My sweet husband convinced me that we needed to go hunting yesterday. No animals were ever in danger.
We were hunting the elusive morel mushroom. This is a tricky little number to hunt: too cold and it hasn’t come out yet. Too warm, and it came up a week ago and is all dried up, bug-infested and picked over by other mushroom hunters. There’s a “just right” condition, but that’s nearly as elusive as the mushroom itself.
It has been wet and cool, with a sudden warm-up, so we thought conditions might be perfect.
I haven’t been in the woods since 2010. That’s a very sorry state of affairs, but last year was a somewhat sorry year. My dad died in early May and I spent most of the month in Nevada, trying to help my brother sort everything out.
Don was of a mind to stay on back-roads all the way to our “secret” picking spot (I’d tell you where, but then I would have to kill you. And if I didn’t kill you, the other mushroom pickers who know our secret place would have to. It’s really not so secret). It’s over on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains, a little over an hour’s drive. The point was, Don wanted to stay on back roads, but it’s only been a week since snow levels were down to “pass level” or 4,000′ elevation. He checked the USFS website and the website said the roads he wanted were open, but he really wanted to talk to someone and ask if they were actually passable.
There’s no one in the office on Saturdays to talk to.
Which brings us to the permit: you are supposed to pick up a free permit to pick mushrooms. In years past, the permit has been hanging in the little Forest Service kiosk in Zig Zag, by the Ranger Station. But not this year. No, this year the leaflet explaining all these rules said that the free permit could be obtained by dropping by the USFS Office during their regular business hours (or during your regular work hours in Portland, meaning you would have to take the time off to drive to the Ranger Station during work hours, forgoing your wages for the time out of your work week it takes, to obtain a free permit to do something you didn’t think about doing until Saturday morning when the weather was nice and you decided to drive up the mountain only to discover you can’t get a permit except during regular business hours).
We bagged the permit idea.
Yes, I just admitted that we went into the woods with the intent of picking morel mushrooms without our “free” permit because it was a spur-of-the-moment decision to go ‘shrooming and their office was closed so we couldn’t get a damn permit in the first place.
But we were never in danger.
The morels we found were old, buggy, and inedible. We missed the small window of morel mushroom opportunity. So did a lot of other people as we saw several other cars and pickers out in the woods.
It was really nice to be out in the woods.
The wind soughed through the tops of the pines and the widow-makers creaked against the trees that held them up. We climbed over dead-fall and negotiated the maze of wind-blown tree skeletons. There were lots of wild flowers out, most of which I have identified.
I used Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest by Mark Turner & Phyllis Gustafson. Some flowers refuse to be identified except by some means of a huge tome of botanical keys. I am pretty certain we have that tome in our library but it requires a more extensive knowledge of Latin and scientific terms like petioles, pinnately, and stipules. In short, it’s way too much bother for me when I can just photograph the flowers and enjoy them forever, nameless but beautiful.
We also saw a few other mushrooms out, like psilocybin and some “coral” mushrooms and Artist’s conks. I didn’t bother to look any of the other mushrooms up, preferring to leave most of the fungi anonymous. Psilocybin is easily identified and we left those alone. I can hallucinate all by myself, thank-you-very-much.
We ate lunch at Bear Springs picnic area.
On our way back home, Don decided to check out those back roads that were supposedly open. He figured that we had made it to our destination, we were on the return trip back, and we were starting from the upper elevations going down, so the worst would be at the top.
Yep. Roads are “open” but not passable. We turned around between ice and snow floes and returned to the main roads, thankful that we hadn’t tried to come up that way.
I’ve inserted the best of my photos. If you hover your mouse over a photo, the name of the wildflower will come up (if I know what it is). Sometimes I even figured out the Latin name. You should be proud of me!
Also, clicking on any image will bring it up full size.
Oh, the elk scat was just for kicks.
And we didn’t need that mushroom picking permit because we never picked any mushrooms.
No wildflowers were harmed.