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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