Sunday, February 27, 2011


Driving back from the coast today, I had to stop and take a hike in Jackson State Forest. I planned on taking a quick look around, but of course, ended up spending a couple of hours scanning the forest floor for mushrooms.
I remember watching an excerpt from Ken Burn's National Parks documentary last year, and Shelton Johnson, the Yosemite Park Ranger, made a comment about some mountains having charisma. (He was referring to Half Dome.) I think the same is true of trees. Some trees have charisma, and one can't help but be drawn to them. The above tree is one such specimen. A quiet giant. I walked up to it and said, "Wow!"

To my disappointment, the other side of the trunk had the word "CUT" spray painted on it. Logging is common in this forest, so I imagine this magnificent tree will see the end of it's long life fairly soon. It's really hard to believe in some ways.
Despite wandering around for a while, mushrooms were few and far between. I thought that due to the recent rain, there would be more to see.
About two hours into my hike, I met a man on one of the logging roads who seemed as surprised to see me as I was to see him. (He was the first person I've seen walking back here after a couple of trips.) He was an older man, with an accent that sounded Irish. He had a backpack and a bucket.
"Are you looking for mushrooms?" I asked.
"Yes, I've been coming back here for twenty two years picking mushrooms."
He proceeded to show me some of the mushrooms he had picked.
"Here you can have these," he said.
I recognized the mushrooms he put in my hand.
"Can I eat them raw?" I asked.
"No, no, not unless you want to risk a slow, painful death," he grinned.
I gave them back to him and explained to him that I probably was not going to cook them up. He then showed me his backpack that was filled with pounds of mushrooms.
"I've got a few choice places back here where I like to forage," he said without going into detail.
Just like great trails and camping spots, I had to smile and appreciate the man's desire to protect his favorite spots, and could not help but feel more drawn to discovering the secrets of the mushrooms!

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