In the lush and fertile Columbia River Gorge, local residents know how abundant their lands can be when fruit season bursts into the early days of summer.
While humans traditionally mark the progression of time with hands of a clock, days of the week, or seasonal changes in weather, we in White Salmon, WA or Hood River, OR tell time by which type of juicy fruit is ready to be picked and savored.
Picking fresh fruit is one of our favorite post whitewater rafting activities in the Gorge.
The Pacific Northwest’s wet–yet mild–climate and volcanic soils produce fruit and vegetables for the entire nation. Strawberries, apples, pears, peaches or cherries might travel thousands of miles before putting a delicious smile on someone’s face. Visitors and locals, however, can feel that smile in far less time than anyone else. With plenty of ‘u-pick’ opportunities, these lucky individuals enjoy the fruit right off the tree.
The Cherry Attraction
Long days begin to take a Northwest outdoor enthusiast by surprise. All of a sudden, the sun provides light until as late as 9:30 pm to go whitewater rafting or kayaking, when yesterday it was surely dark by 5pm. Summer somehow forces spring into remission.
It is the cherries that seduce summer out of hiding.
The first months of summer, Raineir cherries can be found everywhere. Abundant bags in the fridge or on a road trip, these berries just turn snacking into a favorite pastime.
For instance, challenge a friend to tie a cherry stem into a knot with only the tongue. In fact, try it yourself. The display of cheek and jaw gymnastics and utter satisfaction when successful might even be better than that summer blockbuster at the theaters.
Or, try pit-spitting olympics. Rebound off a Ponderosa Pine into the creek: 10 points.
The Peach Emerges
Weeks joyfully pass without ever getting sick of the sweetly tart cherry treats.
Then, the peach arrives.
Until living in the Columbia River Gorge, many people assume peaches are to be eaten cold, or at least room temperature. It turns out, the warmth of the sun maximizes the peach consuming experience. Yet, without water, the sun could not do such a fine job warming the succulent skin and nectar of the peach.
Thus, multiple elements play a role in the peache’s creation.
Just east of the Cascade Mountains, a rain shadow allows for heavy precipitation in the form of snow and rain from November to April, while also maintaining a drier, temperate climate in the summer months. At lower elevations (as in not at the summit of Mt Hood or Mt Adams) temperatures remain mild throughout most of the year.
Sun and rain. Pretty simple.
So simple, even a peach can appreciate it.
The Blue and Staw Brothers burst onto the berry scene.
The smaller cousins in the fruit family–with their concentrated flavor and bright colors–can be the bullies in the Pacific Northwest.
Picking strawberries and blueberries at the end of a day spent biking on the slopes of Mt. Hood or kite-boarding on the Columbia brings a sense of taste to your adventure.
Armed with a bucket and some flip-flops, the fruit farms in Oregon and Washington abound with rows and rows of berries that beg to satisfy.
One in the bucket, one in the mouth. Ok, two in the mouth.
Most local farms also preserve this taste adventure in jams, jellies or spreads to take home and share. Wander into Apply Valley Country Store and try the Japanero Jelly or Huckleberry Milkshake. Now imagine that flavor sitting on the shelf of your kitchen, at the ready for any moment you need a taste of the Pacific Northwest.
Where to Pick:
First, any afternoon of fruit picking is much sweeter when preceded by a morning whitewater rafting on the White Salmon River. Build up your hunger so that the delicious juices of those fruits can be enjoyed to the fullest.
The best resource to find the perfect farm to load up on your favorite piece of produce is Hood River County’s Fruit Loop information page. You’ll find featured events, calender of harvest seasons, maps, and more. No matter what time of year you visit the Columbia River Gorge, you’ll find a fruit ready to be savored!