By about the third week in July, the first crop of blackberries are beginning to ripen on the vine and these bushes will continue to produce berries through the Labor Day weekend. So it is time to start exploring some of the old haunts to see which canyon has the ripest and best fruit. There are numerous locations under the Rim that have berry patches, but most of them are off the beaten path.
Most major drainages, which originate at the base of the Rim, will have ample water that is necessary for the growth of wild blackberry patches. From Christopher Creek on the east to Pine Creek on the west and the many minor watersheds in between, there will be berries and possibly that “honeyhole” where many gallons can be picked. Looking for new berry patches is a great excuse to take a family hike and explore a different canyon.
Picking berries is something the entire family can enjoy, and the benefits no doubt can be a freshly baked blackberry pie. Whether it is a pie, jam or another dessert, it just tastes better knowing that it has been picked fresh from the vine by your own effort. Young and old alike can all take part in a family picking where a couple of hours could produce more than a gallon of berries.
Precautionary dress is of the utmost importance and can eliminate first aid treatment in the field. Always wear long pants with rugged fabric because the thorns will shred lightweight material. Likewise a long-sleeve shirt will save the arms from catlike scratches created when reaching into the vines for that hard-to-reach fruit. I prefer to wear only one leather glove on my non-picking hand, which is used to move the myriad of brambles as my free hand does the picking.
In these moist canyons where blackberry bushes abound, there is high probability of poison ivy or oak so it is important to be completely covered. In many places, the brambles are so thick that the ground where you step may not be very visible so always take a walking stick that can be used for balance as well as a precaution before taking that next step. These canyons also protect the cold-blooded reptiles from the summer heat. Rattlesnakes can be in any of these areas, so always watch where you are walking and keep an ear to the buzz of this venomous viper.
If you are unsure as to where to begin to look, then stop by the Tonto National Forest building and purchase a map which shows the drainages as well as the Forest Service roads that will get you closest to the area you want to explore. Always tell someone where you are going and it is best to take another person with you if possible.
A coffee can bucket with a light wire or shoestring handle and you are in business for berry picking in God’s creation, the Rim Country.