Tag Archives: morel

Camping, mushrooms, bulldogs

We just rolled in from our first 2017 camping trip. We left mid-day friday, because setting up in the dark sucks. Here’s Otto enjoying the sunset while dad enjoys a toddy.

I should probably crop this one down and save it somewhere. He almost glows in that afternoon sun. I didn’t get good pictures of the girls. They move around a lot, and brindle colors are like camouflage in the forest.

The next morning, the weather changed. It rained almost all day Saturday. Otto decided to rest his big, heavy, head on the table while I had coffee.

The plan was to hunt morels, my favorite mushroom. I really had no idea when to go after the goofy winter we had. We went a week later last year, and were almost too late.

Campgrounds have to be booked well in advance, and we reserved our site in January. I told Old What’s Her Face, we were going come Hell or high water. Turns out high water wasn’t too far off. The Payette river is always a violent white river, but the waves were as high as the pavement as we drove by this time.

My wife was cold all day, and decided to stay at camp. It turned out later that she must have gotten some kind of bug. She was thrilled to get some down time for reading though, so that’s a win for her.

I headed out on my own, and went directly to my best spot. I admit, I was starting to have some doubts about my chances about halfway there.

Landmark summit was white with snow. My spot is down the other side, so I went there anyway. I got lucky, because it was well below the snow line.

This isn’t to say the hunting was any good. I managed very few, but in true form; find one and there is always more than one. I gathered six big ones at one point.

When you hunt morels, you walk very slowly and look down. They aren’t colorful like Easter eggs, and I’ve even found them between my feet before. This method of hunting is why I nearly stepped on an elk calf hiding in the deadfall.

Let me tell you, when you’re all alone, in bear country, and something the size of a small pony jumps up under your feet, it wakes you right up.

False, or snow morels were out in abundance. These look almost brainlike, and vary from tennis ball to softball in size. You don’t eat this kind. There are at least three in this photo, and even they are hard to spot.

I’ve had times when I could fill coolers with good morels, but it’s been a few years. This year, I managed about half of one net bag. I have enough for a couple of nice steak toppings, or a couple of outstanding omelettes, but that’s it.

I heard they were finding them by the truckload out of Idaho City. That’s where the big fires were last summer. I just like the area we went. I like camping there, I like the mountains. I can always find a few this time of year, but I may have to make a day trip to Idaho City to keep my supply up.

Mushrooms are really a mycelium that lives underground. Remember these are a fungus, and not a vegetable. The mycelium looks like a giant cobweb. To keep things simple, I’m going to call them roots.

The edible part of any mushroom is it’s reproduction attempt. It’s not a lot different than an apple in that regard. Morels have one strange habit that a hunter can take advantage of. They invest a lot of time growing in a particular piece of ground. When that ground is damaged somehow, they panic and send up more mushrooms in an attempt to reproduce as their last act on earth. I think they’re drama queens, because the underground system can be huge, and there is one honey mushroom in Oregon that’s documented as covering several counties. Still, their strange habit is a bonus for a hunter.

Fire is the big one that everyone knows about. Deadfall trees do the same thing, and that’s where I look. I’ve found them down in the root balls before, but they’re usually ten plus feet from there. Remember this root system is pretty big. Someone blades a dirt road, I look there too. A woodcutter gets stuck, or leaves deep tire ruts in the woods, same thing. I spotted this little beauty at a deadfall.

This one appears to be a yellow morel. I also found black ones, and few of the little grey fire morels. They’re all good eating, and I wasn’t picky. I mentioned my stretchy net bag a few paragraphs ago. This is me attempting to be a good steward of the resource. Mushrooms don’t have seeds, they have spores, and distributing them is the goal of the fruit. I carry a net bag in hopes that if they are dropping spores, I will leave those spores on the forest floor.

Otto and I went on a couple of big walks through the campground when I got home. He did his “bulldog ambassador to the world” routine, and met quite a few people and dogs. He absolutely loves everyone. It was fun meeting another bulldog in camp. She was white, and had on a cute little raincoat. It was raining, so I didn’t get a picture of them.

I don’t want the girls to get left out, but I didn’t get a good photo. Here is some kind of bulldog version of tug-o-war using a stick. They might call it push-o-war, since they’re backwards.

I hope all of you had a great weekend.

50 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Great day in the woods!

We started our day at 9:00 AM. Mushrooms don't sneak away and hide at sunup. We took a lot of people, and it's nice to get a slightly later start. It's a long drive to my normal spots, and with family, you stop more often. It's all good, I'm more into the experience than the score these days. I've had many a fish-less day along the Snake River, and never regretted one of them.

My first spot is kind of hit and miss. For the last few years it's been miss, and this was no exception. It's right alongside a turnout on the highway. Competition usually beats me to these.

It was lunchtime, but nobody wanted to stop for lunch. We went to my second spot. It was loaded with fresh morels and we gathered a good haul. My guess about the early weather patterns was right. We decided to brave Landmark Summit. This is just under 7000ft in elevation. Most years it doesn't open until the Fourth of July. It was dry as a bone today. One year, my brother and I went up there in late May and found eight feet of snow. Not this year.

My wife and I have a new spot out in the middle of nowhere on the other side of the summit. This year it turned out to be the mother lode. We all spent part of our time pointing at morels just so the grandkids could pick them. This usually means more dirt for Grandpa to clean off, but it was worth it. My grandson started his day complaining that there was no WIFI. By the end of the day, he was a regular pioneer.

Grandpa caught a tiny little frog, and everyone insisted I show the kids. I made them swear they wouldn't hurt it. They decided to fight over it, and parental interference prevented frogacide. Tiny froggy hopped away with a good story to tell.

We found quite a few snow morels today. One of them was the size and shape of a human brain. I left my phone in the car, because it tends to fall out with all that bending. I wish I had a photo for you, because it was cool. Snow morels are considered inedible at best, and poisonous at worst. They actually look nothing like an actual morel.

The weather was beautiful, sunny and not too hot yet. I think I felt two raindrops all day. My back and knees are going to make me suffer tomorrow. At one point, I got down on all fours and picked twelve plump morels without moving an inch. Still, it was a lot of bending down, squatting, and crawling over deadfall. At least oyster mushrooms have the courtesy to grow on tree trunks. Not these morels. The little buggers are right down in the dirt.

Far enough away that they stay anonymous

Our picnic wound up being an event. My son made some baked beans from scratch, and we threw in a skillet to warm them up. My wife made her grilled potato salad, and we grilled hotdogs and chorizos on site.

The little kids ran around like wild animals while we cooked, and while we cleaned up. Something tells me they'll sleep well tonight.

One of two huge bags of morels

The only downside was on the way home. I was following another vehicle, my son was following me, and my daughter and her friend brought up the rear. We drove past a county sheriff, and he pulled the girls over. He told them they were speeding, but we were all in a row driving the same speed. I have a theory his probable cause amounted to two girls driving while cute. He never ticketed them.

That and the wood tick I pulled off my shirt. I've already paid my dues to them. I spent a couple days in the hospital and drank a couple of bottle of IV fluids back in the 1980s. I think I've served my sentence with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. At least he wasn't burrowed in when I found him.

I started putting this post together at 10:00 PM. I allowed myself one hour for Game of Thrones. We put everything away, but still have a skillet to wash. I spent two hours cleaning mushrooms and putting them away. That doesn't count the batch my daughter–in-law took home. One bowl I set aside and didn't freeze. Grandpa is having an omelet tomorrow morning with a touch of Swiss cheese and fresh morels.

I hope all of you had a great day too.

50 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Meanwhile, in the Real World

Old What’s Her Face* and I decided to head into the mountains again today. Too much blogging and publishing stuff makes Craig a dull boy. I’m sure I missed reading some of your posts today.

Last time out it was early and dry. We’ve had a bit of rain lately, followed by some sunny weather and decided to give the morels another chance. Our usual places were wash outs; not a single mushroom in sight, including the kind we don’t want.

We decided to head for a semi dangerous canyon I know of. It has avalanche danger year round, but I’ve really cleaned up there in the past. The snow was gone and the road should have been good.

Fifteen miles before we got there we saw a sign that said “Road Closed Ahead.” I assumed they meant my spot; we decided to go part way and trust to luck. This place burned about five years ago, and burns are the best places. We found one small spot that looked like it re burned last summer. We were over 7000 feet in elevation.

We wound up with a small haul, but they were great big ones. I’ve seen times when you could fill a large Gott cooler, but this wasn’t one of those times. With the weather as weird as it has been, I think we were pretty lucky. The ones we found were already dry, but that’s no problem with morels. They rehydrate in anything. You can use cream, chicken stock, beef broth, wine, whatever.

Let’s look at some pictures.

The Morel in its Natural Habitat

The Morel in its Natural Habitat

image

A Fair Haul for 2014

The Mother of all Morels

The Mother of all Morels

When I washed them, I could feel them rehydrating in my hand. I shoved them in the refrigerator for now. We’re off to Old Chicago to work on my next beer tee shirt.

The funniest thing that happened today was Old What’s Her Face eating pork skins on the way home. She got crumbs down her bra and said, “I got chicharones in my chee chees.” She then proceeded to lift up her shirt and bra to clean the crumbs out. I’m sure the oncoming traffic appreciated it almost as much as I did.

* Not my wife’s actual name

11 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

No luck with fungi

Old What’s Her Face* and I slept in this morning. We decided to check our favorite morel spot and see if any were out. There wasn’t any reason to get up early, since they don’t run away at sunrise.

Morels are one of the finest mushrooms in the world, and they grow wild here in Idaho. We usually find them in June and July, but the weather this year has been strange. Mostly, we just wanted to get out.

I remember crawling under the burned out root ball of a ponderosa pine about five years ago. I plucked out a grocery bag full of morels as big as my fist. You can find quite a few, when you find them at all.

We went to a little place called Warm Lake. Traffic was pretty heavy for the holiday weekend, but as we found increasingly smaller roads it thinned out. It was sunny and warm, and generally beautiful outside.

The ground was surprisingly dry. This time of year it’s usually pretty damp, foggy, and even muddy. All of the LBMs (little brown mushrooms) I found were wrinkled and dry. Note: only eat a mushroom you can positively identify. LBMs have been the cause of many hospital visits.

I found one really pretty false morel. It isn’t hard to tell the difference, but these are for looking only.

I’ve had my best luck where the ground has been disturbed around ponderosa pines. There was a huge forest fire near Warm Lake a few years ago, and it disturbed the ground. Experts say to look where and when the trilliums bloom. I found trillium in abundance.

Sadly, this pitiful specimen was the only morel either of us found. It looks like one of the small grey fire morels. It was about the size of my little finger tip. I decided to photograph it, and leave it to encourage its friends.

image

Not even enough to make scrambled eggs with tomorrow. Maybe next trip. We decided it’s date night tonight. I have to get this posted and get cleaned up.

* Not my wife’s actual name.

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized