Posted by: Feet Banks
As autumn looms over Whistler an age-old debate resurfaces among the longtime residents and local intellectuals ... What’s better – Pie or Cake?
Here at the Whistler Insider we prefer pie, and as true mountain locals we prefer huckleberry pie the most, especially free huckleberry pie. Especially Free huckleberry pie served in a beautiful alpine backcountry lodge with mind-blowing scenery and a full day’s worth of fun activities.
The 3rd annual Huckleberry Festival takes place Sunday September 16 up at the Callaghan Country Lodge. Accessible only via a 5km hike-in, the lodge sits just below tree-line in amongst prime huckleberry terrain.
The huckleberry is a real mountain treat. They rarely grow at elevations under 2000 feet and are not really commercially farmed. This makes the huckleberry intrinsically awesome because, like most of life’s best rewards, they take a bit of effort– if you want ‘em, you gotta hike up and get ‘em.
“The idea to host the Huckleberry Festival came about because when we would hike around the lodge in September and our pants would always end up stained purple from about the knees down,” says Callaghan Country owner (and 2012 Whistler Citizen of the Year) Brad Sills. “So we thought it would be great to encourage people to come up and be rewarded not only by the scenery but also the edible abundance of nature.”
Participants are encouraged to meet at the trailhead to the lodge around 9 AM (directions here) for the trek to the lodge. Anyone who gathers a cup of huckleberries (or mountain blueberries) on their hike-in is rewarded with a berry-pancake lunch and the option to participate in the day’s events or simply relax in the wood-fired Scandinavian sauna.
“We have a clinical herbal therapist who will guide an interpretive hike around Conflict lake to talk about plants and traditional harvest techniques,” Brad explains. “As well as yoga, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, hiking, relaxing, a music jam session and, of course, the pie baking contest.”
The great thing about the Callaghan huckleberry pie baking contest is that lodge chefs will prepare all the ingredients and teach all the technique. The most difficult part, the part that matters most with the judges, is simply crafting the Callaghan Country logo out of pastry.
“You’re encouraged to bring your own secret ingredients to potentially boost the flavour,” Brad points out, “but our bakers have everything else covered, you just have to build our logo on your crust and let the panel of discerning judges do their thing.”
There are prizes too, although the splendor of the Whistler backcountry and a feast of huckleberries ought to be reward enough. “The landscape up here is always spectacular,” Brad says, “but in September it’s unlike any other place in Whistler -- all dressed up in magenta and gold colours as the fall hues begin to appear. There is such a variety of mushrooms that come out and of course, the abundance of berries provide great viewing opportunity for all sorts of bears, including grizzly.”
The fest usually winds down around 5 PM but Huckleberry and pie enthusiasts are welcome to leave at any time or book one of the lodge’s rooms and spend the night. Go to Callaghan Country for more info and directions on when and where to meet up for Whistler’s tastiest home-grown culinary event of the fall. Talk about having your pie and eating it too.