by Brady Raymond
How do you thank those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country? As folks barbecued with friends and family this past weekend or in my case mushroom hunted, I hope we all took a moment to reflect on the freedoms we have to do these things and the lives that were lost to protect those freedoms. Since I can’t thank those who were lost in the line of duty I would like to thank those who are currently serving and those who have served in the past. Thank you, your service does not go unnoticed by this author.
For the last five years, Erin and I have taken part in what may be the premier mushrooming foray in the Pacific Northwest, maybe even the country. As we arrived at our destination, thoughts of the Morel season coming to a close were on our minds. Things had been dry over the last week and as we all know “dry” is the enemy of fungi. What would we find this weekend? Would we find anything at all?
We had gotten an early start and arrived at camp on Saturday, a number of folks had shown up on Friday and already had a day worth of hunting in. Erin and I listened carefully to their tales of the day prior. We were happy to hear Morels were still being found and in fact, I was out on Thursday and had found a tidy sum myself. Nothing to brag about but enough to elicit hope for the weekend.
We heard stories of low Morels, high Morels, fire Morels and natural Morels. No one seemed to be finding them in much quantity but they were still out there, waiting for us. Although reports were coming in that some were found down around 2200ft. we knew better than to waste our time down low. Sure, we may stumble upon some blondes growing around some cottonwoods if we hit them just right or the random straggler gray but we knew our destiny was higher. So, we headed out and headed up.
This year was the year of the “Trail Morel”. A curious form that seems to grow right along the trail and in some instances right in the trail. At our first stop, we found a handful but we were a little disappointed after searching for about an hour, so, we loaded up and headed out, to grayer forests as it were.
We had a secret spot marked on our GPS, it had been fruitful for us the last two years but we had yet to stop by and see if this year the trend would continue. Sure enough, as we approached our spot, eight Morels greeted us with asci wide open (pictured at top with knife for scale). We were elated, for the third year in a row this little spot has been a reliable producer of my favorite fungus.
All in all day one, we bagged right around a pound of Morels by my estimation. As we got back to camp we swapped info with other PSMS members, at least info that wasn’t too classified. As the sun started to fall stoves were lit and one of the greatest potlucks around began heating up. Now all PSMS potlucks are good, but the Memorial Day weekend potluck is quite frankly over the top and worth the price of admission alone. Good food, good drink, and great company make this the best mushrooming event of the year, at least in my opinion.
Sunday morning we got up and decided we better put some of the Morels we had found in our scrambled eggs. This is always a good idea to infuse the Morel into one’s body especially if you intend to hunt again, which was the plan for today as well. We headed out more or less for the same area as the day before, we figured on looking over a little bluff, one we hadn’t really surveyed in a few years.
We found a couple of lone Morels here and there but nothing crazy. As we meandered on Erin said, “I can smell Morels.” Right as she said it I could smell them too, literally smell them. We frantically searched the area but to no avail constantly getting whiffs of the fungi we so desired.
“I found one” Erin said, “Okay, I’ll be there in a second” I replied. As I made my way around a clump of trees to go get this lone Morel suddenly I stumbled on a mess of them (pictured above). Eight were tightly grouped and in a small circle and around that were twelve more. “Woohoo!” I shouted with delight. We circled the area like vultures and were able to land a few more, all told we had found close to thirty mushrooms in an area the size of our living room.
We ended up finding a few more and before we knew it we had another pound or so. Not bad for and hour and a half worth of looking. All the time we kept getting whiffs of Morels, we had this nagging feeling that somewhere out there was the mother load, maybe a hundred or more tightly grouped just waiting to be found. But the demands of a small child and an unrelenting heat made us break the search and head back to camp. Our feet were tired and our daughter wanted to get out of her carrier and play. We had done pretty well this weekend for what is a so-so year thus far. As things heat up and dry out though, I fear our season is almost over.
We will find out this coming weekend if Morels continue to grow in these forests. The forecast shows thunderstorms and showers both of which make my internal Morel indicator alarm signal loudly. Plus, we still have some elevation to gain before we run into the rocky bluffs, and sheer cliffs that are unfit for the mycelial growth of Morels.
But fret not, those who live vicariously through this Morel hunters articles. More is to come on this springtime pursuit. More tips, recipes, ramblings and the like are right around the corner but first I have to find more Morels.