by Brady Raymond
It may not be summer by the calendar’s account yet but it looks to be turning that page here on the ground. As the temperature rises things are starting to dry out over on the east side, add time and a little wind to the equation and Morel season quickly turns to wildfire season. Please, if you are out camping in the coming weeks, pay attention to the fire warnings and any burn bans that may be in effect for your next trip.
Summer may mean fire season but it doesn’t quite spell the end for Morels. I was lucky enough to make a few quick jaunts up some east side slopes this past weekend, each trip had the potential for more Morels than were found but on the first trip, I was hindered by motorcycle gear and on the second, children. Lucky for me I enjoy the company of both my motorcycle and my kids, so the small quantity of Morels is made up for by the smiles on everybody’s faces.
As much as moto-gear and kids can slow you down while looking for mushrooms, both are an investment in the long run. The motorcycle is an amazing scouting tool, keeping tabs on all the roads we frequent and checking out new ones before we try traversing them in a larger vehicle with the family. There is nothing worse than backing up on a mountain road looking for a place to turn around because of a washout or downed tree.
Kids, on the other hand, they are just more sets of eyes and closer to the ground too. But, as much as I want my kids to enjoy mushroom hunting, I’m less enthusiastic about either of them getting the taste for Morels. I already have to share them with my wife. I imagine in a few years that our spring haul will be much more substantial once the little ones put on a few inches and hone their mushroom vision into a fine laser-like focus.
The spring season usually starts for me finding “False Morels” and it may end with them this year too. Usually a week or two before “True Morels” appear they are proceeded by Verpa bohemica, Gyromitra esculenta, and Gyromitra montana. In my experience finding Verpa conica (image above) tends to signal the impending end of Morels for the year, at least at the found elevation. You can ascend ever higher but soon enough the dense forest will give way to rocky peaks reaching high above the treeline, an ecosystem not suited for mycorrhizal fungi.
As the summer kicks into overdrive it may seem like mushrooming is over, but really it’s just time to study up, to be better prepared for the fall rains and once again abundant fungi, even more so than in the spring. There is of course gardening that needs tending, more roads to ride and scout. As well as other naturely pursuits like birding or butterflying, snaking and geology, maybe on clear nights even some astronomy.
Geology is an interest that has been piqued in me as of late. My first tastes of the subject as a youngster was learning about the glaciated landscape of Michigan. However, my first understanding of geology was in Big Bend National Park, Southwest Texas, as a just out of high school young adult, wide-eyed and ready to take on the world. Back then I didn’t have the words to explain what I saw, (I still don’t) but for the first time it kind of all made sense. I saw the landscape as fluid, over long periods of time. A kind of global geological evolution but unlike living organisms adapting to change over time and thus evolving, the planet was the change. Maybe adapting to changes itself beyond human comprehension.
I suppose if you either increase or decrease your focal length of understanding, the cycle is probably more or less continuous. It’s a mind-boggling existence we make our way through. Somewhere in there is a moment in time, where I, one piece of the puzzle make a connection with one other piece of the puzzle and sometimes that connection happens to be with a mushroom. And sometimes, I photograph that mushroom which connects with you, the reader.
Although I would’ve liked to have brought home pounds of Morels this weekend, I happily settled for a couple handfuls or so. A number of other mushrooms were out this weekend too, including the Clitocybe squamulosa, now called Infundibulicybe squamulosa (image above). Or that’s what I’m calling it, maybe it’s something different. The point is though, that when I spotted this species I knew I had seen it before, the pieces had fit in the past and the connection was a familiar one, right name or not.
Mushrooms are like that though, they become familiar with experience. It’s like music, the more you jam the better you get. If you take the time to dive a little deeper, to learn the language, even just the basics, it will help you immensely when trying to jam with others. So, I guess what I’m saying is get out there and jam with some mushrooms. Learn the language and jam with others jamming with mushrooms.