Friday, December 3, 2010


I just finished reading a book called "Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice" by Mark J. Plotkin a couple of days ago. The first line that caught my eye when reading the book's description was when the author described that every time a shaman dies in the rainforest, it's like a whole library burns down. Basically, the author went to the Amazon in the 80's and 90's to study the indigenous people and their medicinal uses of the plants in the rainforest. In return, he agreed to give the people a written record of all the plants he studied so they could pass the knowledge down to future generations.

Huckleberries in Washington

Indie and I had numerous discussions while hiking the trail. One thing we talked about was food. By food I'm not referring to Spam, trail mix, or Mac and Cheese (although we did discuss burgers, ice cream and pizza cravings!), I'm talking about food in the forest. On one hand, I felt empowered by the sense of freedom and independence the trail life bestowed on me. On the other hand, a sense of discouragement arose inside the more I realized how dependent I was on store bought food. Other than raspberries, fish, miner's lettuce, huckleberries, and deer, I was clueless to identify any sort of food source while hiking. Just as learning the names of numerous wildflowers in the San Gabriel's opened my eyes last year to the variety of plants in the forest, I imagined how empowering it would be to see the woods as my grocery and hardware store, rather than a blank canvass which it so often seems to be for me. The only way that mental shift could occur would be to know the uses of the plants.

When Indie and I were hiking in Oregon, we crossed paths with a group of Ukrainian men picking mushrooms in the forest. Each man had a 5 gallon bucket filled with shrooms. They were growing everywhere. Indie, who is also Ukrainian, described how many of these people are taught as kids to identify the mushrooms in their homeland. Because they can be so lethal, the knowledge must be exact. Oh, to have that understanding! We often discussed how nice it would be to throw some fresh forest mushrooms into our dinners at night!

1 comment:

  1. It's a shame I didn't catch up to you in Washington. For weeks, Black Gum and I were feasting on wild mushrooms by the pound!

    Boletes, chantarelles, lactarius, hericium, and puffballs, to name a few. Some days it was hard to keep hiking because there were so many interesting and tasty mushrooms growing right next to the trail.