10/20/2010

MDI Cranberries 2010

The wild cranberry crop on Mount Desert Island is still awaiting harvest, except for the several pounds I collected on Sunday the 17th. What was different about this year was the high water level: you have to harvest from a boat and reach into the water. The berries can be seen under 3-8 inches of water. Sticking your hand into late October water sounds cold, but as you glide over 6″ of water in your kayak you realize that, if you’re lucky enough to have a sunny day, the shallow water heats up fast. I have to say that harvesting this way has it’s advantages. No need for rubber boots or waders, no wet knees, no balancing act getting out and in. Also, the submersion in cool water seems to preserve the crop and extend the harvest. All the berries seemed to be at the same point of ripeness. And the berries float, so if you lose your grip they pop to the surface.

This little trip is never crowded

There’s really no reason not to get out and harvest your own. There’s a huge supply; the Northeast Creek flooding is hundreds of acres and it can be accessed from Rt. 3 in 15 minutes by kayak or canoe. Just park by the bridge 2 miles east from the MDI side of the causeway to Trenton. Perhaps the water level has dropped since my outing, so you may have to end up using boots. It is a beautiful time of year but weather and wind can change quickly, so be prepared. I would have had difficulty getting back if I had soloed in my eighteen foot canoe; the headwinds were very strong. The kayak was just fine.

Turn right at the hummock in the distance

The meandering Northeast Creek has quite a few boulders just under the surface. You may find yourself suddenly high and dry. It takes five minutes of paddling to leave the roar of civilization behind. Bird life has dropped a bit with the colder weather. Still, I saw ducks, kingfishers and great blue herons as usual. After 10 to 15 minutes of paddling you will emerge into the great boggy area where trees are rare and the water spreads out. Bear right at the hummock (photo) and you will find yourself following a canal where berries can be gathered from either side. If you don’t see them, paddle a few more minutes and check again. You should see this under the water:

If the water level is the same as it was on Sunday, you can just push your kayak into the grassy vegetation and start picking. Otherwise, look for a slot to run your boat into and get out. I always set my paddle vertical so I can spot my boat from afar. Watch out for holes in the bog mat if you’re walking-I’ve gone up to my knee sometimes. Can’t make it this year? Make sure you plan for 2011. Come for Oktoberfest and cranberries starting the first Saturday in October. We can set you up with lodgings and kayaks. Share your favorite cranberry recipe in the comments below!

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