Working as a Seeds of Success intern out of Anchorage, Alaska has many perks. The beautiful Chugach Mountains rise up just at the edge of the city. Our travels take us to the gorgeous locales around Valdez, Glennallen, Fairbanks, and Nome. And we drive a kick-a$$ mini-van.
However, the real highlight comes during the actual seed collections. Perhaps it’s a hot and sunny day. Perhaps the collection is large and tedious. Perhaps we’re feeling a little tired.
Invariably, at this point, we stumble upon a batch of juicy and delicious wild berries. The lowbush blueberries are often tart, yet a handful can easily perk up my mood. Serviceberries (my favorite) are like blueberries, but bigger, mealier, and sweeter. Wild raspberries are great, but they can’t beat their smaller cousin: the nagoon berry.
Being in berry country means being in bear country, too. As winter slowly approaches, Alaska’s most dangerous mammals stock up on the ripe berries that remain. Although our single encounter with a bear while working was fleeting and safe, we always try to remain vigilant and make lots of noise while berry picking.
We do have to be careful to avoid some rather distasteful and aptly named berries, like soap berry (or worse, the deathly poisonous bane berry), but our berry discoveries usually end the same way. Five people, crouched over some bushes, devouring as many berries as possible– but, of course, never more than 20% of the total population.