Golden Chanterelles and Amethyst Deceivers, and also Dave Matthews
After a couple of weeks of steady rain, a break in the weather made for a mushrooming opportunity. Adam and I headed for the hills -- specifically (but not too specifically) up beyond Skykomish on Highway 2 in the northern part of Washington State -- only a couple of hours from Seattle. Our objective: to see if any chanterelles were surviving and thriving in our super-wet fall weather.
The answer was a resounding "yes". We struck fungal gold almost immediately, walking into a quiet forest, thickly carpeted with moss, and filled with an incredible diversity of mushrooms, including the highly prized chanterelle. I love finding chanterelles -- they look almost illuminated, standing gold and bright against a the typically dark and muted colors of the forest floor.
I experience a special awareness when I'm on the prowl for mushrooms. I think putting myself in a forest, searching and scanning for a particular foodstuff, triggers really deep human skills and abilities -- those of the hunter-gatherer. Friends, we are made for this. We can pick up subtle patterns, colors, and textures with our eyeballs, sift through the smells of the forest with our noses, and detect the songs of birds and the sound of wind through the trees with our ears. Some mushroom hunters describe getting "the sight" when chasing a particular mushroom. It's when the hunter locks in on the specific visual patterns of the mushroom they are seeking, and suddenly sees them with ease and clarity. It's a thrill -- just look at Adam's face :).
Chanterelles weren't the only thing in bloom. Also growing in abundance was...well, every other mushroom. Seriously, it was a showcase out there. We were pretty happy to run into a couple of specific varieties though. Below, the Amethyst Deceiver -- perhaps one of the best names in fungi. It is so called because as it ages, or dries, it loses that beautiful purple hue you see below and becomes a rather dull brown.
While working down a slope, I heard a yelp behind me, then the sounds of Adam running downhill (through thick brush), all the while yelling "Wait! Wait! Wait!" He wasn't yelling for me to wait, it turns out, but instead hoping that the the incredible cauliflower mushroom he had just spied wasn't going to disappear before his eyes. This speciman weighed in at nearly 8 pounds. Adam, while laying next to it for scale, is also marking the GPS coordinates of the thing -- these particular mushrooms will reappear annually.
Oh, and also Dave Matthews. When we started our little outing we were the only car in the trailhead parking lot. On returning to the car, however, we found another party -- five adults, three kids, and a couple of dogs -- preparing to head out on their own mushrooming adventure. One of those adults: Dave Matthews -- yeah, that one. It happens sometimes that, living in Seattle, one might expect to run into the famous musician, but I was hardly expecting to find him with a bucket in hand looking for mushrooms. Adam and I played it cool, which was easy as Adam had no idea who he was. He introduced himself as David. We made small talk, showed off some of our mushroom haul, and bid them a good day of mushroom hunting.
After another couple of hours of picking, and weighed down with our own successful hauls, we returned again to the parking area. And soon enough, so did the other group. We compared picking notes, and then all packed into their respective vehicles and waved goodbye.
You really never know what you're going to find when you're out hunting mushrooms.