By Melissa Wynn
The Sierra Nevada is dotted with blackberry patches almost anywhere that is near water.
From Redding to Paradise, Chico to Quincy, Lake Almanor to Mt Shasta, keep your eyes peeled when there is a creek or river nearby and you are sure to find blackberries to pick. Often there are berry baring bushes right on the roadside. But I have found that the fattest, sweetest, juiciest berries grow right along the water’s edge. Even though several of the highways follow waterways like the Feather River and Deer Creek, there isn’t always somewhere to pull over or park near that bush that looked so full of luscious berries.
Instead of passing up those bushes without parking, just leave the blacktop behind. Isn’t one of the best things about being in the mountains getting off the grid and into the wilderness? That is where the best wild blackberries grow. With the technology of GPS it is simple to find the nearest dirt road to a creek river or lake near you. I love searching the byways off of I-70 near Quincy. It seems every dirt road in that area has a creek and berries around every other bend. California Highways 89 and 36 are also riddled with dirt road detours that are ripe for the picking as fall sets into the Sierra.
Whiskeytown Lake, Clear Creek, the Sacramento River, Shasta Lake and the Yuba River are just a few of the waterways just off the interstate that are worth exploring in the fantastic fall quest for the juicy blackberry.
While blackberry picking your way around the mountains, always be mindful of signage and fences. This neck of the woods is dominated by National Forest but there are pockets of private land that should be respected.
Check with the local Forest Service office in the area where you want to go picking to learn about the local campgrounds. Many campgrounds in Shasta, Lassen, Plumas, Siskiyou and Butte counties are near water so bring your camping gear, grab a bucket and follow the water. Don’t forget the fishing tackle and try your luck for a delicious trout dinner at camp.
Blackberry plants are thorny and unforgiving so remember to always wear long, thick pants and durable shoes or boots. Blackberry picking is not a shorts-and-flip-flops activity. The same sweet, purple juice that entices us to search out to the beloved blackberry also stains whatever it touches. Remember to wear clothes that you don’t mind staining. My favorite blackberry picking tool is a long sturdy stick with a forked end. Use the forked end to pull vines toward you to help reach distant berries or to push the thorny vines aside or down to gain deeper access to larger bushes.
Pack up the family and head to the Sierra, and lets go blackberry picking!