Adventure travel takes you on a photography expedition tour through Alaska.

Western Blueberry growing, a Native Plant of Alaska.

C. Jeff Dyrek, Webmaster at the Kenai Peninsula Alaska. Oct 2006
Picture of a Western Blueberry, an eatable native plant of Alaska growing in the wilderness, Photo by C. Jeff Dyrek, Arctic Explorer.

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Alaska Expedition 2006.

Wild Blueberries growing close to the ground in Alaska

  Photo by C. Jeff Dyrek 


This appears to be a Western Blueberry, Vaccinium occidentale, which grows as a low shrub  around wet meadows and along streams from 5000 to 11,000 feet or higher.    From a personal experience you will be very lucky to see anything above 10,000 feet. 

Field guide books are great.  Be sure you read the book very carefully before going on an exploratory trip and make sure that you see what the plant looks like in various stages of development.  This is one big drawback of the guide books, they usually show only one stage of the plants development, or their photos may not be very well taken or the photos have poor color reproductions, or even, the books only show a hand drawn picture. 

The photo that I took above is a perfect example of a bad photo for survival purposes.  Sure you can see a blueberry, but what do the leaves look like?  Is this really a western blueberry?  Is it really eatable? 

So here's an observation from an old mountain climber and backwoods hiker, me.  When we went into the mountains or backwoods, we brought most of our own food and didn't collect it from the wild.  So after many years of back country hiking, I still cannot tell you which plant is really which.  For survival purposes an old time hiker can be a super asset as a companion, but with all of the modern hiking methods of bringing our own food as our primary source of nutrition left me way behind in true survival in the wilderness. 

Just buying and reading a book can be a great help, but when you first start hiking, start by taking your book with you and learning to identify wild food plants.  When you are a beginner, don't just go out and say you are going to start eating the plants as soon as you think you can recognize them, instead, learn to identify them again and again.  Look at the leaves and the stems and start comparing these to pictures in books, more than one book, before you actually start trying wild foods.

When you first start thinking that you are getting pretty good at recognizing the plants, this is when you are in great danger.  This may sound like I'm jumping around a little here, but riding motorcycles is where I learned this idea.  Just when I was feeling that I'm getting pretty good, I was a pretty good beginner, that's the secret word, beginner.

There was a cassette tape course written by Ron Ein that was called "Peak to Peak."  In this tape course he talks about this very subject.  When you feel like you are getting to a peak in your education or experience, you are getting to the top of your level.  But, you are entering the bottom of the next level and you cannot even see this next level until you enter this.

Going back to motorcycle riding, when I thought I was fast on the track, I was a slug.  I've seen this peak to peak method many happen many times in motorcycle riding.  Now I'm an old motorcycle rider with about eight hundred thousand miles.  I raced flat track, motocross, road racing and drag racing.  I've been a race team manager in road racing for five years and founded, managed, and promoted the March of Dimes Race Team for five years and been a race track announcer for eighteen years.  Now I still feel like a beginner because there is still so much to learn.

This is the peak to peak method of backpacking and wilderness survival, you will always be a beginner, and when you start feeling like you're an expert, look out, trouble awaits you.

Making a short story long, on this trip to Alaska I met a bear hunter guide in Alaska at the Anchorage Airport.  He was calling one person after another on his cell phone and chatting about his great experiences and he's now back.  When we sat down and talked, he told me about all of his success stories.  At the same time, I was telling him about all of the mistakes that I have made.  It turns out that he never any mistakes.  Well, he was a beginner.  This was his first trip leading an expedition and he never had any mistakes.  If you have never made any mistakes, you are inexperienced and you are hitting your first peak.  The people who fail the most are the people who tried the most.  If you never failed, you never tried. 

This bear hunter started talking to me like I was a goof up, but I was hiking in the mountains, spent six years in the US Navy, and have worked and led North Pole expeditions for nine years, and I made a lot of mistakes.  You learn from your mistakes.  This is the way it is for eating wild foods, but a mistake in eating wild foods can leave you in serious trouble.  This bear hunter, having no mistakes, is looking for huge trouble for both himself and his guest that he's leading into the wilderness.

The last thing that the bear hunter did before we had to leave for our flights, was to look at my watch.  He said what kind of watch are you wearing?  I replied that it was a Casio.  He then said that he was a Rolex and showed it to me.  It looked exactly like my Casio except the first ten minutes on the diver time bezel on his was red.  He started putting me down for only having a fifty dollar watch and that his cost over six hundred dollars.  Yet after looking at my watch, it was almost exactly the same watch.  My watch had a stainless steel band and a real crystal lens.  It had been on three North Pole Expeditions, both through Khatanga Siberia and Northern Norway, yet it looked like it was totally new.  On this Alaskan Expedition, he was the second guy to show me a Rolex which were exactly the same and the owners of the Rolex said the same thing.  Believe me, I will never buy a Rolex.

So if you go on an expedition ask the guide about some of his goof ups and if he never had any, get another guide because when things get really bad, you may not survive.

The same thing goes for eating these wild plants, identify the plant using several wilderness plant books and wait until you feel like you are getting to be an expert so you can move to the next peak.


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