So, late in the game as usual, we set out for a bit of morel hunting. We’ve found them only a couple of times before. Once in possibly poisonous barkamulch in the brand new IKEA parking lot in Emeryville and another time in barkamulch outside the old-folks center near our old apartment in SE Portland. You never know what that barkamulch has been steeped in, or what they spray there to keep the dandelions at bay. We marveled, picked, dissected, and let be. We did not eat. It was so sad.
One other time we hit the morel jackpot is when we were hiking in the Slovenian Alps. We hiked up to a waterfall and stood on the little platform overlooking a startling drop and roaring waterfall. We looked down and there were like TEN huge monstrous beautiful gorgeous perfect amazing black morels clinging to the edge of the cliff. Maybe there were twenty. We made such a scene that I thought one of the German tourists would plunge to his death in an effort to pick them. But sadly no. Only the fairies would be eating those morels for dinner, sauteed with some butter, shallots, maybe a smidge of sherry… (SOB!)
We looked up morel season in our parts and lo! It was like last week! We freaked out and rushed out into the world to harvest them. We got amazingly lucky and the first place we stopped the car all, “This is morel territory if I ever saw it,” like we knew anything at all, we totally found one. Then two more. And that was all. We beat around the brush for a good two hours, until Ronin was totally spazzing, before heading home to saute our booty.
What we’ve been finding are golden morels, which are not as clustered and numerous as the black morel, supposedly. Also, we fear that there is a pretty stiff competition for the little buggers. The first couple of places we went we encountered other mushroomers or signs of mushroomers. That first day, a guy walking his dog came sauntering down the dirt road where we were parked illegally. He howdy-ed at us and asked nonchalantly if we were looking for mushrooms. We were all in a frizz after finding that first mushroom and hadn’t noticed him until he was right there; we must have looked very guilty or something as we stammered that um, yes, we um were… Then he told us that he had seen a lot of mushroomers recently but they were always focusing on the trees over near the river, not where we were looking. We took his advice with a huge brick of salt (mushroomers are known for being very territorial when it comes to hot patches). Then we found two more right where we were looking to begin with. Nice try, dude. We’re totally coming back next year. (Turned out he lived just down the road.)
Morel Hunt #2 found us along the banks of the Sandy River. We spent a long time looking where there surely MUST be morels, just look at the surroundings! But no. Ronin was mostly cooperative but usually only one of us could actively look while the other had to watch to be sure she didn’t dive into the river. We found two very large mushrooms this time. We also saw a few obvious mushroomers. One guy was actually whacking his way through the brush with a big stick and a large bag. We were sort of jealous but Ronin wanted to get sand on her hands, then wash it off in the river, then get sand on her hands, then wash it off in the river, then get sand on her hands… We literally carried her away kicking and screaming when we had to leave.
Hunt #3 was the most successful, not only in the volume of morels we found but in keeping Ronin happy and not melting down. It helped that there was neither a rushing river for her to fling herself into, nor was there a dangerous road for her to give me a heart attack on. We had nice meandering paths through the tall grass. And, if we were really lucky, maybe we would see a BUNNY in the grass!! We are bad, bad parents.
But it worked. Ronin was not only buzzed with excitement about the possibility of seeing a bunny, she actually kept up with us and helped look (maybe bunnies like to hide in the brush alongside the trail! And uh let us know if you see a mushroom while you are at it). She was pretty happy the entire time. We found two past-prime snatches of morels and one nice one, which was gratifying but we wondered if it’s maybe getting too late in the season. Every time Ronin stopped for too long, Joshua would shout from up ahead, “Ronin, let’s look up HERE for some bunnies!” and she’s take off running.
We found a nice park with a playground and Ronin played on the slide for a while before we started back. She was less enthusiastic about the return trip and the promise of bunnies was sort of wearing thin. However, I spotted a big morel, and then a few more. Joshua and I were instantly shot through with mushroom fever and started up again with the bunny talk. Ronin wandered off into a little grassy clearing while I scouted around the edge. She started nattering on about the bunnies and I wasn’t really listening to well, saying, “Keep looking, maybe we’ll see one,” and things like that.
After a few minutes Joshua came slowly over to me and said, “Look: she really found a bunny. I can’t believe it!” Ronin was there standing in the clearing, and not six feet away from her was a little bunny munching on grass and giving us all the eye. Ronin was just standing there staring at it and telling us over and over again, “I see a bunny! There’s a bunny right there!” And not only that, but Joshua had only come back because he found a bunny himself down the path a little ways. When Ronin got tired of this bunny, we could just head over and check out the other bunny. Which is what we did.
In all, it was a good day. We’ll remember that spot.
[Organic hemp mushroom bag abandoned (empty) in the woods by hippies and scored by Joshua, who will never learn when it comes to picking up strange bags in unexpected places.]