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Posts Tagged ‘blueberries’

Reflection Lake

Reflection Lake

After feeling that nothing could beat the Naches Peak Trail, husband and I set off on the Lakes Trail in the Paradise area of Mt. Rainier and changed our minds.Mt. Rainier, Meadow with Flowers

The night had brought fearsome thunder, followed by a downpour, repeated again later in the night. Morning arrived in foggy gray, which continued to surround us as we drove to the trailhead. When we reached Reflection Lakes, the beginning of the trail, sun broke through and brightened the muddy trail. Behind the lake, Mt. Rainier still wore a gray hood.

The trail up to Paradise Visitor’s Center wandered through the woods, crossing a rocky, chattering stream, with occasional views of peaks behind us. Huckleberry bushes lined many sections of the trail, holding luscious blue fruits that we nibbled on.

Mt. Rainier viewThe uphill wore me down, as usual, but then we reached the aptly named Paradise. Mt. Rainier still hid her head behind the clouds, but at least the base showed. We took a short lunch break by the visitor’s center—not too crowded in September—and then hiked on. Now views turned spectacular. A new alpine meadow appeared around each bend, and the higher we hiked, the more blooms still lingered on the flowers. Craggy peaks and hills rose in the background with fog creeping into the valleys between. Green fields studded with rocks ran up to touch the mountain.

Mt. Rainier

Mt. Rainier

We stopped to rest in one rocky field by a stream. Soon marmots were popping out of holes to check us out. Later we saw blue grouse. Young ones followed their mother into the brush. An adult male gobbled huckleberries from plants along the trail. He would trot a short distance down the trail as we approached, but then get distracted by the juicy berries. Finally he turned off on a faint trail into the brush where he could eat his lunch undisturbed.

Marmot

Marmot

As we hiked back down toward Reflection Lakes, the fog moved in, and a drop or two of rain hit our faces. We walked past tiny alpine tarns and green meadows shrouded in fog back to the trailhead. Six miles completed and truly a gem of a hike! And the rain held off until we were back inside our little travel trailer, cozy and secure.Mt. Rainier Lake in the Fog

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Naches Peak Trail, Mt. Rainier, anemone seed heads   “On a clear summer or crisp fall day, this might be the finest day hike in Washington,” the trail guide said. (Day Hike! Mount Rainier by Ron C Judd with Seabury Blair, Jr.) I would have to agree.Mt. Rainier, Mountain Ash, Naches Peak Trail

My husband and I set off on September 4, as the morning sunshine lit up the white fuzzy heads of Western anemones. Meadows all along the route held the remnants of what must have been a riot of color just two or three weeks before. Now a few asters, some lupine, and an occasional monkey flower by a stream remained to hint at summer’s beauty. Dwarf mountain ash held bright orange fruits, and huckleberry plants hid sweet, blue treasures under their leaves. We munched as we walked.

Tarn on Mt. Rainier, Naches Peak TrailOn a larger scale, the views were magnificent. Jagged rocky peaks surrounded us, a few with patches of snow still accenting their slopes. Blue mountain tarns reflected stately fir trees and white clouds. Peace descended upon us in the silence, broken only by the caws of a crow, the chipping of juncos in the trees, and the hushed murmur of a cool breeze.Mt. Rainier, 2013, Naches Peak Trail

An uphill climb brought us face to face with Mt. Rainier itself. Sadly, clouds veiled its peak, and we could only glimpse the white skirts of snow on the lower section. We stopped to rest on a rocky area, where a friendly chipmunk—or perhaps a ground squirrel—agreed to pose for me.

Chipmunk, Mt. Rainier, 2013 Then on back down, past Tipsoo Lake, an opal set in an emerald field. Over one more ridge, then down to the truck, with enough huckleberries in my pack for a lovely pancake breakfast.Tipsoo Lake, Mt. Rainier, 2013

“How can people see this beauty and say there is no God?” my husband wondered. I couldn’t answer.

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Blueberry muffins! I never thought I would actually taste a homemade blueberry muffin this year, but the time has finally come. The wild blackberries are ripening, giving those starving birds something else to devour besides my shrinking blueberry crop. Yesterday I slipped under the almost useless netting to pick the few blueberries still clinging to the bushes. Most years I would come away from a picking session with several quarts of berries. Last night I was happy to find enough for one and a half small containers–perhaps 3-4 cups total. Enough for a batch of muffins, with a few left over to toss atop our cereal.

Such berries could not be wasted. I searched online for a special muffin recipe. Blueberries and lemon sounded good. Perhaps some sour cream, too, my housemate suggested. After several minutes, I came across the perfect recipe, including all three requested ingredients. Next into the kitchen to mix it all up. I stuck the pans in the oven and waited, while enticing aromas began to fill the air.

Finally the buzzer went off. Out came the muffins, creamy colored with dark purple patches of berry goodness. Delicious! Maybe even worth the long wait.

There will be no more blueberry muffins this year. Only a few straggling berries remain on the bushes. However, the wild blackberries have gone crazy, growing high and wide and filled with fruit. Soon, very soon, blackberry pie will be on the menu!

Recipe for Lemon Blueberry Muffins

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The annual Battle of the Blueberries is in full swing–and the birds are winning. Every July it happens. My blueberries begin to ripen, and the bird hordes arrive to strip them from the bushes at the slightest hint of blue. And every year I fight back, but my efforts are not always successful.

The first few years we lived here, all was peaceful. The berries ripened, I picked them, we ate them–and made wonderful pies and jams and sauces–without incident. For some undetermined reason, the birds left them alone. Then one year, it began. My first clue was that the berries did not seem to be ripening. I would go out to check and see just a few slightly red berries. A couple days later, still just a few reddish berries. I was a bit slow, but I finally realized that those red berries were not the same ones as before, and that little empty stems marked where other berries had been. Birds! Now I happen to be a birdwatcher. I love birds and don’t mind sharing my berries with them. But they were eating ALL my blueberries. And so the war began.

Note the partially eaten berry on the right.

I read that shiny things would scare birds away, so I hung can lids from strings, dangling where the wind would move them and the sun glitter off them. The berries continued to disappear. I tried hanging the lids in pairs, so they could bang against each other in the breeze. No luck. I bought shiny ribbon made especially for scaring birds away and festooned my berry bushes with it. The robins and sparrows and starlings–especially the starlings–seemed to enjoy the new party decorations right along with the refreshments.

Finally I went for the netting. The only sure way to keep birds out of the berries, I was told. Expensive, yes, but it would be worth it. And for a while, it worked. I couldn’t afford enough to cover all my berries, but I covered 3/4 of them and left the rest for the birds. Everybody was happy–except maybe the starling flock that couldn’t get enough from those few open bushes. But I’m not a big fan of starlings anyway. Once again, I made blueberry pie and jam and cobbler, and I was content.

My netted blueberry bushes

Until this year. For some reason–perhaps because the cherry crop was light and the blackberries are late ripening–the birds seem particularly voracious this year. Not just the starlings either, but robins, sparrows, and a new family of black-headed grosbeaks. All are out to eat my berries. And the netting no longer works. It may be partially because the bushes have grown. The netting isn’t long enough to go from the ground on one side to the ground on the other side, so there is an open space under the netting, and it seems to be an open invitation to the birds. Today I set out to battle, armed with a stack of twist ties. I fastened the netting together underneath the part of the bushes where the berries were. I worked until only small gaps remained, gaps that could not be closed due to the shape of the bushes. Yet surely it would be enough. An hour later I walked out to the berries to discover one sparrow, one juvenile robin and two juvenile black-headed grosbeaks inside the netting. Of course, they had more trouble getting out than getting in, so I had to herd them gently toward the largest opening I could see. Finally they were out…for the moment.

Note bird droppings inside netting. sigh.

I fear the Battle of the Blueberries is lost. This year is unlikely to see even one blueberry pie. My only hope now is that the wild blackberries will suddenly ripen and draw away the starving birds. My rather weak consolation: with all the antioxidants they are eating, we should have the healthiest birds in the neighborhood.

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