it didn't disappoint!