Natural Sciences Outdoor Adventures

Morel Madness


The lilacs aren’t blooming yet, and oak leaves are still smaller than a squirrel’s ear, but Fisherman and I went mushroom hunting anyway on Tuesday. The morels didn’t care if the old signs weren’t in their favor, they sprouted from the side of a steep hill anyway.

It is odd how I regard detail and specificity so highly in writing but will cut almost all of it from this story. Anything that would give it a sense of place could give intrepid Google users — both its search and its satellite maps — a trace to the place where we found five pounds of mushrooms when we shouldn’t have.

But there is still a story, we just have to focus a little closer. A good morel spot is a closely guarded secret, yet you can photograph them from a few feet away and put that picture anywhere. So it is also with words.

Native habitat

The delicious wild mushrooms only emerge from the leaf litter on the forest floor for a few weeks every May. They are some of the first edible anything to grow every year — the return to a world that sustains you, not tries to kill you like a six-month winter with 50 days below zero degrees.

But they don’t give themselves up easy; the woods are big when you’re looking for a four-inch fungus. There are lots of likely spots where they don’t grow, but you will spend long minutes staring at those spots anyway, seeing nothing.

So you search, with no certainty, waiting for that dark cone to appear. And each time one does, it feels like finding hidden treasure.

An unusual guardian welcomed us to the morel thicket: an Eastern Towhee, an uncommon bird that neither of us had seen before. An eight-inch long sparrow with splashes of white and orange against a black back and head, it sang and hopped between branches before fluttering out of sight in the brush.

We resumed our slow patrol, heads bowed.

Forest floor flora

Events & Activities Outdoor Adventures

Snake River Canoe Race 2014

High water, happy friends. Days of downpour the week before caused extraordinarily high water (7′) and dire warnings from race organizers. We went anyway.

Katie and I paddled it together for the first time this year. We navigated haystacks “by consensus,” paddled as steadily as we could, and finished in under three hours.

Gabe and Darrick took the gold in the citizen non-aluminum class again. And once again, the only “citizens” who were faster were two guys in the 130+ combined age class, in an aluminum canoe. Turns out these men have also competed in the Yukon 1000 — 10 or so days of paddling 18 hours a day. Never underestimate wisdom, technique, and “old man strength.”

Wade and Audrey and Slim and Nel paddled well, too, and everyone made it down the 15 miles of river without swimming – which is more than could be said for a few of our fellow paddlers.

Falling on my birthday this year, we spent the weekend at a cabin in Mora on Fish Lake. Decorated in garage sale crap, a little shabby, very quiet and comfortable.

We’ll do it again every year we can.

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Recent Twitter updates (2010-01-08)

  • Lola has the ice fever! #
  • Drinking tea and honey, making spaghetti, listening to Levon Helm, thinking about George Plimpton. The sun is setting out the front window. #
  • Hoping this means that my city might soon lose the moniker the "most dysfunctional city in Minnesota" #
  • "I went up this girl at a party and was like 'whatever.'' – comic at Acme Comedy Club open mic night #
  • Han Shan, truly the first and number one dharma bum. "I'll sleep by the creek and purify my ears." #
  • The Cold Man and the Sea, As I Lay Freezing, The Zen of Starting Your Car When It's 10 below #MinnesotaColdWeatherBookTitles #
  • Screwed up one of my #MinnesotaColdWeatherBookTitles earlier. Been out of it today. Zen and the Art of Starting Your Car When It's 10 below #
  • Sad that @mayorcoleman got the state tree wrong in his inauguration speech, but White Pines are indeed awesome. #
  • Review and photos by @sharalds from excellent Retribution Gospel Choir show at 501 Club that we attended: #
  • If the Nat'l Park Service won't post their own St. Croix River film online, I will. #
  • Why do only white people get identified in this photo about the Mpls triple murder? #

Recent Twitter updates (2010-01-01)

  • Wished I had some dynamite for the ice wall at the bottom of my driveway. #
  • Good icy ski @ Lk Elmo Park Reserve. Cool to hear Legacy Amendment $$ will pay for lighted trails and warming house. That's why I voted yes. #
  • [Blog post]:: Winter wanderings #
  • Dreamt I went to outer space last night. The Int'l Space Station, specifically. Floating and the whole bit. Camped on the moon in a tent. #
  • #10yearsago we spent night of Dec 30 in Duluth playing Super Mario Kart and then went to Ely to hole up at edge of BWCAW for Y2K eve. #

Songs of the decade

Heard some music tonight that took me back a few years, and I started thinking of a short list of songs that stand out from the past decade. Nothing too obscure here, these are just the hits that seem to represent parts of the last 10 years, in quasi-chronological order:

  • St. Germaine – Rose Rouge
  • The Strokes – Last Nite
  • Outkast – Heya
  • Neko Case – Deep Red Bells
  • MGMT – Time to Pretend
  • M.I.A. – Paper Planes
  • Bon Iver – Skinny Love
  • Cloud Cult – Everybody Here Is a Cloud

Interestingly, the artist/album that I would say is the biggest stand-out for me from the zeroes is Arcade Fire/Funeral, but that album truly worked best as a single entity and there’s isn’t one single off it that I would pick out for the above list.

I can only wonder now how these songs will endure, and what new sounds the upcoming decade holds. Do you think music reflects the mood of the time in which it is created or more so contributes to that mood? Cause or effect?