Pickin' Wild Huckleberries, A Journey In Life

Bill HadenSVP / Business Banking Team LeaderScott Valley Bank 

When was the last time you trekked into the high country and hunted for the elusive wild huckleberry? Fall in the Pacific Northwest is my favorite time of year. The mornings are cool and crisp while the afternoons are warm and relatively mosquito free. I love to backpack and over the past 30 plus years Iíve found some really spectacular places to visit in the Cascades, Kalmiopsis, Glacier Peak, Sierras, Sawtooths, Bob Marshall and Trinity Alps.

Bill Haden enjoying the wild huckleberriesThereís a common theme on most of these adventures. The farther I walk from civilization, the clearer my thought process becomes and my senses grow to be more finely tuned. The trail usually gets steep, narrow and challenging to find the spots I cherish. It always feels awesome to drop the heavy pack and set up camp in the backwoods at the end of the day. The spring returns quickly to your step. Thereís a feeling of accomplishment that you have overcome any obstacles and are self sufficient and independent. All you have is what you lugged in on your back; the older I get the less I like to carry. Of course, the trade off is the more you stuff into your pack the more creature comforts you have at the campsite. I find that planning, preparation and weight become increasing important.

This last summer I spent a few days in the Three Sisters Wilderness with some close friends. We stopped by the US Forest Service station on the McKenzie Highway to check in and get the weather update. Itís always a good idea to let folks know where you are headed and when you plan to walk out. I leave a copy of my itinerary in various spots whenever I hit the trail. The Ranger told us that we could expect a severe thunder storm in the late afternoon. There was a good chance we would get some extreme weather. Also, they warned us to keep alert for lightning caused spot fires. We were determined that Mother Nature would not postpone our planned journey. After all, we are experienced hikers and had walked in the rain many times before. As we left the trail head at Foley Ridge and started our trek the weather was cool and pleasant. It occurred to me that the report might be in error and perhaps we got lucky.

Well, about two hours into the hike the wind started to pick up and clouds were moving in our direction. At first it started to rain lightly, not enough to stop and get the ponchos out. There were threatening flashes off to the south. It appeared the storm was moving in our direction. I walk with two aluminum hiking poles and carry a small light weight titanium camp chair. I know what youíre thinking, a human lightning rod. Well, itís not my first storm but I donít like to stop when I get into a comfortable walking pace. However, when the lightning flashed and the deafening boom of the thunder almost knocked me over I immediately dropped my pack and started looking for a safe spot for the group to hunker down until the deluge passed. We huddled under a tarp for about 30 minutes and witnessed a spectacular light show. The rain turned our trail into a creek bed. When we were convinced the worst was over the group saddled up.  We continued our rain soaked journey trying to walk on the edges of the trail to avoid the majority of the runoff but it was hopeless. We finally gave in to the fact we would be wet from head to toe the rest of the day.

We at last reached the trail junction at Race Track Meadow late that afternoon. Itís a large open space where it is rumored the indigenous male natives would run their horses and play when they were supposed to be hunting.  Their camp was historically established in nearby Separation Meadow. We could almost see the finish line with just another mile or so to our destination at Husband Lake. The group was in good spirits but ready to find a great camp spot and burrow in for the next couple of days.

Thereís a large open camp site at the east end of the lake with fabulous views of Oregonís South and Middle Sister. Youíre a couple hundred feet from the lake with open vistas of Husband Peak. The only shortfall to this fabulous location is that campfires are not permitted. We could have used a fire to dry out after the storm. If you look to the north you can see the deep depression of Linton Meadows. It felt great to drop the packs and pick a couple of spots to pitch the tents. Itís alleged that I snore so I have elected to carry my own tent and find a spot away from the group. There are still occasional complaints but without solid video and audio evidence I will admit to nothing.

The next couple of days were classic Indian summer. There were cold nights, cool mornings and warm afternoons. I prefer to set up a base camp and spend the layover days taking long walks with plenty of time to get back into camp for a cat nap and a few chapters in a Michael Connelly or John Grisham novel before dinner. Husband Lake just happens to be one of my favorite spots for huckleberries. No, Iím not going to tell you the exact location of ďHuckleberry HeavenĒ but itís just over the hill and around the bend from camp. I love to sit by the trail and eat hucks until my fingers are purple. After stuffing myself I like to fill up a zip lock for pancakes or hot cereal in the morning. Now thatís my idea of constructive planning and a good day.

Upon completing a wonderful visit at the lake we broke camp and walked back to Buck Meadow just off the Foley Ridge trail for our last night in the high country. Water was a little hard to find but we located a fresh spring that met our needs. After dinner we walked down to the edge of the meadow and watched the stars come out. We also enjoyed a wonderful campfire that evening (also referred to as high country TV). Wow, what an incredible show that night including the Milky Way, satellites and numerous shooting stars. We all slept well and there were no snoring complaints.

The next morning our packs were light and the climb to the main trail was effortless. I absolutely love the wilderness but itís a solid feeling to walk out and see the car still parked where you left it several days before. We normally take a few pictures to commemorate the occasion of a safe and uneventful journey. The group always looks salty, fit and confident. We met all the challenges that were thrown at us and achieved our goal of finding and picking the elusive Huck. It just seems like all good things in life are worth working hard and planning to achieve. Iím not sure those huckleberries would taste as sweet and intense without an arduous trek and a few hurdles to get there.

So, ask yourself, how is this different from our day-to-day lives? We all plan and prepare but you never know what might occur in life. Work hard and be productive but never pass up a chance to pick those wild huckleberries.

ďWhen one tugs at a single thing in nature,
he finds it attached to the rest of the World.Ē
                                                          John Muir

View Scott Valley Bank - The VAULT - October 2014