by Brady Raymond
The weather has been cool the last week and subsequently, my mind still thinks about mushrooms. Around the house, I’ve noticed a couple things fruiting, some Coprinellus in the garden woodchips and some Agaricus in the duff off the side of the road. These are farmland mushrooms though, domesticated in a sense, I wanted things more wild, mycorrhizal and Ascomycete in nature. I still want Morels.
Once again, the family and I set out to try our luck on another weekend mushrooming romp. What would we find and would we even find anything? We figured we’d snag a couple Morels, enough to hopefully make it worth firing up the dehydrator and adding a little more to our reserves.
We didn’t end up as high as we were hoping, only reaching an elevation of 4700ft. For a new spot and being kinda late in the season, we did ok. I would think a week earlier and we may have found something quite nice. Although the mushrooms did have a general appearance of age, all but a few found throughout the day were in nice shape.
The area was burned some years earlier, the trees in our immediate vicinity mostly seemed to have survived. Only the lower halves of the trees showed signs of being ravaged by fire. The upper reaches of the trees were green with needles and scattered about on the forest floor below were the green saplings of new growth and a plethora of mushrooms. We picked the Morels we found, happy in knowing we had at least found some. After a bit of time and mosquito bites, we decided to head back down the mountain to a trail we were familiar with and just enjoy a nice hike.
As we hit the trail it didn’t take long before we broke its confines and were once again searching for Morels. And to our surprise, we found more. Despite going down a few hundred feet in elevation many of the mushrooms seemed to be in better condition than the ones we had just picked higher up. Of course, we knew the big hauls were up even further, beyond our reach for today. After filling a small paper bag we decided to move on, we had one more trick up our sleeves though, a new spot that produced well for us a couple weeks ago. So we loaded up and took off for one last look before we’d head down the mountain yet further to the PSMS field trip headquarters.
We arrived at our new spot and I immediately set out for the shallow gully where I’d found them a couple weeks prior. As I approached the gully I flipped over a couple of pieces of bark, and in a flash, a lizard scurried out from underneath in search of new cover. I placed my hand on the creature and carefully picked it up. The squirming didn’t last long and it settled down fairly quick, all the while under control of my thumb and forefinger, gentle yet firm. I looked it over a bit and placed it onto the bark, hoping I could get an image or two. It obliged me for only a few seconds before it was off for cover once again.
I didn’t think much of it until just a few minutes later when I caught another larger specimen. This one was pretty tame right from the get-go. I snapped off a couple shots and placed it back where I found it. The wheels were already turning in my head, I knew it was an Alligator Lizard and when I found the first one I figured I’d look it up and hopefully have enough from my photo to ID the specimen as there are a “northern” and “southern” species. Finding the second one complicated this. Upon reading up on them back home I found out that the Southern Alligator Lizard, Elgaria multicarinata, has yellow eyes. Which the specimen in the first photo seems to have. The specimen photographed below is harder to distinguish but looks like maybe it could be brown, which is the eye color of the Northern Alligator Lizard, Elgaria coerulea.
So, do I have one of each or two of one species? I’m not sure. They are both shown on the distribution map I referenced in the area that we were hunting. Although, we were at the northern limit of the Southern variety. I have never been much of a lizard person, not out of any kind of spite, or disgust, just for the simple fact that I never found any growing up. I have caught a couple of Anoles in Florida some unknown lizards in New Mexico and handled some geckos and iguanas as a youngster, so I wasn’t uninitiated when catching these Alligator Lizards. I look forward to finding more species in the future. Washington isn’t the best when it comes to lizard diversity but there are a few of them and I want to catch them all (kind of like real life Pokemon).
The forest understory was a complicated system of trails and burrows. Small animals were active and busy scurrying around in the tangle of dead grasses and rotting logs. One little squirrel, in particular, seemed unafraid as I made my way by in search of Morels. This cutie pie seemed as interested in me as I was of it. The little squirrel would check me out then duck down into the loose bark only to pop back up again after a short time and do it all over again. As I got closer, I was ready with my camera and to my surprise it let me get rather close, leading to the shot below.
Now I’m no squirrel expert but I am fairly certain this is a Cascade Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel or CGMGS for short. Also known as Spermophilus saturatus not to be confused with Spermophilus lateralis common name, Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel or GMGS. No word on whether the scientific name has any applicable meaning in regard to the squirrel’s reproductive behavior. One could speculate though.
When we arrived at the PSMS field trip headquarters, it was good to see old friends and meet a few new ones. The mushroom table was topped with a nice selection of specimens, all on display with expert commentary by Brian Luther. As more people showed up mushroom tales filled the air along with laughter as folks swapped stories over a delicious potluck. The weather was just right, cool yet sunny with some passing clouds.
A few members hard work paid off and there was a couple of nice Porcini found in the 3000ft. range and apparently the bags of Morels, well, they were about 1000ft. higher than we looked. It appears as though there are still Morels out there for those intrepid enough to go look for them. Keep looking fellow mushroomers.