Coming from Texas, when I see the husband putting bear spray in the pack, I think, “hmm. . . . now here’s the possibility of some high adventure. Count me in!”
This Sunday, we decided to hike in nearby Jewel Basin to do a bit of huckleberry picking. The Jewel Basin area is amazing and features 35 miles of hiking trails of varying difficulty. No matter which hike you pick, the view promises to amaze you.
Taken from the “road” up to the trailhead. Birch Lake is nestled in the depression in the center of the photo.
We began the hike at Camp Misery trailhead. The huckleberries are at the height of season, and the parking lot was full.
Dana checking the trail map
The first part of the hike is all uphill and pretty exerting, but rewards you with a crazy beautiful panorama of the Flathead Valley when you reach the top. We did not stop there, but merely turned and continued around the perimeter. Once we passed the first summit, the hikers thinned and the berry crop got a little better.
Although I’ve tasted huck’s before, I had never “been picking”, so Dana showed me what we were looking for . . . dark berries almost the size of a blueberry.
Once I’d tasted the sweet berries, I was on a mission! My theory was that if they ripened by elevation, we shouldn’t climb too high. Dana’s theory, the correct one I might add, was that you had to out-climb the pickers and find bushes that hadn’t been picked clean. Honey, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry I doubted you!
The higher we got, the more we found. Once we were sure we had four cups in the bag –the perfect amount for a cobbler- we started munching. We had purple fingers from picking and I had a purple butt from plopping down on a log without clearing the branch away before sitting.
When we had our fill, we started hiking again toward our destination of Birch Lake. As hikes go, it was one of the more rigorous I have taken, but I’m such a flatlander! Just as I was getting discouraged, the terrain would even out; there’d be shade and berries to fortify us, and we’d go on. We stopped at a great clearing that overlooked the valley.
We enjoyed this view while eating tangerines and stretching our legs. You can see the north end of Flathead Lake and the mountains on the other side.
After this point, the hiking got a lot harder and I was getting tired . . . but when you’ve come this far you should finish. If only I had only known how much farther we had to go!
Finally! We made it to Birch Lake. What a beautiful mountain oasis! Luckily I got one shot of our destination before my canera battery went belly up. There are spare batteries in the mail as I write.
This is just one side of the lake and the other side was even more spectacular! We peeled off our shoes and waded into the cool water. Such a treat! As we lounged on the soft grass, we saw a bald eagle swoop down, catch a fish and retreat to a tree branch to eat it. The whole climb was worth seeing such a rewarding show!
Rested up and becoming hungry for something besides fruit and water, we began our 3 mile trek back. I had commented (whined) that the downhill scrabble was really going to be difficult on the way back. I was right about that one thing at least! Dana was amusing and kept me going by naming the uphill sections. They got names like “Bone Crusher” with the ominous warning to not “look left at the bones of all those who did not make it.”
Another wildlife moment happened on the hike back when we spotted a big fat grouse eating berries on the trail ahead. We stopped to watch and Dana started speaking “grouse“ to him. He cocked his head and began walking toward us! When we stepped toward him, he hopped off the trail and let us by. I cursed my dead camera battery and vowed to always carry a spare in the future.
When we made it down off the trail, we were completely pooped. We had been hiking and picking for seven hours! Every part of my body was aching tired so dinner was simple and fast. I made a quick platter of bruschetta and we ate like hungry animals.
The huckleberry haul was fantastic! Tomorrow night we will have huckleberry cobbler with ice cream for dessert.