Maybe it’s just me, but when I hear “huckleberry” I think of a charming storybook. Being from Southern California, I’ve never had a huckleberry before and I’ve been dying to find them! Ever since moving to Idaho earlier this summer, I’ve been all about getting out to new places and finding new-to-me adventures to cross off my Idaho Bucket List. The Huckleberry Festival in a small mountain town a couple hours away was by far the most adorable small-town event we’ve been to. I have a feeling it will be an annual summer tradition.
Four years ago, my university track team traveled to Bozeman, Montana for the Track & Field Conference Championships. We flew to Spokane, and drove through Northern Idaho through the scenic Pacific Northwest and into Montana. (Little did I know this would be my new home 4 years later!)
After our race, my best friend Kerri and I walked through the tiny downtown in search of some huckleberries which are native to the area. We’d never had them before but it seemed like something we needed to try while in the PNW. The grocery stores failed us though, and the closest thing we got to huckleberries was a huckleberry-flavored chocolate bar. Okay, we weren’t too sad about that ;)
Since moving to Idaho, I’ve had huckleberry wine and huckleberry-flavored coffee, but no fresh berries. We’ve heard that you have to be careful picking them in the mountains though because you are literally competing with the bears for berries!
My parents and I woke up around 5am on Saturday to drive up into the mountains and be at the 5k race registration by 8am. The entire highway is lined with rivers and streams and farmland, which is even more picturesque during sunrise.
“Welcome to Donnelly. Population: 138”
We had no idea what to expect from this festival. But every event kept us pleasantly surprised and happy we made the trip!
The 8th annual Huckleberry Trot 5k race began at the community center, on a dirt road marking the course with white arrows. We got our t-shirts, purple flip-flops, and a goodie bag. The mayor of Donnelly kicked off the race, and about a hundred of us ran down the country road. The straight long road had some cows on either side….and that’s about it. It was literally in the middle of nowhere. There were a couple of boys a little younger than me who ran in a clump, and I just kept up with them for the first half. I had no expectations for my race time and I wasn’t really trying to hit a certain pace.
I crossed the finish line in 20:22, winning overall female. My grand prize? A Huckleberry Pie, of course! I was so excited to win the pie from one of the local Donnelly bakeries :) My mom raced the 5k as well and finished 3rd in her age group so we both brought home a medal! My dad said he’ll race it with us next year and we will not let him forget it ;)
We celebrated with post-race iced americano’s at the local bakery and split a huckleberry muffin that had just come out of the oven. The whole town spans one block, and it was festively decorated with purple streamers and huckleberry flavored specials everywhere.
This weekend was another reminder that I am extremely blessed to have found a new home in Idaho.
After years of gushing over movies and TV shows with a small-town setting, quaint and charming, I can finally experience it first-hand. We hung out on Main St. for the parade…..which lasted all of 7 minutes.
The day was so beautiful and a popular vacation destination, McCall, wasn’t too far away so we decided to head more north instead of heading back home. Look at how diverse Idaho is – mountains, lake, beachy sand, and a pine tree all in one spot :)
We had lunch on the balcony of a brewery looking out on the lake. I ordered the house salad with grilled chicken and raspberry dressing, which I’m now inspired to recreate at home. It was creamy, not like a regular raspberry vinaigrette. I’m thinking of trying out a greek yogurt raspberry puree type experiment to make my own healthy version of this bright pink dressing…
Everything in this area is blooming so most of the stores and restaurants have fresh flowers. The colors are so vibrant and beautiful! We were feeling like we were on vacation all day.
We skipped dinner and went straight to dessert that night with my fresh huckleberry pie while watching the Olympics :) I also made an AMAZING new healthy recipe with a friend last night, but I’ll save that for my next post.