Friday, December 25, 2009
Foraging for mushrooms on skis
Yes, the esculent Gyromitra Gigas (Montanas) does grow near melting snowbanks in the Spring in the higher Sierran elevations.About twenty years ago, I was up at the cabin (elevation 6700 feet) in early May and there was still a great deal of skiable snow. The old logging roads were still covered and the weather was warm--in the 60s. I decided to do a solo ski tour up to a ridge and down over the other side through a valley I knew well from summer hikes that would take me down to a campground by the highway, not far from the road up to the cabins. The first part of the adventure was beautiful; the Spring snow was full of glide but slow enough to control one's descent, and the few falls I had only served to exilerate -I was wearing shorts and a tee shirt!
As I lost elevation I noticed the snow cover diminishing rapidly. I found myself walking with my skis on over dry patches of forest floor--pine needles began to adhere to my waxed ski bottoms. But this slow down in progress allowed me to gaze around and scan the forest floor which was gradually becoming more revealed. Sure enough, I spotted a trove of tan/golden "Snowbank" helvellas sprouting up next to a patch of old snow. Eureeka! This was like finding gold nuggests in a mountain stream, only better!
It was foolish of me not to realize that as I went further down in elevation I might run out of skiable snow, but the walk-bushwack down to the campground and up the road was a small price to pay for the thrill of the chase; and my quarry, a very delicious mushroom in the morel family,provided me with a sumptuous repast that night.
Although I'd have to admit I find morels the most exquisite spring fungus, the snowbank "brain" mushroom is always welcome in my basket, and they are so stunning to come across, especially while skiing.