I speak here not of the Himalayan blackberries, an invasive that come August rewards us with succulent fruit for the space it devours. No, here I am talking about the wild, native berries just now gleaming in the forests and river valleys, the food that has helped sustained the native people and wildlife of this place for as long as there have been summers in Puget Sound.
On a recent hike in the Elwha Valley my progress was seriously slowed, not by tough terrain, but by the seduction of berries. Salmonberries, soft, juicy, gorgeous, in every shade of yellow, orange and deep red. Wet with rain, cool, refreshing, oh there is no more Olympic valley taste than a salmonberry savored on the trail. And then there were the wild strawberries, tiny, vivid, sharply fragrant.
Not for nothing are the Swainson’s thrush, the bird with its haunting, upward arpeggio, singing away now, too. Their song and the ripening of salmonberries are coincident, and salmonberries are an important food source for these birds, whose song is a signature of the Puget lowland forest in summer, particularly as evening comes on.