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Natural Wonders: Ice Caves, Bison, and Huckleberries

Three treks to life-list phenomena

Eat from the vine in Mt. Hood National Forest.

The Wonder

These tangy-sweet berries, ranging in color from deep red to blue-black, were a staple for Northwest and Rocky Mountain Native American tribes for thousands of years. Hucks are finicky, though, requiring the right mix of warmth and soil chemistry to fruit abundantly. Researchers hope to have the first commercial huckleberry plants available in 2010. For now, pick wild from late summer to early fall, between 3,500 and 7,200 feet. Bears love huckleberries, too, so pay attention: You may be grazing in someone else’s favorite patch.

The Way
Drive 17 miles south from the Hood River Ranger Station on OR 35 to FS 3545. Turn right to access the 4.1-mile Umbrella Falls-Sahalie Falls Loop. You’ll trace the Hood River to splashy Umbrella Falls. Look for pale green huckleberry leaves in open, sunny spots. The bushy plants can be as short as two inches, and as tall as six feet.

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