Since Central Oregon we’ve been seeing signs for huckleberries. Huckleberry milkshakes, huckleberry smoothies, and huckleberry ice cream have tempted us from roadside stands and family eateries alike. ‘Tis the season, apparently.
The huckleberry is a delectable combination of blueberry color, sweetness, and pop and cherry tartness and richness of flavor. It is a little bit raspberry and a little bit blackberry and a little bit everything delicious in the world. It is the epitome of finger-food.
Legend has it the huckleberry only thrives at high altitudes and in desolate climes, in hidden patches accessible to those with the know-how, know-where, and determination of truffle-hunting pigs. And it refuses to be domesticated, adding only to its mysterious allure. It is a very picky fruit, a delightful treasure to the discerning eaters who enjoy berry stains on their fingers and berry juice dripping down their chin.
The huckleberry is the wild blueberry of the Northwest; visions of black bears and little girls with baskets, paws and fingers stained purple, dance through my head. Deck the halls with boughs of berries, all across the North…
Apparently, I am not as out of shape as I thought. I have come to the conclusion that, as originally suspected, altitude is the major detractor to athletic abilities. In a definitive athletic-confidence boost, I succeeded in running a full 40 minutes (not particularly fast, but steady) at the whopping 3,028 feet of Whitefish, MT. This seems to be bad news for my body at the rate it seems to be falling apart, but it is good news for my conditioning upon my imminent return to sea level.
A nine-hour drive (give or take – there was a time zone change and some napping involved) from Hood River took us through Washington and Idaho on through to Montana. Kalispell, to be exact, about 30 or 40 miles west of Glacier National Park. Glacier has long been on my list of places to see in North America so it seems I am finally getting that chance.
Montana’s license plates tout it as the “Big Sky State.” Indeed, the sky is very large here. It seems to me, however, that the sky here is just as large as it is anywhere else, you can just see farther until you hit horizon here and as such the sky is bigger but only because the land is bigger. In any case, the view until you reach the sky (if you’re looking East from here) is quite lovely. It goes something like flat-flat-flat-flat-big mountain-even bigger mountain. The mountains look violent in the sense that that is the death you would experience if you fell from the top of one.
Montana is also just big, sky or not. Apparently the state’s population is still below one million and most of those not quite million are white Christian god-fearing Americans. Not god-fearing in the Bible Belt sense, more in the functional go to church and have religion but can still function among the non-white-god-fearing-American set. You definitely feel out of place as an outsider here – the stares from the over-50 long-white-hair cowboy set were worse than anything I’ve endured since the Middle East. At least the Western vibe is authentic. The number of pick-up trucks and home-and-ranch stores alone proves that.