• Kerckhoff, camping and blackberries

    by  • August 12, 2013 • Uncategorized • 6 Comments

    Testing,…both camping and blackberries…

    I did something today that I’ve wanted to do for years! Picked blackberries at Kerckhoff Lake.  So many times we’ve driven by this pretty and serene lake, actually a reservoir, on our way here and there between over the last twenty so years.  The reservoir is just south of North Fork, Oakhurst and Fresno and is one of the many reservoirs in the Big Creek/San Joaquin Water Project, bringing water down from the Sierras.

    Kerckhoff Lake

    Kerckhoff Lake

    The blackberry bushes line the road next to the lake, where the fishermen launch their boats or picnickers park o let their kids play on the small sandy beaches.  The blackberries run wild everywhere else on the north shore.


    We arrive at the Kerckhoff lake.

    We arrive at the Kerckhoff lake

    After buying a small motorhome, Tractor Man suggested we camp for a night here to test out all the systems. We’d cook a hot dog dinner, read and fish if it looked good to him.  We worked out a few kinks and set up the inside and he read a few manuals, getting up to speed on motorhome ownership.  The lake was noisily ruffled by three or four jet ski riders cutting through the usually calm water.


    Testing the 'new' motorhome

    Testing the ‘new’ motorhome

    I mentioned the blackberries and TM said he’d tasted one and they were good!  Looks like we were there at the right time.

    Kerckhoff Reservoir was built by Pacific Gas and Electric as a part of the San Joaquin River Hydroelectric Project. The water originates from the high country of the Sierra Nevada,  traveling through a system of lakes and powerhouses where the water  generates electricity for California. Kerckhoff Reservoir is also important to help control floods and store water for irrigation, drinking water and recreation.

    After dinner  and after determining that the water was too shallow for fishing, we settled in to read a bit and then checked to see if we fit in the over-the-cab bed and if we could even get up there!  I could look out the top window onto the darkened lake and knew I’d have a pretty view in the morning.  I looked at the stars all night.


    Calm and reflective morning

    Calm and reflective morning

    Forging for berries

    All calm and quiet the next day, we got up early to pack up and head for home.  As I waited for Motorhome Man to close everything up, I took a bowl over to the berry bushes and began to pick the ripe ones I could reach. It looked like either people or animals had been there before me and could see oak branches laid down at the edge of the thorny tangle probably to stand on and get closer to the bunches of berries.

    Many colored bunches of blackberries cling to the dusty vines.

    Many colored bunches of blackberries cling to the dusty vines

    A Himalayan plague?

    Himalayan Blackberries are considered a major pest in California and especially the Pacific Northwest where it runs rampant on roadsides.

    Blackberry -Kerckhoff-featured

    In Deliciously Invasive: Himalayan Blackberries in the Pacific Northwest, by Mark Bittman, he explains why we love to hate this vine.

    “It’s understandable. The bushes are thorny enough to draw blood, and they spread unrelentingly, colonizing empty lots, city parks, freeways, and even our own backyards. The problem is so bad that entrepreneurs have set up goat rental businesses — blackberry canes are one of goats’ favorite foods — like Rent-a-Ruminant. I’m not making this up.”

    We know this about goats and non-native pests and Californians are used to seeing goats on a a steep hillside chomping on poison oak and blackberries. I was about to find out more about the ‘drawing blood’ part.

    Gorgeous blackberries are ready to pick in August.

    Gorgeous blackberries are ready to pick in August…but look at those protective thorns!

    I look around.  With not a goat in sight for competition, I begin to collect the soft black berries in my yellow bowl.  The thorns caught and stopped my hands.   The bunches, clusters of blackberries appeared in every color from pinky white and green, to dark pink, rose red and purple, but what you want to look for is the dull black berries that pop easily into your hand.  These blackberries have a long season,..this is August and there are still blossoms on the vines and we were here at the exact right time.

    Pick the really black ones

    Pick the really black ones

    To me, wild blackberries are some of the best fruits for foraging for many reasons. They’re very common, prolific, easy to recognize, delicious, and good for you.


    These soon will be baked into a small made-for-two crumble.

    These soon will be baked into a small made-for-two crumble

    With a bowl of blackberries on my lap, we drive home and soon these will be a dessert! Ahhhh! Finally!

    Me and Maggie

    Me and Maggie

    Getting to Kerckhoff:

    From North Fork, CA turn right onto Auberry road. Travel 2.8 miles to intersection, (Powerhouse road), turn left on to Powerhouse road and travel 8.4 miles. Turn left into campground.


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.

    6 Responses to Kerckhoff, camping and blackberries

    1. Carol Demann
      August 13, 2013 at 6:58 am

      Hi liked your story, I live on the American River and had a lot of clean up to do and berries were one of them
      I cut back and cleared some out the ones cut back produced so many berries I couldn’t believe how many berries we picked so now I cut back back where needed and do a major cut back every two years ,my neighbors love them too .

      • Sue Langley
        August 13, 2013 at 10:19 am

        That’s great that you can control them and pick them, too. We had our crumble last night for dessert.

        Somewhat of a Recipe:
        Pour any amount of berries in a oven proof dish
        Combine Bisquick, ground almonds, cinnamon and cold butter into crumbles
        Bake at 400 for 30 minutes or so

    2. August 13, 2013 at 11:05 am

      Color me jealous.

    3. Jeanne Sammons
      August 13, 2013 at 8:57 pm

      Ohhh, how beautiful ,… perfect place to try out the motorhome! I kind of cringed when you talked about crawling up to sleep in the bed over the cab … too tight of quarters for me anymore … claustrophic! You are going to enjoy your ‘moto’ so much, Sue! Beautiful pics & TFS!

    4. Jim Human
      August 16, 2013 at 2:36 pm

      Well you beat my bachelor quickie of sugared berries over twinkies.

      • Sue Langley
        August 18, 2013 at 5:46 pm

        Well, this was almost as fast! I’m glad you can find Twinkies if you want them….public demand…

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