The Berries Are Ripe

OUTDOORS UNDER THE RIM

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It seems like every month of the year has something to do for the outdoorsmen in the Rim Country. August is one of those months when a trout rod may give way to archery equipment — and don’t forget to keep that berry bucket handy.

After the first full week in August, it is time to find canyons and creeks that have those vines with the needle nose thorns and the first crop of the sweet, delicious blackberry.

A blackberry thicket must have an ample water supply so creek beds are the perfect starting point to find the little berry, which makes great jam and pies. From Christopher Creek on the east to Pine Creek on the west, and other numerous smaller creeks in between, all have substantial berry thickets. It may take a little hiking and map reading to locate a spot that is off the beaten path of most casual observers. But, once you find them, it can be a lot of fun trying to pick enough for a pie or two.

It is a very inexpensive outdoor experience that the entire family can enjoy, as long as the proper attire is worn. A lightweight, long sleeve shirt is a must because you are continually reaching above, below, and into the brambles where the thorns constantly get your attention. Of course, this also dictates long pants made of very stout fabric such as a pair of jeans. Sometimes, the harder to reach berries are in the middle of the patch, so some kind of walking stick can be used to keep one’s balance as well as poking into the vine area where the ground is seldom seen. A single glove worn on the non-picking hand makes it much easier to move the vines to avoid scratches, which can occur even with protective covering.

The perfect bucket can be made from a coffee can with a makeshift wire handle or a cutout gallon milk container with the handle kept in place.

Everyone has great aspirations when entering the berry patch. You might consider a quart or half-gallon container on the early trips, so that filling the container is possible. This can be hard to do especially when the berries are ripe and it is so easy to pop them into your mouth and not your bucket!

Because blackberry bushes are located in cool, shaded areas near creeks, they are also the perfect summer location for snakes that happen to be cold blooded and are trying to escape the hot Arizona summer.

Always pay attention to the ground and watch where you are walking before you take each step. The western diamondback rattlesnake may give the customary buzzing warning, but that is not always the case as you walk these cool, shaded areas. It is important to keep a watchful eye.

Also, be aware that other plants exists in these areas such as poison ivy and poison oak which can create a nuisance rash. A few precautions go a long way on any outing looking for berries.

The blackberry picking season lasts for about a month in the Rim Country, so the time is now to make those trips to the woods in hopes of filling your bucket for a piece of berry pie, with ice cream of course. It is the perfect short afternoon adventure for everyone in the family to enjoy. Make sure to bring your camera for those telltale photos of purple smiles.

This weekend take a friend berry picking and enjoy God’s creation.

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