Saturday, September 7, 2013

Kenai-Soldotna Bike Path

The other week I was up in Soldotna for a cross-country running race.  It was a gorgeous, sunny day--so warm I could wear shorts and a t-shirt (rare for this time of year!) and I decided to ride the paved bike path that runs from Soldotna to Kenai along Kalifornsky Road.  I love paved bike paths and consider them to be a major improvement to quality of life wherever I live.  My enthusiasm for the path along K-Beach Road, however, is waning as the trail degrades.

Large cracks running along the bike path
Large cracks in the trail make a bumpier ride, or an erratic one as I try to avoid them.  Worse than that, though, is the presence of 4-wheelers along the trail.  More than once I have been biking along peacefully when a 4-wheeler driven by a young adult (teenage boys most often; and not wearing helmets often enough) come careening at me, either on or right next to the path.  They veer off at the last second, but leave me choking on the dust.  Sections of the pavement have broken off where the 4-wheelers drive over, onto or next to the bike path.

The part that can't be avoided is all the businesses' driveways that cross the path.  The section of path that runs from Kenai to Soldotna along the Kenai Spur Road has fewer driveways and roads but has a couple very large hills (not so good for rollerblading).  If it were just the driveways it would be fine--I can stay alert and watch traffic though I'm not crazy about my kids biking it by themselves since they don't watch for turning traffic from both directions.  But the 4-wheelers and the big cracks in addition to the cross-traffic downgrades this bike path significantly for me.  Banning the 4-wheelers on the bike path side of the road would be a simple solution, but meanwhile it needs to be fixed up!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Berry Primer

The bright red berries are bunchberries (from the Canada Mayflower), which are edible, but don't have a lot of flavor.  I pick them and add them to smoothies.  They don't change the flavor or texture but they have nutrition and fiber.  The darker berries are low bush cranberries, which aren't fully yummy ripe till they've been hit by a frost or two.

I pick rosehips, pop off the dried, old flower bud and throw them in the freezer intact.  The fuzzies inside irritate the mouth and lining of the stomach, but if I throw them in my smoothies the Vitamix tends to take care of any issues so I get a really easy way to get a hefty dose of Vitamin C in my diet.

I call these Orange Berries; I think they're also called Pumpkin Berries for their bright orange color.  These are also edible but I avoid them as I haven't been impressed with their flavor (even less so than bunchberries).

High bush cranberries are one of our favorite berries.  Once they've been hit by hard frost, the leaves have fallen off and even better, the berries are frozen (picked in October or November or later), they are easy to gather and we can get gallons of these in an hour in the right patch.  I freeze them, then thaw them, juice them in a tomato juicer (by hand with one of those wooden mallets).  One cup of juice, one half cup of sugar and a pitcher full of water makes fresh cranberry juice that we like to serve to our guests and nearly all love it.  Sometimes a dash of lemon juice is a nice touch.

Trailing raspberries creep along the ground and often the berries are embedded in the moss on the ground.  There are never quantities enough to pick just for themselves, but we snack on them as we hike and throw them in with other berries.

I had the privilege to pick the most amazing blueberries of my life this past weekend across Kachemak Bay.  The berry bushes were loaded beyond belief and the berries were huge by wild Alaskan blueberry standards.  There are many kinds of blueberries in Alaska (like 6-10 I think) and this kind is great because they grow on bushes 3-5 feet high and are easy to pick.  These just get washed and thrown in the freezer to go into treats and smoothies all winter long.
Fruits of my labor this weekend.  The ziplock bag has black currants in it.  I am kicking myself for not getting pictures of the bushes out there because entire hillsides were covered with current bushes loaded with berries.  It was amazing.  They're not as tasty as other berries (a little musky smelling) and I'm not sure how well they'll go with my smoothies as I have never picked any quantity of them before.

This isn't all the berries we pick; I'll have to do Berry Primer II when I get to my other berries in the next month.