Saturday, February 25, 2006

Tree Hugging and Mushroom Hunting

The weather had been erratic, first very warm and then extremely cold, followed by rain and snow in the higher elevations. So, when we left Santa Rosa on a sunny Saturday morning for a trip up the coast to go mushroom hunting, it didn't occur to me that it might be raining when we got there. But lo and behold, within 5 minutes of our arrival at Salt Point State Park the rains came. I was starting to beat myself up for not remembering rain gear, except umbrellas, when I mentioned my dilemma to another mushrooom forager. Suddenly there were 4 extra rain ponchos from 3 different people and all 4 of us, including my sister, her boyfriend and my son Shane, were covered.

Almost miraculously, as we started hiking in the forest the rain eased up, the sun shone through trees and the mushrooms were visible. Donna and Phil had never been hunting before and we had 2 experienced pickers with us - mycochef Patrick Hamilton and his friend Kathy.

We mostly picked on steep inclines. It was defnitely slippery as the underbrush was wet. At one point, I was hiking down toward some mushrooms and grabbed onto a small tree. It broke and I found myself hurtling down the hill. The next thing that I knew, I had my arms on either side of a large tree and was hugging it. I was still trying to figure out exactly what happened and knew that slamming into a tree saved me from breaking my neck as I was flying down the hill. And I am willing to admit in any case that I am a tree-hugging sort. I was incredibly thankful. The best part was that only Phil witnessed what happened which I am sure was something that could win on America's funniest home videos.

After picking pounds of black trumpet, oyster, and yellow foot mushrooms we were quite happy to return to our spot and have a wonderful pot luck lunch. We ate outside under a very large suspended tarp which protected us from the rain but not from the cold - it was only 39 degrees F. which is record setting in my part of the world. (I know that for some of you that would be balmy.) After lunch we headed home down beautiful Highway 1, driving in the alternating rain and sun.

The trip would have been uneventful if a cow had not decided to just wander into the road in front of my car which luckily was not going very fast (which is almost impossible considering the hairpin turns).

We arrived home, happy to be indoors and out of the car. I was a bit bruised but well enough to prepare mushrooms which took some time. We had sauteed black trumpet with smoked salt, and oyster mushrooms both roasted and sauteed. The oyster mushroms were a wonderful addition to the Thai red curry butternut squash and tofu that I prepared the previous night.

Donna and Phil took some mushrooms with them to turn into sandwiches for their plane trip home.

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