I can't find the story online, but apparently there was a woman who was hiking Angel Rocks with her nieces when they were attacked by a bear. (In my search, I found another article about a teenager who was dragged out of his tent by a bear near Angel Rocks. Other than some scrapes he was unhurt.) Bear attacks like this are unusual, since bears generally don't pick fights. Whether the people accidentally did something which frightened or threatened the bear, I don't know. But there is, apparently, a hunt going for this bear. If it's going to be attacking people then general wisdom is that it has forfeited its life.
I say all this to explain, a little bit, some of the prep that we went through on Saturday to go berry picking. I went with L and Fiona, and just this one little trip took several days of planning. Not only did we each need boots and warm socks (our proposed picking area required crossing a stream) and all of the normal gear one thinks of for berrying on a rainy, chilly day. We also had two canisters of bear spray (think super powerful pepper spray--apparently it's generally more effective than guns, in terms of everyone being safe, if a bear actually attacks) and a shotgun. L and I thought about bringing Shane's shotgun, but it's got an extended barrel which makes it awkward for us ladies. Standing on its butt, it's about four feet tall. The last time I tried to shoot it I had to lean way back to hold it out. I picked it up when we were talking about bringing a gun, just to see, and did manage to stand upright while holding it straight and steady out in front of me. Of course, even knowing that it was unloaded, and not pointing it at anything but the wall, I didn't want my hands near the trigger or the pump. (One of my friends, a teacher, had been talking just the weekend before about going to the funeral for the little boy who was accidentally shot by his friend, and I couldn't get that out of my head.) J and Shane saw me and both started saying, "You're holding it all wrong!" I was so offended by that. Do they honestly think I don't remember how to hold a gun? I said, "We're in the freaking house! Of course I'm not holding it properly!" and explained that I just wanted to see how well I could hold it up.
Well, we didn't take it anyway. We would have had to buy bullets, for one thing, and it's heavy, with no convenient strap. We borrowed one from J's parents, with a shorter barrel and actual bullets. This fell into the category of "just in case". Thankfully the area near our chosen patch was pretty busy. People were camping and we talked loudly so we didn't see any bears. I'm still glad we didn't leave anything up to chance.
Who takes a shotgun berry picking? These ladies do.
The drive out there was longer than we actually spent picking, but it was well worth it. Even the numb hands we all got were merely a sign of a good afternoon spent picking. I thought from the size of my bucket that I'd maybe gotten a gallon and a half of berries, but it turns out I only got just under a gallon. :( Oh well. We're planning several more berry picking trips. Probably not out so far again, but more berries are definitely in my future.
In case you're wondering, a gallon of wild Alaska blueberries sells for about $30. Obviously I won't be selling these, but that's how much it would cost me to buy an equivalent amount. This trip wasn't free--Fi and I paid for the gas since we took L's car--but it was much, much cheaper than $30. It was probably about the price of what I could get an equal amount of non-organic, non-local berries for. But wild berries are actually healthier (more nutrients) and I prefer the taste. Cultivated berries are bigger and sweeter, but I love the tart/sweet of the wild berries.
Wild Alaska blueberries also have an acid which is unique only to them. Whether this makes them healthier or not I have no idea, but I think it's neat that through friends we know of the post-doc researcher who discovered it. He wanted to name it "pain-in-the-acid", but the chemical society which vets new chemicals and their names said no. So that is its unofficial name, and now you know it too.
Aside from the picking itself, it was also nice to have an afternoon with the girls. We all had things we wanted or needed to discuss, either about our significant others or just life in general. Things which only another woman could truly sympathize with, or give advice on. I admit, I'm bad about making "girl time" like this in my life, and it's so necessary. We were out of cell phone range (not all that hard to do, here) so the guys couldn't even contact us until we were already heading home. Shane called me on the ride (J, home alone with Baby, had called him, concerned) and I assured him we were fine and coming home, then the phone cut out as we entered another valley. We started laughing about how we should have answered the phone with screaming in the background and me saying, "Hold on--SHOOT IT! RUN!" and then the phone cutting out. It might sound stupid now, but it sure gave us a good laugh at the time. (And we might have had one or two reasons why we weren't feeling all that charitable at the time.) I don't think he would actually have believed we were in danger, but it might have made him think twice. Mean, right? Which is why we only laughed about it and didn't do it.
What's that you're asking? Where did we go picking? Don't you know you never ask that question around here? :P (BTW, I'm only linking to that story because he doesn't give away our spot.)