“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.”
Whether you’re coming into Seattle or exiting the city stage left, there’s one piece of nature that simply towers over the rest, sitting pristine and pretty at 14.1 thousand feet above sea level. We know it now as Mount Rainier, but past indigenous tribes proudly remember and revere it was Tahoma, or Tacoma.
Located about sixty miles southeast of Seattle, the spectacular – and active! – stratovolcano has become a larger than life icon of the Pacific Northwest landscape. Made of alternating layers of lava, ash and pyroclastic ejecta flows, Mount Rainier effortlessly towers over the rest of the Cascade Mountain Range with 26 major glaciers and 36 square miles of permanent sparkling snowfields, earning its status as the most glaciated mountain peak in the contiguous United States. At the top of the summit, the geothermic heat spewing from a duo of volcanic craters prevents the rims from getting snowed in or iced over, forming the world’s largest glacial cave network of ice-filled craters.
While the current top formation of Mount Rainier is estimated to be approximately 500,000 years old, the mountain and the entire Cascade Volcanic Arc is considered part of the ‘Lily Formation’ and spans from roughly 840,000 years old to a whopping 2.6 Million years old. Many eons and moons ago, it’s purported that Rainier was around 16k feet high – but with increased volcanic activity around 5,600 years ago around 3600 B.C., the volcano erupted, removing the top 2k feet and causing the northeast side of the mountain to collapse. Now known as the Osecola Lahar – or mudflow, a wall of mud, rock and debris over 100′ high cascaded over land and into the waters of the Puget Sound, nearly 50 miles away. Though small eruptions have happened since with a frequency of every few hundred years, the last major eruption of Rainier was about 1000 years ago – to which many geologists say, we could be due for a ‘big’ one, and it could be absolutely disastrous to the whole planet.
“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.”
Home to dozens of roaring rivers, reflection ponds and lavish lakes, the spectacle of the park shimmers and sparkles in full color from every which direction. Boasting assorted entrances, a plethora of unique micro-climates, and dozens of viewpoints and over 130 interpretive trail descriptions – you can essentially guarantee a completely new trip with each visit. I happened to fall in love with the park in a little under six hours, but with multiple lodges and camping spots on site, not to mention the vast amount of hotels around the base of the park, you can completely make a weekend of your visit while you marinate in every last inch of wildlife.
“Of all the fire-mountains which, like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.”
With the velocity and veracity of shifting weather patterns, not to mention changes in altitude as you traverse the mountain – it’s also entirely possible to experience every season within a full days adventure. During our stay the other weekend, we were greeted by ambient low level clouds, only to peter out into gloriously clear sunshine at Sunrise Ridge, then a hail storm as we etched our way around the mountain, followed by an intense game of hide and seek with a bog of fog, and finally one of the most glorious lightning storms I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting under. That said – word to the wise, pack enough extra clothing that you can be warm and dry if the rain starts in, or have a tank top and shorts for when the sun finally manages to break through the day.
For more on Mount Rainier, head to their website or social channels – or simply pack a bag, and plan a visit!
Hiding around every corner of Seattle, from the coastline into the heart of the city in all directions are glorious amounts of open, public green space. The Trust for Public Land ranked Seattle as the 11th best city for parks, and fourth on the West Coast – and I wholeheartedly agree. Boasting over 485 natural areas and parks – and growing, city parks come in at around 6,400 acres, with a whopping 96% of Seattle residents able to walk to a local park in ten minutes or less.
Befit with sports fields swimming pools, marshes, rivers and beaches, BBQ pits, boat launches, a plethora of winding paths and a menagerie of wildlife, the local lore at the parks just keeps me coming back for more, and more. With a new sense of childlike wonder and amazement since moving up to Seattle in February, I’ve made it a goal to explore and enjoy as many of the open spaces as possible; and I can’t wait to share my favorites with y’all – of course!
Just a hop, skip and a little run from our home, the University of Washington sits in pristine location – and features multiple parks on site, each with a stellar view of Mt. Rainer and the waterfront. From the North East, you’ll first meet Yesler Swamp which is managed by the Center for Urban Horticulture. Back at the turn of the last century, the area used to be known as the Yesler Sawmill, until it was bought by the University. After the sawmill burnt down in the 1920’s, the area went unchanged for almost seventy years until a graduate student project revitalized the area and turned it back into a nature preserve.
The swamp is full of critters, including plenty of ducks, geese, egrets, blue herons and even beavers!
Winding across the walkways and into the heart of campus, you’ll get dumped out at the Center for Urban Horticulture’s Soset Garden and Fragrance Garden; and yes, it is indeed a delectable smell!
If you’re willing to take the path less traveled, there are some neat graduate projects standing in the woods – you’ll just have to go out on a limb and find them! My favorite is this little stained glass booth, perfect for meditation or journaling in the midst of the woods.
And now, you’re well on your way into Union Bay on a variety of different foot and bike paths. From there, you’ll get a fantastic view of Mt. Rainer and Bellevue, not to mention the UW Football Stadium and Lake Washington. The paths are lined with native plants, and as Spring keeps making headway – there have been so many more blooms, including these wild roses which are abundant with all sorts of bees.
As I dive deeper into nature and wildlife photography, I’ve been depending more on my telephoto lens, and believe you me – animal are fucking difficult to capture, let alone for a crisp snap.
It’s curated my patience, knowing that I will definitely not get the photo I want in one shot; it’s made me slow down and listen to the sounds of the world, which happen to be an excellent giveaway if you’re tracking down an animals. With the beaver above: if I hadn’t heard branches crash into the water, I would have never known he was around. Lastly, it’s inspired me to grow, mentally, emotionally and physically – to carry around a Canon 6D and four lenses at all times, to know when to use which lens and which settings to find quickly. I have an infinite amount of respect for others in the same field.
Last but certainly not least, for all the ornithophiles out there; these photos are for the birds! How many can you identify for yourselves?
Do you have any tips or tricks to getting stellar nature photography? Is there one centralized location near you that you can literally find all the flora, fauna and furry friends? Let me know in the comments below!
For more on Union Bay and Yesler Swamp, peep these links:
Moving up to Seattle, one thing that I wasn’t prepared for is the mammoth amount of biodiversity that the entire state has to offer. On a Macro Level, Washington State has an incredibly unique and diverse ecological footprint. The West Coast oscillates between a Mediterranean Climate over the Summer and a blustery, Marine West Coast Climate over the Winter. Nestled on the top North West corner, the Olympic National Forest is home to 4 distinct rain forests, the Hoh, Queets, Bobchiel and Quinault; the Hoh Rain Forest ranks as one of the largest temperate rain forests in the United States, let alone the North West. On the flip side of the Cascade Mountains, which act as a rainshadow, Eastern Washington boasts a vast high desert featuring a dry, arid climate that includes the Juniper Dunes Wilderness and Channeled Scablands, both carved out of land that acted as a flood basin during the last Ice Age until multiple cataclysmic floods washed through the region. All things this girl is excited to explore!
Dropping into a micro level, Seattle proper is an oceanic seaport city that sits comfortably between Elliot Bay, Lake Washington and the Puget Sound which provide some sanctity from extreme heat and cold, while the geoclimate features a wonderful range of local flora and fauna. Moving at the end of the Winter Season means that we’re prepping for the glorious weeks of Spring then Summer, and you best believe this California Kitten is ready to frolic in the succulent sunshine. But, rain, shine or clouds – every second I can, I’ve been exploring nooks and crannies of the area with a sense of childlike wonder and amazement: the weather has ensured everything is lush and lavish, with parks on literally every corner. Not to mention, the myriad of bays, cuts, rivers, sounds and lakes give way to infinite amounts of waterway views. Every day, you could explore a new partition of the area – and lookup parks, or gardens, and find you’re surrounded by enough to have to make a game time decision; and that’s exactly how we happened upon the Bellevue Botanical Garden.
Just a hop, skip and a jump over the freeway from Seattle proper by bridge sits an urban oasis sprawling over 53 acres of gorgeous landscaping; complete with both restored and natural wetlands and woodlands, alongside expertly cultivated and curated gardens. We came across it quite by accident and in the middle of Winter, the landscape gave way to vibrant flowers, and buds just itching for the right amount of sunlight to get their bloom on; and I can’t wait to visit again on purpose and revel in the flowers’ maturation.
Back in 1981, a couple by the name of Cal and Harriet Shorts deeded over seven acres of land, as well as their home, to the city of Bellevue in hopes of creating an arboretum and public park in the heart of the city. A little over three years later, the Jewett family were inspired to create a Botanical Garden on the property; with the city, and the Shorts, approval, the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society was launched to create the Garden itself, while the city added ten additional acres to the already blossoming landscape. Fast forward to 1989, and Bellevue managed to incorporate 19 more acres of land surrounding the Shorts estate – bringing the acreage up to 36; and finally, in 2006, the Botanical Gardens reached their current 56 acres with assistance of the city.
Now one of Bellevue’s most popular destinations, the Botanical Gardens has a menagerie of habitats, from woodlands and meadows, to natural wetlands and gorgeous display gardens, like the Japanese inspired Yao Garden, the Lost Meadow Trail and fuchsia, dahlia and rock gardens. With ample space to stroll, and lose yourself in this delicious slice of nature.
This garden is such a hidden gem, that even though we were there to gallivant through it on a Sunday, it felt like we were the only ones there; it was glorious! What are your favorite hidden gems in your city?
For more on the Bellevue Botanical Garden, head to their social channels or simply pay them a visit – I promise, it’s a worthy afternoon and you will not be disappointed.
“All of us humans have myriad other species to thank. Without them, we couldn’t exist. It’s that simple, and we can’t afford to ignore them, anymore than I can afford to neglect my precious wife–nor the sweet mother Earth that births and holds us all. Without us, Earth will abide and endure; without her, however, we could not even be.” ― Alan Weisman, The World Without Us
Ever since moving to Seattle just a few weeks ago, it’s as if someone has toggled a switch in my personality; or maybe, it’s simply been unswitched. Much like a piece of electronics that you have to turn off to get working again, it feels as though my brain, soul and heart desperately needed the peace and quiet of Corvallis to get back into a roaring, working mode. After ten years of a go-go-go lifestyle in Los Angeles, it felt not just good – but necessary – to get back to basics; to remove the external noise and exorbitant amount of influences and return to my personal baseline. It’s a baseline that’s devoid of self-doubt and low-esteem, yet eager for adventure with an open mind and wide eyes, ready to swallow scenery and waft in wanderlust from each and every corner of this beautiful, new state – both figuratively and literally.
After falling head over heels for the city during the week of new years eve, it took us less than two months to get a job in the city and find a new place to call home. And now after two weeks of living here, it truly feels like home. There’s a natural ebb and flow to the world around, and instead of fighting against the current we’re giving into the ride; so far, it’s been a beautiful one. The weather has been in our favor with the sun shining down and barely any clouds in the sky; it’s a brisk Spring, but it’s clear and lovely. Now that I’ve gotten to know the area a bit better, I’ve made a point of gallivanting around and exploring the greenery the city has to offer; one of my first stops – the post-apocalyptic looking Gas Works Park located in near the Fremont area, on the North Shore of Lake Union.
A former coal gasification plant from Seattle’s Gas Light Company from 1906-56, Gas Works Park has seen a splendid second life as a refurbished public play area – and is possibly best known as the location of the glorious paintball fight with Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You (because, childhood). Both a Seattle and Washington State landmark, Gas Works Park spans well over 20 acres, the park boasts a stunning landscape featuring f rolling, green hills – culminating in Kite Hill, which – you guessed it – is great for flying kites, ample shoreline and a panoramic view of Downtown Seattle.
Now that the coal aspect is defunct, the industrial pieces have been preserved, as well as “taken back”, by nature. Once you can look past the chain-link fence, pieces of metal that once roared into animate life all their own now feature vines, shrubs and trees weaving and winding their way through what’s left of the plant, and various amounts of graffiti art tagged around every corner. As the sunlight shifts and shines through the complex, the air breathes life into a scene that at one time was anything but truly living; making it easy to fathom that plenty of post-apocalyptic entertainment, ranging from TV shows like Incorporated and movies ranging from Divergent to The Hunger Games, garnered their inspiration from scenes such as this. With ample room for roaming, running and recreation, Gas Works Park is a wonderful romp of urban decay sprawled in the midst of a booming tech economy.
Though the water’s chemical makeup doesn’t bode well for swimmers, you can kayak or paddle board your way through Lake Union and take the area in, in all it’s splendor.
What are some of your favorite haunts in Seattle? Let me know in the comments below! For more on Gas Works Park, head to their website and socials:
The last year has been an exciting, invigorating – but trying year; there were a lot of changes, a lot of gives and takes – but most of all there was growth out of the little cocoon that I called my former life, giving birth to the butterfly of now. There were step backs and set backs, but they were all but beyond necessary for the growth I’ve incurred over the last few months. You see, a writer through and through – I’ve more or less bypassed writer’s block over the past two years and have gone straight into a mental cryogenic freeze. Sure, there’s output – but it’s been bland, boring, unsentimental and void of any emotional quality I possessed. All the while – in tandem – my husband and I have been seeking the unknown in search of a better life. Until recently, I honestly hadn’t paired the two together though I understand now they’re forever tied together – moving, changing, adapting, evolving, repeating. The more we’ve moved, the more I’ve caught us shedding the layers of our former selves as we get rid of our excess baggage, both figuratively and literally.
Until this year, and aside from moving to and away from college – I’ve only had the mental capacity to imagine a move within the same city. Fast forward to now, and over the last six months, we’ve moved states – twice; and to boot, we’ve done it with five cats in tow.
The why is equally interesting, but this is (mostly) about the how: how did we seamlessly transition from a big city, to a small town and then back into a big city; how did we stay on top of the bureaucracy of moving and updating the right sources; and how did we make sure we had all our ducks in a row? By keeping an organized, open mind about our future; by making lists and listening to our parents and peers.
The House Hunt
About once a day, if not more frequently, I catch myself praising the internet; I’ve never had to look for places to live without it, and I surely can’t imagine doing that now. Moving up to Oregon, we lucked out with a family friend and didn’t have to pay much thought to being on the housing grind; needless to say, our move to Seattle was quite different. Though incredibly similar, we were finding suitable digs on a bevvy of sites from Zillow to Trulia, Redfin and Apartments.com; and thanks to phone notifications, we were virtually checking out new places every other hour. The most useful of the above for us was Zillow – with ample metrics to search on, ways to draw your search area instead of using a zip code or the polygon method, and a beautifully ergonomic way of laying out their website.
Once you have a handful of winners handy, get your schedule out and make a day or two of it. While you’re there, find a restaurant or coffee shop in the neighborhoods you’re considering to eat at and muse to yourself on if you could see yourself being a regular, stride into a bar to grab a quick drink and soak up some local lore, or take a walk around a park or through the downtown area to really get a feel for living there. However, if you can’t make it in to see the area before you move – don’t throw yourself into a lease without loving it! Airbnb for Work offers a new way to acclimate to a new city, with pre-furnished locations that can be rented for extended periods of time; which gives you the mental space to find the right place to call home.
Caution: One thing we noticed while house hunting were some Craigslist Scams, with places we’d found on Zillow or Trulia for half the market price; and we learned that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. You’ll get an email with a sob story or tale of altruism, either way it will feel so intimate that you also let your guard down. Then then’ll ask for the money via mail because they are ‘no longer‘ in the area; never ever ever ever send someone money without a formal lease and receiving your keys. Beyond paying for your background screening, money for rentals should never be exchanged until the final walk-through.
Pack It Up, Pack It In
Packing can seem overwhelming – but that’s because we can’t all be like Merlin from The Sword in the Stone. If I could just Higitus Figitus my belongings in under 3 minutes, I would have moved halfway across the world seven times by now; once again Disney is at it with the unrealistic expectations of life, but – I digress. However, with a step-mother who was a professional organizer and a childhood life that had me switching houses every week from the age of 3, one could say I’ve gotten pretty damn good at this part of the moving puzzle.
The first part is the easiest: snagging boxes. For most of your items, bankers boxes do just fine – and since lot of big box stores throw away the packaging, your can get a handful for free (but, make sure you ask!). For item specific, your local U-haul store has exactly what you need in any size you could imagine; glassware, dishware, TV boxes – you name it, they can protect it. As a general rule, the more boxes you have the easier this will be – you can prevent return trips to the store and trying to shove too much into a single box; plus, you can always return your boxes for cash, or donate them to U-haul’s free box bin. Along with the boxes, make sure you have the following: a few rolls of packing tape – it’s the brown one, and it’s twice as strong as the clear tape; a tape gun (you’re welcome); a handful of giant sharpies; and finally twine for when you’re keeping boxes in place once you’ve loaded the car / truck / whichever.
Now that we have the boxes, we’re on to my favorite part; I like to call this ‘The Purge’. Let’s start by marinating on this: not everything you currently have needs to be taken with you, and you don’t have to keep everything that you end up taking with you. Throw a little Marie Kondo into your chaotic life and use this as an excuse to downsize and minimize your belongings into things you need, use or love. If it doesn’t fit in those categories, or as Kondo would say – if it doesn’t inspire happiness – there’s three new categories you can put it in: donate, recycle or trash.
Once you’ve whittled down your wares, it’s time to quite literally pack your shit up. There’s a familiar old adage that the ‘pen is mightier than the sword’ – and that’s doubly true when it comes to packing up your personal belongings. For every box you pack, make sure to write in clearly and in big letters on each and every side of the box; that way, it doesn’t matter how you load it, you’ll know what’s on the inside by the outside. If you want to level up your organization even more, put an itemized list on top of each box so you know what’s in it when you open it, and keep a second copy of that list on you so you know which box is which as you’re unloading on the back end.
Spread the News
Once you find that perfect pad – tell your family, tell your friends, and then you should tell the post office so you can set up your mail forwarding. It’s incredibly simple, and their website has everything you need to get it set up. Beyond USPS, you should also alert the following institutions and businesses to turn on, turn off, or transition your user information. Car Insurance varies from state to state depending on where you live, and each state has their own sales tax; to boot, some places like Oregon have no sales tax – while Washington state doesn’t have a state income tax.
Transfer or Forward Current Services to New Location:
Insurance: Car and Renters / Home Insurance
Bank Accounts and Credit Cards
Stop Service at Current Location, Start New Service at New Location:
Gas / Power / Electricity
Water / Sewer / Garbage
Internet: Did you know that most states won’t let you bring in equipment for other states? Moving to Washington, I didn’t – and had to do a little do-see-do with XFinity to return my Oregon modem and get a new Washington one.
Drivers License and Registration: educate yourself on the driving rules of your new location; though they aren’t going to completely change, it’s important to be up to date on what’s happening.
New Kid on the Block
So, now we’re here – wherever here is; but here isn’t there – you left, uprooted yourself and have replanted yourself with grace, care, and probably a bit of ambient anxiety; because – what now?! You left creature comforts behind for broader, more colorful horizons; maybe you left family behind, a group or two of ambient friendships or maybe just a few amazing friends – either way, you spent your time investing in yourself in your last city and guess what, you developed friendships that made saying goodbye difficult. Good news, saying hello to new friendships and strangers is a lot easier than saying goodbye! Pick 3 to 5 things you enjoy doing, whether it’s going for hikes or finding craft breweries, a nightclub where you can shake that ass all night long to some groovy beats or a gym where you can join a zumba, spin or yoga class. The key is to be honest with yourself about your passions, and you’ll undoubtedly find others who share in them with you.
What are some of your tips and tricks for moving to a new state?
Tucked deep in the heart of Corvallis sits a whimsical wildlife habitat; a home to many seasonal creatures as they make their semi-annual migratory routes. Created back in 1964, the William L Finley National Wildlife Refuge is a preserved natural land area in the Oregon’s greater Willamette Valley and is notorious for the flocks of dusky Canada geese that frequent the landscape. Unlike typical Canadian geese, their dusky cousins nest and mate along the Copper River Delta in Alaska over the Summer and visit the vast acreage of wetlands of the Finley Wildlife Refuge during the colder, Winter months.
One of the last intact wet prairies in the area, the refuge was a reaction to the Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964 which diminished the available natural land for dusky Canadian geese. Fast forward almost forty years and in 2006 the Snag Boat Bend Unit was acquired as a partition of the reserve, adding almost 350 acres of unique, historic habitat to the already sprawling 5,300 acres of wetlands covered by the Finley Reserve.
Beyond the dusky Canadian goose, the William L Finley Wildlife Refuge also plays homebase for a variety of flora, fauna and fowl throughout the year with a handful of habitat regions on site, ranging from wet prairies on the East End to sprawling wetlands off of Muddy Creek, or to the upland Oregon white oak savannas and forests. On any given day, you could run into a menagerie of birds and waterfowl from migratory raptors like the rough-legged hawk to turkey vultures, peregrine falcons, golden and bald eagles, to great horned owls and geese, great blue herons, wood ducks and swans, woodpecker colonies and meadowlarks; not to mention the herds of Roosevelt Elk, blacktailed deer, coyotes and bobcats, alongside pond turtles, red legged frogs and the endangered yet recently re-introduced Fender’s blue butterfly.
For a full spectrum of the Refuge, I highly suggest returning throughout the year. Even though Winter is wonderful to observe the migratory patterns of waterfowl, November marks the beginning of ‘Sanctuary Season’ which closes off the interior or the park for resting animals; the season end on April 1st, and all interior trails are opened once again.
Whether you’re hiking, cycling or simply just observing the world at large, the refuge boasts a menagerie of looping trails and rolling hills throughout the grounds, offering over a handful unique hiking paths that cover over a dozen miles of land. For those looking to stay lazy, fret not – there’s an auto tour route with ample roads for roaming. Posted every now and again, you’ll find neat tidbits and educational facts on the nature and ancient nurture of the area.
Originally, the land was settled by the Kalapuya tribe – a conglomeration of thirteen related tribal groups speaking three distinct languages among themselves; each tribal group inhabited a specific area along and around the Willamette River. With the volcanic Cascade Mountains nearby, tribes around the river effectively fashioned obsidian arrowheads and spears; if you look hard enough, you can still find obsidian artifacts and minerals in the area to this day – including in the grounds of the Wildlife Refuge. On the other end of history, is the Willamette Valley segment of the Applegate Trail, first used in the 1840’s – it’s a more southerly trail than the Oregon Trail sauntered through by European Settlers.
For more on the William L Finley Wildlife Refuge, head to their social channels – or simply go pay them a wonderful visit; I promise, it’s worth it!
What are your favorite spots to observe the wistful, wonderous wildlife in your town? Let me know in the comments below!
Moving to a new city, let alone a brand new state, can be a harrowing task to say the least. A move of any magnitude is a great time to spring clean the mind, but when you’re adjusting to an entirely different location I think it’s important that you take up some hobbies, both new and old, to ease yourself into your new environment while it becomes your new home. Your old hobbies will get you back to basics, back to the core of you – it’ll remind you that home is and always will be in the sacrament of the mind and the spirit of the soul; while your new hobbies will transform your mental state into being present, letting go of the past and who you used to be in order to become who you need to be, who you desire to be. My hobbies back in Los Angeles which are currently filed as ‘something old‘ include writing, sketching, photography, and beadwork; essentially home-based creative activities I could file under “things to do with my hands when bored”.
Post-move, I’ve realized I’m not in Kansas anymore…er…rather, California anymore; I’ve gone from enjoying a keen understanding of the geography, topography and landscape of world around me to having a childlike sense of wonder and amazement about this new natural world around me, and suffice it to say – there’s simply so much to learn about, from nature photography on any of the hundreds of local hikes, to hunting for rare minerals, geocaching and my newest favorite – foraging for fungi.
As you learn to leave and let go of unnecessary mental connections to where you were, you begin to forge new networks, shedding pieces of the life you once had to create yourself anew – mushrooms are very similar; with growth as their only form of mobility, fungi straddle the perpetual edge of life and death, not to mention animal and plant, all the while communicating as one in the mycelial network. Ranging from neutrally colored and more natural, to delightfully vibrant and oddly formed, Fungi are the primary decomposers of earth’s ecosystem, and a wild menagerie of them at that!
These types of mushrooms are championed by the likes of Terence McKenna, infamously quotable ethnobotanist who gave us the ‘Stoned Ape Theory‘, internationally renowned mycologist Paul Stamets and the indelible Joe Rogan.
For anyone that’s watched the latest Star Trek Discovery series, you might note that their chief medical engineer shares the same name as well as the same mycelial ideologies of the earthborn Paul Stamets, and follows his book Mycelium Running very closely; anyways – the trekkie in me digresses. Last but certainly not least – a small handful areincredibly toxic, deadly toxic if you will, with several mimicking their benign cousins. This makes it incredibly important that you do your due diligence when researching, and save snagging them for your meals until you have a keen understanding of harmful versus helpful mushrooms.
“Mushrooms are a natural source of energy, immunity, and longevity that’s been studied for centuries. They are so great, that they’ve even earned the title of ‘superfood’.”
They’re not animals and they’re not vegetation – so what exactly are fungi? Fungi can then be separated into three distinct groups based on how they get their nutrients. Mycorrhizal Fungi, which are symbiotic fungi, live in harmony with the plants around them. On the other hand, Saprophytic Fungi live on dead organic matter instead of assisting in its decay. Finally, Parasitic Fungi are the cause of vegetative decay, as well as the recipients of all the nutrients. Mushrooms are considered the fruiting body of a variety of fungi, other types of fruits are algae and molds – but for the most part, fungi exists at a microscopic level that goes unseen to the human eye. Fungi are used as antibiotics, to ferment food and alcohol, and even as detergent; you might be surprised at how many everyday items you use that have been treated with some form of fungus.
“Nature alone is antique, and the oldest art a mushroom.”
So, how about mushrooms? As the spore bearing, fruiting fungus body – mushrooms occur in technicolor and can take a menagerie of different shapes. Young mushrooms, often referred to as buttons, are primarily a cap and a preformed stalk under a universal veil. Over time, the cap will expand in an umbrella like fashion with either spores, gills, teeth or veins to show for its work while the stalk simultaneously gets longer. Some mushrooms have a cup at the base of the stalk which is often deep in the dirt – so when foraging, remember: dig, don’t pick!
If you weren’t already sold on mushrooms, here’s a few facts that make them even more amazing to me.
So, now that you’re more up on your mushroom game – let’s talk about the best tips and tricks for finding those fungi and hunting down some of the coolest creatures on our planet. The best thing about this type of hunt? No weapons necessary – just some keenly attuned eyes and your roaming feet.
Location, location, location
If you notice one visible mushroom, the fruiting body of the fungi, take a step back and see if you can notice any others. Mushrooms populate in a line, or rather, a circle stemming from a fungal epicenter.
The rain brings good things, including the proper climate for mushroom hunting. Depending on where you live, California and Oregon see their season at the beginning of Fall and Winter (but really, it’s pretty year round in Oregon), while the East Coast has its best seasons around early Spring. A rule of thumb is to wait two weeks after two inches of rain have accumulated.
As a side note, time of day is equally important as many fungi will only fruit once the temperature starts to drop
Let a little sunshine in
Though fungi notably prefers dimly lit or dark atmospheres, light will inspire fungi to produce mushrooms
Check the soil
As natural decomposers, mushrooms enjoy disturbed dirt – so make note of the floor of whatever forest you’re lurking in
For example, king boletes enjoy spruce, pine, oak and birch trees; chantrelles prefer conifers and oyster mushrooms will defer to aspens.
Things to Bring
A picnic basket or a few paper bags to put your keep in
For those wanting to ID a variety of fungi, snag a small tackle box to keep each kind separate
For those going the picnic basket method, leave the bottom open for the mushrooms to spore as you travel so the next explorer can enjoy them as well!
A small hand shovel so you can get the whole mushroom
GPS kit or rope / yarn to mark you path so you don’t get lost
You don’t even want to know how many people get lost in the woods every year searching for mushrooms, so please don’t be part of the statistic.
The Gaia GPS app is an excellent resource if you’re willing to get the Pro version!
Put the fun in fungi and remember to enjoy yourself!
When you find your magical, mystical mushrooms – document that sucker! Take a few photos that accentuate the colors of the top, the bottom of the cap – to see what types of gill or pore the fungi boasts, and the stalk of the mushroom – then step back and get a photo of the scenery; if your phone doesn’t geocache your location for each image, or you don’t want it to – trust me I get it, drop a pin in your map application with a note about what you found so you can come back and see how it’s grown.
I can’t stress this point enough: even though many fungi are fun to spore on paper and there are a good amount that are both edible and tasty, like I mentioned earlier – be very wary! Collect what you will and document it all, but not just are some fatally toxic, but others will give you awful indigestion and a good amount simply taste downright awful and you won’t want anything to do with them post-pick or post-pic.
A wonderful resource to understand the flora and fauna you found your fungi around, an important factor in determining what type of mushrooms you have
As this is the modern age and it’s a bit untoward to carry around dozens of nuanced encyclopedias – I’m accumulated a list of amazing smart phone apps to try while on the go. Most seem to be bi-phonal, but I’ll make a note when certain ones are unavailable to either vertical.
One things for sure, if foraging for fungi is fun alone – imagine how great it could be with the right company! From Facebook groups devoted to the Pacific Northwest to National groups, here’s some of my personal favorites.