It is the time of year that many head out to the berry patch to harvest the fruit that summer has helped grow. But in the mountains outside Pincher Creek, it’s not the strawberries or blueberries that everyone is after.
On Saturday, many braved the Gravenstafel Mountain above Castle Mountain Resort to pick bushel after bushel of sweet, blue huckleberries. The Huckleberry Festival has been a tradition at the resort for decades now, and it provides a rare opportunity for outdoors lovers to enjoy the mountains in the summer.
“We’re a winter destination so we only have winter activities happening,” says Donna Murray-Clark, Marketing Manager at Castle Mountain Resort. “So in the summer this is our only festival and it’s fantastic that the Community Association and Castle Mountain Resort can put this on together.”
The festival also acts as a fundraiser to help local ski groups like disabled skiing and ski patrol come winter.
“We also have a craft fair and a bake sale going on,” says President of the Community Association, Fraser Stewart. “The proceeds all go to the Community Association which we in turn distribute amongst the ski groups on the mountain.”
As for the fruits themselves, huckleberries are in the blueberry family, and grow best at higher altitudes. “They’re quite sweet and they don’t have a pit so you don’t have to worry about spitting them out or cleaning them for a pie or a cheesecake and they freeze very well,” says Stewart. “There are actually four types of huckleberries on our mountain from various sizes to various colours. And they grow about five hundred miles on either side of the Canadian border at this elevation.”
The foragers who made their way to the top of the mountain had no problem filling their specialized buckets with an abundance of the sweet berries. As a result, he surrounding area will likely see an increase in fresh, tasty desserts.