More determined than ever to find some morels after I wrote my last blog, we planned a mushroom hunting excursion and arranged for some friends to join us. The weekend began with rain that fell for over 24 hours straight, but Sunday dawned calm, sunny skies. The hunt would be on.
Sunday afternoon the vehicle was loaded with four adults, two ten year olds, buckets, bags, knives and bottles of water. We set out on a half hour drive to a remote area pulling up to a piece of property where we¹d been told mushrooms had been spotted. As we parked, we observed a blue heron lounging on a rock in a small pond. Was this a good luck sign? We all got out and headed towards the woods. The drumming of ruffed grouse was our background noise. The warm temperature with an easy breeze lulled us into a relaxed mood. When we didn¹t find a mushroom we walked a bit further along a stream. Bingo! Morels. The excitement had begun. There wasn¹t an abundance but enough to keep us going. My 10 year old commented that this was much more fun than he¹d imagined – better even than deer hunting.
We crossed the stream and walked toward the road. Then we realized that we had inadvertently stumbled upon Nature Conservancy land. The sign read ³no collecting.² Panic set in. Mushroom hunting sure seemed like collecting. Had we just made a huge mistake?
We decided to try another area since we were unsure that we could mushroom hunt where we were. We hit two more tracts of land where we suspected the presence of morels and found some everywhere we went, not many but enough. Our buckets and bags filled with mushrooms adding up to a successful hunt.
We stopped once more on our way home at another piece of Nature Conservancy land. It was fun to walk about, observe and experience the land. Here we saw another kind of mushroom (see photo below) . [From the brief research I conducted I believe these are gem-studded Puffballs, but I¹d love to know if someone can confirm or correct me.] Surprisingly, I learned that fresh gem-studded puffballs are edible. Who knows what we could have collected if we¹d had a little more knowledge?
On our way home we pulled off upwards of 100 ticks – more ticks than I¹ve seen in my entire life. Ticks thrive in warm, moist weather. Wildlife numbers are high so I assume that the tick population is also higher than average. Positive conditions for wildlife equal positive conditionsfor ticks? Seems likely. Plus more sources for ticks to feed on. All I know for sure is that I have never seen anything like the number of ticks crawling on our group after spending a few hours in the brush and woods.
The next morning my husband found 25 more ticks in our laundry and throughout the day we continued to discover a few more. It was incredible. For days I couldn¹t shake the feeling that something was crawling on me. Later we called an acquaintance who works for the Nature Conservancy and found out that mushroom hunting doesn’t fall under “collecting”. If we¹d been out gathering butterflies or orchids, for example, we would have been in trouble. Whew! What a relief.
Our tick experience was not fun, but our time mushroom hunting in the Great Outdoors was an enjoyable way to spend the day. The fresh air, a relaxed hike with friends and family mixed with the thrill of the hunt made for a carefree Sunday afternoon – an experience that we¹d love to repeat soon.
Kristin Eggerling is a board member for Conservation Minnesota Voter Center, the mother of two, and a freelance writer in northwestern Minnesota.