Every year wineberries add red to the 4th of July. As June comes to its close, I begin my annual tradition of climbing Thunder Ridge every other day to visit the patches I like to call my own. They hide in the Jefferson National Forest, where you own them, too, so I hope to find them first…
but they also belong to someone else. This year’s crop had been disappointing, small and relatively sparse, but yesterday morning I remembered a patch I discovered last year, a little farther off the single-track forest road. As I approached, I saw fat purple berries hanging in clumps. I felt like a kid digging up a cache of old coins. Within 15 minutes I filled two large containers. An hour later I was still feeling lucky, with my backpack bulging.
Suddenly, I stopped. Snap, crunch. Someone was approaching, very close. Strange, I hadn’t heard any warning. My colleague, whoever he was, rustled, as if he were reaching out for berries and stuffing them in his mouth.
“Hey!” I yelled. Sound big and look big, I remembered sage advice, and stood tall. A black shape scurried a few steps, crashing through the brush, and quickly shot up the nearest tree. He stopped 15 feet up.
I looked at him, he looked at me. My heart racing, I decided to let him enjoy his lunch, preferably not me. I stomped past big juicy fruit. Part of me wanted to pick more, but my brain prevailed. Down the mountain I went.