Drawing inspiration from the Oregon Bounty Wanderfeast, this week I headed to the Willamette National Forest in search of the elusive huckleberry.

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.”  You can find the recipe for Huckleberry Crisp in the Travel Oregon Food/Drink recipe collection.

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 over all experience that people have there is very satisfying.”

Finally, if you love following your taste buds as much as I do, I invite 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!

Editor’s Note: Grant’s Getaways is a production of Travel Oregon brought to you in association with Oregon State Parks, Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife and Oregon State Marine Board. Episodes air Fridays and Saturdays on KGW Newschannel 8 and Saturdays on Northwest Cable News Network.

About the Author: Grant McOmie

Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.

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