April 24, 2015

berries

My dad has backpacked for forever. His external frame (damned thing that it is) was the pack I used on my first backpacking expedition. He loves being outdoors, loves gardening, loves sailing, loves camping. So growing up, we went camping as much as my mother allowed. My earliest memory of camping was at Hanging Rock State Park, when we set up our tent in the dark, slept through a terrific thunderstorm, and woke to bushes and bushes of blueberries that we picked and cooked in our pancakes.

When I was older, maybe ten, my family visited Warren Wilson College in Asheville. Their campus is beautiful, and we walked to an old oak tree sitting at the edge of a sunlit field. There we found raspberry bushes and ate to our hearts' content. I remember my mother repeating something she had said before - that sun-ripened raspberries were proof of God's existence.

Eliza's house was where I discovered mulberry trees. We scaled the prickly branches during one sleepover and filled our pockets to add the juicy berries to our store of other wild things we knew were edible: onion grass, violets, clover. I have always refused to eat onions but would carefully pull onion grass from the earth and wipe off the dirt with my grubby fingers before nibbling on them as part of some elaborate pretending game.

Summer camp was for silverberries. I don't know the technical name for these, but one year we all knew what they were called and that they were delicious. We'd pluck branches full of them and eat them as we walked barefoot down the dirt driveway to the pond. They were tiny and red with shiny silver splotches, and mostly pit anyway, and if you ate too many your tongue would feel raw and waxy, but we devoured them anyway.

All that being said, the realization that I will be hiking the MST while berries are in season has been one of the most exciting to date. I can just see myself grinning down the trail, juice-stained hands and mouth full of berries.