Monday, February 22, 2010

Waking up from Winter - Day Trip Daydreams

I know it has been quite a while since my last post, but when the mushrooms disappear in winter, my mind turns to other things, mainly everything I neglect during the rest of the year while out wandering in the woods. Besides, now is the time when I do all of my spring cleaning. During spring, the only things I clean are morels on their way to the frying pan (Oh and occasionally I'll clean the frying pan).

Speaking of spring, I was down in Springfield last week when it was nearly 50 degrees. I could catch hints of spring in the air and knew it would be just a weeks before the woods start to come back to life. Something that was confirmed on my ride home as I found the true first harbinger of spring, a bothersome fly, buzzing around my head the whole ride back to Mid-MO.

As I drove back, I found myself noting elms and other known suspects along the way. You know how it is. You are driving along minding your own business and on the horizon amidst a small stand of trees is that alluring alluvial fan rising from the forest floor. Your mind races to past motherlodes, 25, 50, 100, 300 all under glorious elms. As you get closer you remind yourself of all the other elms you have seen that have produce nothing. But as it nears you see those peeling signs that this tree's bounty could be yet to come. And then you nearly drive off the road looking for pen and paper so you can write down the closest mile marker as a reminder of where to stop. Like you'll need one, just look for the rubber on the road. Come spring, many a prime tree are well marked by tire marks from cars screeching to a halt to pull over and check them out.

As the sun set and trees faded from the side of the road, except for a few right on the edge illuminated by my headlights, my mind began to focus on the primary question on every hunters mind right now. When will I find them first? This age old question is the foundation of much morel speculation, and I am sure that in some back room of Vegas or Atlantic City or perhaps even Boyne City, you can place a bet as to when you will find the first morel. I would have already started a website devoted to such bets and been a rich man, I am sure, except I have yet to figure out how to make people prove it. I considered requiring fresh samples, which at first seemed like a great idea, as I would get to sample the proof. But have you ever tried to get a die-hard morel hunters first morels of the season. No matter how many you find that first day, be it 2 or 200, there is not a one you can spare. Actually, discussing ways people prove their first finds is a good future topic, so I'll leave that alone for now.

By the end of the drive back from Springfield, I was beginning to see morel shaped constellations in the stars and I knew the fever had begun. Cabin fever is one thing, but it is nothing like morel fever--a steadily growing psychosis that begins in March and leads you to shun work, family, friends, and everything else. Early symptoms include: sudden urges to take long walks in very out-of-the-way places; increasing paranoia that someone else is walking your patch; and a driving hunger that only a handful of blacks, grays, or yellows can satisfy. Watch out, in the Midwest it is spreading faster than swine or bird flu ever could reaching pandemic proportions by mid-April. It is only a matter of time before it catches you.