...went out for an evening drive 50 miles to the site of a forest fire that occured last summer, then hiking down a hill, across a creek and up onto the ridge across, in search of a few morel mushrooms, hoping to be lucky enough to find enough to eat with dinner the following evening, prepared to go home empty handed.
At first, we found only "fairies cups and bowls" as E called them, a good sign anyways. So we made our way past where other pickers had already trompsed through, up into higher, cooler, and wetter ground where the morels were still flushing out. E found some (peeking out from under the log just to the right of his knees) but mostly wandered around between the other three of us, regaling us with stories of morel monsters, old dwarves living in the woods, mermaids and mermen living on rocks in the creek, and coming away covered head to toe in black charcoal. Half the time he called the morels "maroons."
R wandered further away yet still within sight (mid picture on the left), or at least within hearing of his repeated whistling of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", and finding a good share of the mushrooms we came home with that night.
Perhaps, somewhere deep down, he still remembers the year he was one and a half and I brought him out picking with me most days over the course of a couple of weeks? I would time my driving with his naptime and then pick right alongside the road while he slept, then mostly carrying him on my back while keeping him appeased with crackers and juice slowly doled out. Even then he could toddle along with me for awhile, crawling under some of the downed trees, being carried over the bigger ones, and correctly spotting, and then picking the mushrooms. One difference is that back then I carried baby wipes in the car so clean up afterwards was easier!
Morels are notorious masters of disguise, even in good light.
Clusters with this many are not as common as we'd like.
Frequently they are found underneath fallen logs and branches where rain water has dripped down and provided enough moisture. Sometimes they have that classic bell shape (left). Nearly as often they are rather squished and flat from growing out from under a fallen log (right) Can you spot them in the two pictures above? Try clicking for a closer look, or here on Flickr.
As the sun dropped lower in the sky, we turned back, but searching and picking still as we made our way back down the hill to the creek bed (finding that we'd climbed far further than we we'd thought),
crossing on a log jam,
and arriving back at the car by 9:00 pm with our haul of about 5 gallons! (Two full plastic grocery bags bulging to nearly their breaking point are not pictured here.) More than enough for dinner. More than I found in the entire two weeks I'd picked 7 years ago.
There is plenty to share and eat while they're fresh, sauteed with wine and butter (or marg. or olive oil). The rest we dry, and later reconstitute with water, making sure to save enough for turkey stuffing at Thanksgiving.
Such abundance. Such treasure. Such beauty. Such fun together.
More morel hunting adventures from the weekend to come...