The beauty of the Oregon lifestyle is that variety is the spice of life.
The Oregon Cascade Mountains can satisfy your needs for exploration and adventure in so many ways: perhaps aboard a whitewater raft where thrills, chills and spills wait at each turn …or maybe with a rod and reel and the chance to land a trophy with each cast.
Or perhaps it’s something far simpler that can be found down a quiet forest service road in the Willamette National Forest where a bounty of berries waits for you right now.
USFS Spokesperson Jennifer O’Leary said that time is right.
“A wonderful activity to enjoy with family or friends. It’s really great to see visitors out there enjoying themselves and tasting a little bit of mother nature.”
It is what I call “Huckleberry Hound” time for my family and friends and we couldn’t be more pleased with this time of seasonal change in the forest.
It’s a favored time of year because no permit is required and there are no personal harvest limits either.
We take what we can use near the Twin Meadows area inside the Detroit Ranger District of the Willamette National Forest.
O’Leary’s best advice for the newcomer?
“Really get out on to the forest and explore, because there are so many roads where the are huckleberry patches are nearby … if you see a huckleberry bush by the side of the road, chances are good there’s more right there, so get out there and look.”
There are nine species of berries on the forest, but two dominate this area: one is large and sweet, the other more red and tart.
We have no trouble finding plenty of bushes full of berries that are a bit like “candy drops” as I often eat more than I pick.
The berries are plentiful in areas of the forest that provide a sun–shade mix.
Lift up a branch and expose the underside and you’ll find an easier chore of picking the berries; especially if you have both hands free.
Soon, we are kitchen-bound with our bounty so to try a favorite recipe called “Huckleberry Crisp.”
It’s a simple recipe (see ingredients list below) that works well with the tart berries and best of all - it can be assembled and cooked in less than one hour.
Ingredients include 1/3 a cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, ¼ teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
Mix the dry ingredients then add a tablespoon of lemon juice and one cup of huckleberry or blueberry juice and simmer in a pan.
Then add all of the berries – at least 4 cups – and pour all into a greased baking dish then add the crunchy topping on top.
For the topping, I say the “simpler the better:”
In a pan, mix together melted butter (about 1/3 a cup), 1 cup of brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of flour and cook all of the it together – stirring over low heat for two minutes – then add and thoroughly mix in 4 cups of cornflakes.
The topping goes atop the huckleberry mixture and then into the oven @ 350 degrees for no more than 30 minutes and the topping is crispy and crunchy.
There you have it: as simple as can be and a delicious reward for time well spent in the great Oregon outdoors.
While in the area, we also stopped along the Santiam River where Oregon Parks and Recreation Dept has converted long popular North Fork Santiam State Park from a day-use site to an overnight campground.
Park manager Bob Rea said, “It’s great to have a place to come to off the river and camp in a tent. We also added a group picnic shelter and a visitor can also make a site reservation. We have converted picnic sites and actually remodeled them to tent sites.”
There is a 2.5-mile long trail through the park and the best part is that more than a half-mile of the parkland includes river frontage.
Rea noted, “ It’s very peaceful and quiet and there aren’t very many sites – the overall experience that people have there is very satisfying.”
If you wish to enjoy a campfire at your site, there’s recent news on the firewood front that you should know about: invasive insects threaten Oregon forests.
Lisa Debruyckere, Oregon Invasive Species Council Coordinator, said that a new campaign with OPRD advises campers to avoid burning out of state firewood this summer:
“Buy it local. Keep it local. This is all about …and local to us is Oregon.”
That’s right -- a new campaign encourages park users across Oregon to stick with sticks that come from Oregon because two insects called Emerald Ash Borer and Asian Longhorn Beetle could infest Oregon forests and if they do the results could be devastating.
“If we get Emerald Ash Borer established in the state of Oregon, it could denude and decimate hundreds of thousands – if not millions of acres of forests.”
So heed the campaign’s words and “Buy it where you burn it.”
And if you love following your taste buds as much as I do, Travel Oregon invites you to sample the Oregon Wanderfeast this fall as ten top chefs chase after ten of Oregon’s finest epicurean products. It’s ten weeks of food bliss, from one end of Oregon to the other. You are invited to come along. and win your own Oregon Wanderfeast!
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup huckleberry or blueberry juice
4 cups huckleberries (slightly sweetened)
Topping (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a saucepan. Add lemon and huckleberry juices and stir until smooth. Cook over low heat until thickened and clear, stirring constantly. Stir in huckleberries and pour into a greased baking dish. Sprinkle topping over the huckleberry mixture. Bake for thirty minutes or until topping is crisp and golden brown. Serve warm or cold.
1/3 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups corn flakes
Melt butter in a saucepan. Combine sugar and flour and add to melted butter. Cook, stirring constantly over low heat for three minutes. Add cornflakes, mixing quickly until they are coated with syrup.