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Wild Berries Another Reason To Visit Woods
On a recent walk along a section of an old Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic railroad bed, there in the day’s fading sunlight, I came upon a sight I didn’t expect to see.
A couple of inches off the rocky soil, in the cool evening shade, was the season’s first ripened wild raspberry. No doubt early, no less wel- comed.
There it hung, with three others in varying stages of ripeness, off the red furry stalks of the plants, which sprouted from a cover of dead and crumpled leaves, between pieces of shiny ore and other stones scattered along the railroad bed.
It was an immediate and startling reminder of just how quickly the summer days pass in a blur in these north woods. I then thought about fresh, wild berries to pick and eat, coming up not far around the seasonal corner.
Like many things in the Upper Peninsula, an appreciation of wild berries dates to the days of the early American Indians populating the region.
Some scholars theorize these Native Ameri- cans intentionally set fires as a tool to produce finer blueberry crops. Historically, people and black bears have known blueberries to thrive after a wildfire blackens the landscape.
I remember that as a kid I was taken to the local woodlands to pick blueberries on numerous occasions.
Often, I would end up lying across the back seat of the hot family car that was parked under
a jack pine tree for shade. There always seemed to somehow be a horsefly buzzing around the windshield inside the car while I tried to avoid some of the picking by napping.
Outside, my parents wore coffee cans off their midsections, fastened with coated wire that had been run through holes punched in the can with a hammer and nail.
The sound of blueberries making that plunk-
berry festival held each year in Chassell. Mar- quette’s got a blueberry festival where they once sold blueberry-trout pie. Yeesh.
The region is also blessed with wild raspber- ries, thimbleberries, strawberries, huckleberries, cranberries and blackberries. Many of these wild berries are smaller, though often sweeter, than cultivated varieties.
It is amazing how much taste is packed into a tiny summer U.P. berry.
Though blueberries seem to reign supreme, with picking locations coveted like they were trout streams, I prefer to pick raspberries and blackber- ries.
I remember just a couple of years back, I stood barefoot along a dirt back road for about three hours picking raspberries. There in the warm afternoon, I stood without a single vehicle passing, listening to the songs of hermit thrushes, with grasshoppers twitching
and jumping in the sand.
After that, I took the long way home, on
almost all dirt roads, stopping here and there to enjoy the sights. One of them was an almost for- gotten place called Cleveland Homestead in Dickinson County.
As a kid, our family would stop here to pick apples from orchard trees remaining from the days when the homestead was an active commu- nity. One time, while apple picking, we heard
an animal approaching through the tall grasses. My mom ran for the safety of the car with my young sister. We determined it wasn’t the black bear she’d feared, but only a hungry white-tailed
Today, the apple trees continue to grow in that
clearing, producing reddish pink-skinned and green apples shook into the back of pick-up trucks by hunters, rather than pie bakers.
I remember another time, way back there in my mind, we’d found a big patch of blackberries growing along a slow-moving creek that twisted through the woods. I recalled we had all pledged to return to this place again and again.
For whatever reason, we never did. Now, we never will.
Turning around at the raspberry plants I’d found, my boots crunched the gravel as I made the slow walk back. The falling night brought down a curtain of mosquitos. I turned up my jacket collar and slowly disappeared down the old railroad bed.
Editor’s note: John Pepin is the deputy public information officer for the Michigan Depart- ment of Natural Resources. Outdoors North is a weekly column produced by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on a wide range of topics important to those who enjoy and appreciate Michigan’s world-class natural resources of the Upper Peninsula.
ing noise when they hit remains in my memory, close enough to touch.
the bottom of the can
(Metro) Going on vacation often means throwing a little caution to the wind and indulging here and there on purchases or expe- riences a person wouldn't normally make at home. According to a 2015 CBS News poll, the average American is entitled to 16 days of paid leave each year, and the average Canadian work- er 19 days. Such time off is an opportunity to fit lots of fun into a relatively short period of time.
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Decades ago, organ-
ized groups of people
would make money
picking blueberries on
the local jack pine plains
to send to restaurants in
Chicago. This practice was performed in com- munities like Paradise in the eastern U.P., which today calls itself the wild blueberry capital of Michigan.
A few years back, summer residents on Grand Island were invaded by black bears that would sit in blueberry patches, just a few feet from homes, gorging themselves on that sublime blue bounty.
Sheriff’s deputies tried to drive the bears off with blank “cracker” shells they fired from shot- guns. Eventually, the bears moved on, but not until the berries were gone.
Some U.P. towns celebrate berries and their importance, like the nearly 70-year-old straw-
How To Save Money on Vacation
· Pack light. Many
airlines now charge
extra for baggage
fees - especially for
suitcases that exceed
the weight limit - so
don't bring along
unnecessary items.
Hotels typically
provide toiletries for
free, so save space
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removing such
items from your
luggage. Chances
are if you didn't
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can still find an affordable alternative at your destination.
· Use coupons. Coupons aren't only for getting cents off your favorite brand of tissue at the supermarket. Coupons and discount codes are
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· Plan meals. Look into economical restaurants before departing. Know where you'll be eating and when, including packing a lunch or enjoy- ing a hotel-provided breakfast. Enjoying a big
“Deep as the sea and as wild as the weather, we will go just you
and me to pick wild strawberries together.” — Gordon Lightfoot
Frugal travelers may want to be sure they're spend-
ing their hard-earned money in the smartest ways. Traveling without breaking the bank enables the aver- age person to take more vacations and continue to make invaluable memories. Here are some suggestions on making a getaway, whether it involves lots of travel- ing or staying close to home, more affordable.

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