Follow by Email

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Berry Picking: Is It Really an Addiction?

Point Bridget Trail: Photo by Matt Klostermann

Although I wouldn't put berry picking into the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV), there is an addictive quality about it. Last weekend, I went hiking with a friend on the Point Bridget Trail, one that is stunningly beautiful most times of the year.

I had stuffed a small Ziplock in my backpack just in case there were a few late blueberries still on the trail. That's like a gambler bringing 10 bucks to the casino just in case there is a blackjack table going. At first we strolled along, oblivious to berry possibilities, warming our faces in the sun, until we saw a woman with a gallon sized Ziplock, slipping from bush to bush like a wraith. Her bag was chock full of high bush cranberries. Once she identified them for us, we saw them everywhere. 
High Bush Cranberries on Point Bridget Trail

It was harmless at first: a few berries here, another few there. They were so seductive. Each patch yielded more than we expected at first. It was like hitting the jackpot. The more we picked, the more we saw. Soon we were plunging into the thickets of cranberries and the Devil's Club with their prickly stalks that seemed to grow near them. My arms got scratched up, but I hardly felt it. The little Ziplock was filling up... and still there were more berries. Time slipped by as we stopped again and again on our way to the beach at the end of the trail. We felt a little desperate. There were so many berries and around each corner, another luscious patch, smelling so spicy and earthy.

Point Bridget Trail
We finally said "OK, one more bush, and then no more." (We had to say this more than once.) Our bag could hardly hold any more berries and I was considering emptying out my water bottle to fill it up with berries. But instead, we walked to the beach, and then sedately returned along the same trail, stopping only once to cram in "just a few more" to the bag, now bursting and weighing several pounds. It took a supreme effort of will to stop, but we did. We quit cold turkey.

At home, when we poured them out to clean, we couldn't believe how many we actually had. Now those berries are in the freezer. We are considering what to make with them: Cranberry Catsup, Cranberry Jelly, or Cranberry Chutney. We don't have enough to make all three. I know another place that is pretty close by that has high bush cranberries. I find that my thoughts keep turning to that place. I'll bet there are plenty there. It wouldn't take long to pick them...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Texas in Alaska: The Lone Star and The North Star

If Alaska were the United States, the Kenai Peninsula would be Texas. I should say that it would be a Texas with lots of water. Like Texas, there are pickups everywhere and glory be, there are roads, very good roads. (That is quite a treat for a Southeast Alaskan used to fewer than 100 miles of road.) Here's another similarity: it takes a long time on the Kenai Peninsula to drive from one end of it to the other. If you have ever driven across Texas, you know exactly what I mean. There are other reminders of Texas on the Kenai. I passed roads named Chevron and Tesoro and Halliburton.  That says something right there. During the pipeline years, when crowds of Texans worked in the oil industry in Alaska and many Alaskans even started wearing cowboy boots, one of the jokes told was that if you divided Alaska in half, Texas would then be the THIRD largest state. Bet you can tell who told that joke.

However, there are differences. I doubt that Texans are exhorted by road signs to brake for moose. With the number that are killed on the roads, it's a mystery as to how there are any left for hunters.

Another difference: I doubt that Texans are as crazy about fishing as Alaskans on the Kenai are. The Kenai is all about fish and fishing. Everywhere at this time of year, people are enthusiastically catching them, freezing them, smoking them, and canning them.  They operate charter boat operations, fishing lodges and cabins, stores selling gear, smoking facilities, and even real estate agencies touting "sportsman properties."

Although there is some Texas there, the Kenai is its own place, another kind of Alaska where enough people need the kind of service that this sign advertises. I'll bet you wouldn't see this in Texas.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Politicians Flying Coach

Scott McAdams
This week, I flew to Anchorage for a meeting. Unlike other places, in Juneau there is no choice when it comes to airlines. We fly Alaska Airlines. It reminds me of British novels, particularly mysteries, in which traveling up to London always takes place on a train. And there is only the one.

Governor Parnell
On my way up to Anchorage, Scott McAdams, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senator was on the plane.  On my return to Juneau, Governor Parnell and his family were on the plane. In both instances, they rode in Coach. Fact: I have never seen an Alaska governor ride in First Class. I never saw Governor Murkowski on a plane that I was on because he purchased a plane with State funds and used it for his own transportation. In this egalitarian state, it proved to be one of the reasons he was soundly defeated. I remember once seeing Governor Knowles in a middle seat, thinking at the time that it could have been a campaign poster. "I have to endure middle seats sometimes, just like you. I feel your pain." Even Governor Palin used to fly Coach. She certainly doesn't now.

In Alaska, at least, First Class for a governor looks too hoity toity. Political winds depend on symbols. And First Class is a powerful symbol. As is Coach. Maybe it has something to do with "so the last will be first, and the first last."