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Posts Tagged ‘morels’

Today, we did something spontaneous. In my world, “spontaneous” means that my husband asked me on Friday if I’d like to do this little trip. I have to plan for spontaneity. I can’t just drop things and do something fun because it might interfere with being responsible and downright boring.

He interrupted me this morning while I was planning out everything I needed to take (and hence, I forgot several items) and asked, again, if it was Okay to do this “spontaneous” thing.

This “thing” was going out to hunt for morel mushrooms. The only thing spontaneous about the trip was I decided to take Harvey along. Harvey is a pain when we go hiking or camping, mostly because he has no woods-sense and just follows his nose. He runs off.

I figured hunting morels would be easier than hiking: short leash and slow walking. I was right. Harvey loved it and he was so good on his leash (except when I wanted to take a photo of something). He did tend to want to follow my husband and his dog everywhere, but if they were out of sight, he was zoned in on his environment and all the smells. We climbed over tons of dead fall, so he may be sore in the morning, but it was worth it to see how happy he was.

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I didn’t find a single morel. My husband found a dozen, very fresh, ones – enough for an appetizer at dinner.

010I found this very cool sculpture by a Pileated woodpecker (large, rectangle holes).

036I found a California tortoiseshell butterfly.

013Beetles having sex.

065Lots of orange gelatinous fungi.

Harvey and I also scared up a pair of elk. I only saw their tail ends as they trotted off, but Harvey caught a whiff of them. Everything he smelled, he got so excited about: his tail wagged nonstop, even when he was tired and just wanted to lay down on the grass.

074He did the most un-Harvey thing ever: he waded out into Bear Springs creek without any coercion – belly deep, even. This is the dog that hates water. I just stood on the little foot bridge and waited for him.

072Bear Springs picnic area is one of my very favorite places. It’s a natural meadow, surrounded by a mix of evergreens. You can stand in the center and get dizzy, staring up at the trees that encircle the meadow. Very few people come in there, even though there’s a highway just beyond the trees in the photo.

075I think it is one of Harvey’s favorite places, now, too.

004Just check out my very happy English Setter.

Epilogue: it’s almost a ninety minute drive one way, over the Cascades. Harvey didn’t even get car sick. He pretty much rocked the day.

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Friday of last week we stopped for a stroll in the woods to search for the elusive wild morel. The wild, yummy morel.

There are so many species of morels! It is not difficult to know a morel from any other mushroom in the wild: the only other mushroom that begins to resemble a morel is the false morel.

I have heard many theories about where morels grow best. They come up the spring after a fire, they come up around last year’s burn piles in the forest (where logging crews have burned brush), they come up around pine trees and they like the north slopes. Folks who pick them carefully guard their picking sites with secrecy (but I can tell you that we saw several other cars out in the woods where we were looking so no place is truly secret if a morel hunter is out in the woods).

We did gather about a half gallon of very fresh ‘shrooms, a sign that we were spot on for the timing of our hunt and maybe a week early.

While I walked around with my eyes on the ground, I decided to snap some other photos as well (of course).

A row of Calypso bulbosa (Fairy Slippers) in bloom.

The delicate anenome oregana (Blue Windflower) could be seen blooming throughout the woods.

There were still a few fresh trilliums in bloom.

An exploded puff ball mushroom (I love to stomp on these and watch the black cloud of spores explode into the air). (They are not edible!)

Last year’s maple leaf becomes a work of art.

Carpenter ants were on the move.

And there was this “whatzit?”

I’ve seen some bright orange fungi and jelly-like fungi, but nothing quite like this before.

So – you tell me. What is it?? And to keep this interesting, I’m going to offer a prize to whoever figures it out. I’ll send you a copy of The Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers (for whichever region you live in).

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Over the Hills

I am brain-tired tonight and can’t figure out how to insert a slide show of pictures, so you’ll have to click on this link: Webshots to view my photos.

We drove over the mountains to La Grande on Friday, stopping at Rowena Dell to hike and look at wildflowers. Sunday, on the way home, we stopped to look for morels. Mostly, we took photos.

About Rowena: When we first discovered this beautiful plateau, it was owned by the State of Oregon and was not part of the Tom McCall Preserve. Very few people parked at the overlook and fewer still hiked out on the trail up the ridge. We took our kids and dog out across the meadow, flew kites and picnicked (always careful: between poison oak, ticks and the possibility of rattlesnakes, one learns to tread softly).

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It’s a wind-blown site overlooking the Columbia River just east of The Dalles.

That was a very long time ago. The Nature Conservancy now owns this beautiful piece of land and hiking is restricted to the trails and no dogs are allowed. A lot of people park their cars at the overlook and wander up the trail: on Friday last, there was a steady stream of cars and hikers. It was hard to get any sweeping photos of the area without including a random hiker in the photo.

I can’t remember the last time Don & I stopped here. It was probably during our guide days, when we took people from our church on outdoor trips: I do remember taking a tour up in the old blue-and-white church bus and picnicking at the State Park on the Columbia River far below. Just stopping and enjoying the place on our own – that I can’t remember doing since the days when we could still fly kites out on the bluff.

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It is still as beautiful as ever, maybe more so since you can no longer walk out on the fragile flowers. The profusion of spring flowers is incredible.

We didn’t limit our weekend trip to Rowena. On our way home from La Grande, we pulled off on a Forest Service road atop Meacham Summit, hoping to find early morel mushrooms. The snow was still clinging to the ground in the shady spots  (a lot of cars were pulled off on the side of the road while mushroom pickers peeked and poked in hope).

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The glacier lilies and grass widows were blooming in profusion. But there were no morels. So we headed on west.

Out of Hermiston, we dropped down along the edge of the Columbia River. We kept seeing flowers along the median: purple, red, yellow. The red flowers were striking, but we were never in a good place to pull over and look to see what it was. But the other flowers… We pulled off on an access road so we could photograph the longleaf phlox and other flowers in bloom along the railroad right-of-way.

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Back on the road, we stayed true to I-84 until Hood River, when we turned south. We circled Mt Hood, heading toward our mushroom-hunting grounds (sorry, I can’t disclose our site, but it is located in the Mt. Hood National Forest).

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We didn’t hit a bonanza of morels, but we did find enough of the elusive little pine-cone shaped fungi to make dinner with.

Dipped the morels in eggs, rolled them in bread crumbs (or crushed Ritz crackers) and sautéed them in butter: yummy!!

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