by Brady Raymond
Here on the west side of the Cascades things seem to be chugging along quite nicely so far this fall. Temperatures are steadily dropping and the rains are beginning their onslaught, to the chagrin of most but a welcome sign to our kind. My Mother is in town and Erin and I thought we would take her out for the chance to look for some chanterelles, maybe some lobsters, and whatever else we could find.
My Mom has been out to visit a few times now but she has never been down the Mountain Loop Highway. Oops, I mean a secret road you didn’t hear about from me. We have a few spots that always produce for us so long as conditions are right. Everything looked good at our first stop, we got out and eagerly started looking. I quickly spotted some Hydnellum aurantiacum, I wasn’t sure if Erin could dye with it but I know that toothed fungi are usually a good bet, so I collected them with my Mom and would ask Erin when we got back to the car (we have a new addition to the family, so one of us has to stay at the car while the others look). She was excited when I showed her and thought they would produce a greenish gray tone, her memory turned out to be right, at least according to The Rainbow Beneath My Feet. For those of you attending the Ben Woo Foray this October you’ll most likely get the results first hand if attending the dye workshop and I’m sure an article on the blog will follow soon, stay tuned.
We hit up a few more spots, taking turns going out and all having a little luck here and there. It may yet still be a little early for the big haul but everything we found was in excellent shape, not water logged, slimy or buggy, like mushrooms later in the season often are. Early season hunting is usually the most rewarding in my opinion, aside from the mushrooms being in such good shape the temperature is much nicer and it’s typically not as wet as later in the year.
I weighed the chanterelles when we got home, we brought in 1lbs. 50z. Not bad for a quick jaunt in the woods, we got a few nice lobsters as well, all pure white and not a bug in sight. We were heading to Twisp in a day and decided we would feast on these mushrooms over yonder. Erin ended up making a Roasted Chanterelle soup from the Shroom cookbook by Becky Selengut, a recipe I highly recommend trying if you haven’t, it is absolutely delicious.
I haven’t been over the pass on Highway 20 in a number of years and only once at that. I was hoping we’d find loads of chanterelles, maybe even a few nice Cantharellus subalbidus. I looked around at the pass for a few minutes and didn’t see really anything except a large mushy ramaria and a few doodads that were beyond identifying (not that I could figure them out anyway). There was a wet snow falling as we reached the high point of 5477ft. As we descended things started to dry up even more, as those of you who’ve been over that way know. I didn’t expect to find much around where we were staying, on the Methow River just south of Twisp, but I thought if we could get out to the woods and along a stream we may luck out.
On day two of our trip we headed out to a trail just north of Winthrop a bit, Falls Creek. We were looking for something easy, something three elders, an infant, two strapping young thirty somethings and a small dog could do, this looked to be the ticket. And it was for a bit, maybe a couple miles total out and back but when your hiking with an infant even an “easy” trail starts to take on a different persona. Either way, we got some nice views and a bit of exercise. I wasn’t combing the ground but this Ponderosa dominated forest seemed to0 dry for the time being to find much if anything.
The next day after looking at a map I decided we should hit up the Sawtooth Mountains, the Foggy Dew Creek area to be more precise. We headed out, it wasn’t much more than a thirty minute drive from where we were staying. We turned onto a gravel road near the Foggy Creek Campground and continued on for a few miles. We weren’t exactly sure how far the trailhead was and decided it would be better to turn around and checkout the campground. Once again having an infant in the car changes your perspective of the road and distance quite a bit. If something were to go wrong we were already some distance from help and this was not a busy road, the chance of someone coming along was remote in a time of need. Better to play it safe, we got back to the campground and got out to stretch and look around.
Things looked pretty good, more moisture than the previous day, but nothing popped out at us, well, except for the bear and her cub Erin spotted a little over a hundred yards away. This was for Erin and I the third and fourth bear we’ve seen in the past two years. I guess we’re lucky as I have spoken with some people who’ve yet to see a bear in a decade or more of hiking, foraging, etc… We watched them for a bit, they were eating apples and seemed to care little about our presence. After putting on a little show for us, eating apples while laying down on the ground like a dog chewing a toy, they stood up gave us a good look over and decided to move on. Seeing bears is fun, particularly when there is a nice distance between yourselves and them. Neither party seemed threatened and all in all it was good for both of us, man and beast. We got to see the bears and the cub learned to walk away and avoid humans. I’m no bear expert, but this was a good encounter in my book and one not soon forgotten.
On the drive in we had spotted lots of elder berries and on the way out we stopped to pick a bags worth of them. Erin has made a tincture with these in the past, any time we feel a sore throat, or the least bit sick we like to take a shot of this concoction. Placebo? Maybe, but neither of us have been too sick in a few years now, think what you want but I’ll stick with elder berries. Like with mushrooms, make sure you know your berries if you intend to forage for them and consume. Get a good book and ask someone who knows them. I have a feeling that a certain someone at the field trips and mushroom ID clinic could tell you all about any berries you may have questions about.
If you haven’t been out yet this season now is the time to get out. You’ll likely find some mushrooms and probably some edibles. Look for areas that have had plenty of precipitation and you should be finding them in no time.