The black berries are ripe. The red ones need more time on the vine.

By Melissa Wynn

Late August means the blackberry bushes are once again heavy laden with bubbly, juicy fruit. Picking before the rains come is what you want to do. A pail and a desire to wander through the woods is all you need for a Sierra berry picking adventure.

Blackberry bushes are full of thorns, so long pants and sturdy closed toe shoes are a wise wardrobe choice for this activity families have shared for as long as humans have inhabited the Sierra. Blackberries are a mouthwatering treat straight off the vine but they do stain everything they touch purple, so also wear clothes that you won’t mind splotching with berry juice. My family has made Labor Day weekend our traditional blackberry picking get together for six years running and 2012 will make it seven. I can hardly wait. We prefer to do our picking in Seneca just six miles from Lake Almanor’s West Shore PG&E Beach. But this neck of the woods also holds a bounty of great spots to find blackberries.

From Oroville to Quincy, Hwy 70 is spotted with berry patches all along the way. I have found the plumpest , sweetest and biggest berries grow along the water’s edge. This spectacular drive through Feather River Canyon has many turn outs near the water. Patch hopping is fun until you find a favorite.

A turn just before Quincy, up Hwy 89, leads to more blackberry heaven near Lake Almanor or around Butt Lake. The drive just gets more beautiful and offers several more prime picking spots along the Feather River. You can also take a little detour at Taylorsville and hunt along Indian Creek as well. If your final destination lies beyond Quincy further up Hwy 70, fret not, for the waterways along this route are lined with berry patches as well. Whether you roam toward Portola and Beckwourth or down into Sierra County, fat juicy blackberries await.

Come on up and join us in one of our special annual traditions courtesy of nature. All blackberries in national forests and on all other public lands are fair game unless otherwise posted. If you have a hard time choosing where to wander, stop, and one of the friendly Mountain Valley locals will be happy to point you toward a patch with this bit of picking advise…one for the pail, two for me!