It was a warm sunny day as our car drove up the winding dirt road, dust trailing behind us. The windows were cracked just enough for the clean mountain air to drift into the back seat of the car.
You could just barely see through the forest, catching glimpses of clearings while the trees flew by like a moving picture through the lens of the car window.
A family member told us they had found a great spot for picking up Rice Ridge. There was a burnout the summer before, so we knew the conditions would be just right.
We were on our way.
The lingering danger of entering into bear country was somewhere in the back of our minds, but it was masked by our excitement. We were hunting in the wilderness for a very specific prize.
Our car finally pulled over on the side of the dirt road. We were at a high elevation, represented somewhere on a topography map close to the smallest circle in the middle.
The mountain air was cool. A quick spritz of bug spray, and dodging downed logs and snapping dry pine needles under our tennis shoes.
I didn’t know what I was looking for, but my dad pointed it out in the distance. The bush was green with small round leaves – and tiny purple berries.
I’m sure that I had eaten huckleberries before, but that was the first time I experienced what it was like to eat one fresh from the bush. We picked for a few hours until the light started to fade, and then it was time to get back in the car. It was still bear country after all.
These days, fresh huckleberries sell for $12 a pound at farmer’s markets in the north. Expensive, but you’re paying for convenience, time, and safety. And anyone who’s tasted a huckleberry knows it’s worth it.
Here’s a cocktail to tide you over until they’re in season again.
And this vodka flavor is incredible.
Huckleberry Vodka Cocktail
1 ounce Huckleberry Vodka
3 ounces cranberry juice
2 ounces seltzer water
- Add all ingredients and stir.
- Garnish optional.