I did something today that I’ve wanted to do for years! Picked blackberries at Kerckhoff Lake. So many times we’ve driven by this pretty and serene lake, actually a reservoir, on our way here and there between over the last twenty some years. The reservoir is just south of North Fork, Oakhurst and Fresno and is one of the many reservoirs in the Big Creek/San Joaquin Water Project, bringing water down from the Sierra.
The blackberry bushes line the road next to the lake, where the fishermen launch their boats or picnickers park to let their kids play on the small sandy beaches. The blackberries run wild everywhere else on the north shore.
We arrive at the Kerckhoff lake
After buying a small motorhome, Tractor Man suggested we camp for a night here to test out all the systems. We’d cook a hot dog dinner, read and fish if it looked good to him. We worked out a few kinks and set up the inside and he read a few manuals, getting up to speed on motorhome ownership. The lake was noisily ruffled by three or four jet ski riders cutting through the usually calm water.
Testing the ‘new’ motorhome
I mentioned the blackberries and TM said he’d tasted one and they were good! Looks like we were there at the right time.
Kerckhoff Reservoir was built by Pacific Gas and Electric as a part of the San Joaquin River Hydroelectric Project. The water originates from the high country of the Sierra Nevada, traveling through a system of lakes and powerhouses where the water generates electricity for California. Kerckhoff Reservoir is also important to help control floods and store water for irrigation, drinking water and recreation.
After dinner and after determining that the water was too shallow for fishing, we settled in to read a bit and then checked to see if we fit in the over-the-cab bed and if we could even getup there! I could look out the top window onto the darkened lake and knew I’d have a pretty view in the morning. I looked at the stars all night.
Calm and reflective morning
Forging for berries
All calm and quiet the next day, we got up early to pack up and head for home. As I waited for Motorhome Man to close everything up, I took a bowl over to the berry bushes and began to pick the ripe ones I could reach. It looked like either people or animals had been there before me and could see oak branches laid down at the edge of the thorny tangle probably to stand on and get closer to the bunches of berries.
Many colored bunches of blackberries cling to the dusty vines
A Himalayan plague?
Himalayan Blackberries are considered a major pest in California and especially the Pacific Northwest where it runs rampant on roadsides.
In Deliciously Invasive: Himalayan Blackberries in the Pacific Northwest, by Mark Bittman, he explains why we love to hate this vine.
“It’s understandable. The bushes are thorny enough to draw blood, and they spread unrelentingly, colonizing empty lots, city parks, freeways, and even our own backyards. The problem is so bad that entrepreneurs have set up goat rental businesses — blackberry canes are one of goats’ favorite foods — like Rent-a-Ruminant. I’m not making this up.”
We know this about goats and non-native pests and Californians are used to seeing goats on a a steep hillside chomping on poison oak and blackberries. I was about to find out more about the ‘drawing blood’ part.
Gorgeous blackberries are ready to pick in August…but look at those protective thorns!
I look around. With not a goat in sight for competition, I begin to collect the soft black berries in my yellow bowl. The thorns caught and stopped my hands. The bunches, clusters of blackberries appeared in every color from pinky white and green, to dark pink, rose red and purple, but what you want to look for is the dull black berries that pop easily into your hand. These blackberries have a long season,..this is August and there are still blossoms on the vines and we were here at the exact right time.
Pick the really black ones
To me, wild blackberries are some of the best fruits for foraging for many reasons. They’re very common, prolific, easy to recognize, delicious, and good for you.
These soon will be baked into a small made-for-two crumble
With a bowl of blackberries on my lap, we drive home and soon these will be a dessert! Ahhhh! Finally!
Me and Maggie
Getting to Kerckhoff:
From North Fork, CA turn right onto Auberry road. Travel 2.8 miles to intersection, (Powerhouse road), turn left on to Powerhouse road and travel 8.4 miles. Turn left into campground.