Old CompassMy grandfather was a logger in Oregon back when Paul Bunyan fell trees. Of course Grandpa was retired and doing “grandpa” things by the time I met him, but he still seemed ten feet tall. He collected black widows in jars and played the harmonica the old school way. One of our favorite activities, whether we went to his house or he came to ours, was to take a day drive out into the woods to our secret berry or fruit spots.

By our house, we visited “Snail Canyon,” a deep, shady ravine far back on country roads where we picked orange salmonberries, the first berries to ripen each year, followed by thimbleberries. By his house, my grandpa drove us to his favorite creeper berry spots in clear cuts left by loggers. Creeper berries are actually a small blackberry that grows on vines on the ground in sunny clearings. We had another spot where we would pull off the freeway, cross the railroad tracks, and drive back into the forest a ways. After that we’d walk to a giant cherry tree that produced huge, almost black cherries. They were the sweetest, biggest cherries I’ve ever seen. One of my favorite winter snacks was a big can of canned cherries.

It was Grandpa who knew about all the old, abandoned orchards in a large part of Southern Oregon. We had to follow grown-over roads, cross shallow creeks, and use four wheel drive on many occasions, but my Grandpa was determined. He loved to take us to collect apples, knowing he’d get a big box of canned applesauce from my mom. On a certain trip, we were out in the seemingly wilderness on an old dirt road when we encountered a large log blocking our way. I was five or six at the time and remember this log looking taller than me. Who knows how big the log really was, but that’s never mattered to the story. It was with great disappointment to us kids that we’d have to turn around. But Grandpa didn’t think so. He scrimped in every aspect of life so he could afford his new trucks. To our dismay, with all of us in the truck, he drove up and over the giant log. I remember the truck tipping up and back down again, and away we went. Later we came home with boxes full of apples.

I love to explore the great outdoor whether I’m after berries or fruit, exploring new hunting or fishing grounds, scouting for the next season, or on a mission to fill my tag. Some change is good, and I love new technology, but that can’t beat some backwoods knowledge and stories, a good truck, a chainsaw, a compass, and game meat or a truckload of foraged fruit!