August 11, 2008 in City

Discover forest’s hidden fruits

Dan Hansen Staff writer

Huckleberry rules

No permits are required to pick huckleberries from U.S. Forest Service lands for personal use. Personal users are limited to 3 gallons per year in national forests located in Washington, but not Idaho.

In all forests, commercial pickers must have a permit.

It’s often said that the Inland Northwest has four distinct seasons. Which overlooks the obvious: Huckleberry season.

And it’s on right now.

But before you head into the woods, you’ll need to round up some specialized equipment:

• A container that can be attached to a belt (cut the top off a milk jug).

• Bug spray.

• Blindfold.

Say your sister just married a guy who seems nice enough. But who knows how long he’ll be in the family? You might risk taking a new in-law to a good huckleberry spot (of course, not your best spot) but the blindfold is a reasonable precaution.

Apply it when you’re still a good distance from your site, like where the pavement ends at Nordman.

From then on, the driver should casually make disorienting comments like, “I see they haven’t fixed the washout, but I think we can squeeze past.” Avoid mentioning specific landmarks, like, “They’re already drunk at the Shoe-Tree Camp.”

But what if you’re a newcomer and haven’t yet married into a huckleberry-picking family?

Then drive to the Priest Lake area – as good a place as any to start looking. The good berries close to the road will already be picked, so bushwhack uphill from turnouts and dead-ends. Hike or bicycle up roads that are closed to motorized travel. Scramble along the edge of avalanche sites.

Keep talking because bears don’t like surprises. They’ll wander off if they hear you coming.

Twisted ankles are a bigger threat, so wear sturdy shoes.

In a few years, you’ll have your own secret spots. There are plenty of great places in the high country of the Colville and Idaho Panhandle national forests, at Mount Spokane State Park and a little place we like to call “Montana.”

Those locations are all pretty general, of course. Any more specific, and you’d have to be blindfolded.

Contact Dan Hansen at (509) 459-3938 or

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