• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 43s

Harvesting Alaska: Blueberry picking brings back fond memories in Unalakleet

By Heather Hintze 12:33 PM August 22, 2016

The tundra outside Unalakleet stretches for miles, blanketed in blue.

“There are just berries everywhere this year. They’re so abundant,” said Davida Hanson.

On a sunny Friday evening, she and her family headed for the hills near the Norton Sound village to fill their buckets with blueberries.

“To bring the kids out here to teach them how to live off the land and pick berries and have a great time, to me it’s awesome,” she smiled.

Unalakleet berry picking

The low bush fruit can be hard to find at first.

“One time my mom came down from Barrow, she grew up here and she said, ‘I don’t see the berries.’ I said, ‘Mom you need to get your blueberry eyes on because they’re everywhere,’” Hanson laughed.

Berry picking is a way of life Hanson and her sister, Francine Johnson, have always known.

“This little berry bucket was mine when I was a child,” Johnson held up her 3-year-old son Beah’s small wooden pail. “You pass it down and teach them the importance of what goes in it.”

The sisters grew up picking berries with their grandparents. Their grandmother would take them out with a five-gallon bucket and Hanson said no one went home until it was full.

“She would bring a backpack with dried fish, and seal oil, and crackers, and a thermos of tea and we’d take a break,” she reminisced.

For Johnson, the time on the tundra was about learning how to be self-sufficient. She said her grandfather would drop them off for an entire day of picking.

“I’d be thinking, ‘What if a bear comes, what if a moose comes?’ I’d plan it out what I’m going to do to take care of my great grandmother cause she’s very old and couldn’t walk anymore. It’s part of trying to learn how to take care of each other. That’s what they taught me,” Johnson said.

With an endless harvest and “grape-sized” berries, it didn’t take long for their buckets to fill up.

“My grandmother says I’m a very fast picker. My husband says I’m a dirty picker because I don’t take the leaves out,” Johnson laughed.

The fruitful outing will keep their freezers full until the berries come back around next year.

blueberry pie

KTVA 11′s Heather Hintze can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter


Harvesting Alaska is a featured series exploring all the ways Alaskans live off the land — from growing and foraging to fishing and crafting. We hope you’ll join us on our journey and share how you harvest Alaska. Share your recipes and ideas for upcoming articles.

Latest Stories

  • Weather

    Spring snow storm closes Anchorage schools

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Mar 29, 6:45

    Last updated at 7:15 a.m. on Wednesday, March 29 The Anchorage School District closed schools Wednesday because of poor road conditions, following an overnight snow storm. District spokesperson Heidi Embley said after school events were cancelled, as well. This is the first snow day of the current school year, she noted. “And probably (the) first […]

  • Lifestyle

    “Groundbreaking” technology restores movement in paralyzed man

    by Ashley Welch / CBS News on Mar 28, 20:42

    For the first time, a paralyzed man has regained functional arm movement and is able to feed himself using his own hand as a result of new technology that reconnects his brain with his muscles. Bill Kochevar, now 53, suffered a severe spinal cord injury in a bicycle accident eight years ago that left him completely […]

  • Sports

    Dimond Lynx cap off magical season

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Mar 28, 20:37

    The Dimond High School Lynx had one of those years: nine seniors will ride off with a 4A state title. Head coach Brad Lauwers and three of those seniors stopped by KTVA on Tuesday to sit down with Dave Goldman to discuss the championship run. Follow KTVA 11 Sports on Facebook and Twitter. Did you […]

  • News

    House votes to block Obama-era online privacy rules

    by Associated Press on Mar 28, 20:25

    The House has voted to block online privacy regulations issued during the final months of the Obama administration. It’s the first step toward allowing internet providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to sell the browsing habits of their customers. The Federal Communications Commission rule was designed to give consumers greater control over how internet […]

  • News

    Some Juneau property values will increase, city officials say

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Mar 28, 19:24

    About 60 percent of homeowners in Juneau will see the value of their homes increase, according to city officials. The City and Borough of Juneau’s assessor office mailed out property value notices Tuesday, an annual requirement under state law. The city has more than 12,600 taxable properties across more than 20 geographic neighborhoods. Many residential neighborhoods have homes […]

  • Politics

    State and local lawmakers call for more transparency on health care costs

    by Liz Raines on Mar 28, 18:57

    The price of health care in Alaska is higher than anywhere else in the nation. With national reform on the back burner, state lawmakers in Juneau are joining with the Anchorage Assembly in demanding more transparency from health care providers. Both local and state officials want to put a price tag on procedures. Last month, the […]

  • Politics

    Anchorage School District wants voters to say yes to bond package

    by Lauren Maxwell on Mar 28, 18:50

    The Anchorage School District is hoping the second time’s a charm when it comes to approving school bonds in the upcoming April election. Voters narrowly defeated the district’s bond package last year. Mike Nero, the director of capital planning and construction for the district, said the $58.5 million bond proposal will pay for roof replacements […]

  • Weather

    Hello spring? Anchorage may get 5 to 9 inches of snow overnight

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Mar 28, 16:41

    The National Weather Service says Anchorage residents should expect between 5 and 9 inches of wet snow through Wednesday morning. The NWS issued a winter weather advisory that will be in effect from 10 p.m. Tuesday to 10 a.m. Wednesday. Watch the entire KTVA Weather forecast at 5, 6 and 10 p.m. “Periods of snow […]