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.


Anonymous said...

Aaahhhh! I live in the Pacific NW - we have oyster galore, almost year round and we have chanterelles in the fall, but nary a morel. We've found some false morels and just a couple of months ago I found an exposed truffle (too old), but again, no morels...

I've heard that they've been seen on this side of the mountains (as we Western Washingtonians say),but not by us.

An acquaintance of mine from Idaho, saw last years "big haul" of chants and said to me, "I've never had those before, we always had those ones that look like brains. All you had to do was walk out your back door." (Bitch...)


Anonymous said...

Sounds like we have the same daydreams but with a different cast of details.

In our area it is Ponderosa Pines, particularly ones that have been charred in a recent fire, that cause us to swerve off the road. We forgo the paper and pencil by creating a "Waypoint" in the GPS. Lastly our visions don't begin until late April and usually are not tangibly fulfilled until mid May.

No matter how, where or when the frying pan is a constant!


CamoShroomer said...

Before it catches Me??? I have been a prisoner for ages!! I too, can not look at a snow covered woods and dream of them there and plot my ways in & out. Then reality sets back in as I attempt to get back on the road. Hurry up spring while I still have a vehicle

ahistory said...

You folks out west have it good in my book. If you can track down fire burn morels you can really hit the motherlode.
I have only hunted out west once, in the mountains around Mt. Rainier outside of Seattle. It was mid-June and the rains were unusually absent. The entire two weeks I was there, I only saw one shower and it lasted all of 20 minutes.
However, I did manage to find some natural black morels but only due to the fact that a local mushroom hunter was kind enough to show me around. So there are morels to be, juts keep looking and try to get tips if you can (though I think we all know how much you can trust a morel hunter about where to look, even family will send you on a wild goose chase).
I envy you guys with your nearly year round hunting and with the one mushroom we don't seem to find in Missouri, the procini or King Bolete. There have been a few reported to be found in this state but the finds are very sparse, like decades apart and only one or two mushrooms. So, naturally the King is at the top of my "to find" list and I hope someday I can head back out to the Pacific North West and finally check that one off my life list.

Anonymous said...

You've now made it that much harder for us to wait for spring! Here we are only five weeks from Morel season. I can't take this waiting much longer! If this "el-nino" cool and wet weather pattern continues we may be waiting even longer. :(

Anonymous said...

When I was a Kid I found Morels around Hedge Trees. Am I the only Person to find them there?