Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Mushroom Hike at Hazelwood

atop a highest hill
near Hazelwood
11 September 2011
It's been a hot, dry summer here in Thunder Bay, which aren't exactly ideal conditions for fungi to produce their fruiting bodies, but that didn't stop a few mushrooms from appearing for the Mushroom Hike at Hazelwood Lake on the weekend. Hosted by the Lakehead Conservation Authority, and guided by Dr. Leonard Hutchinson from Lakehead University, R and I were among many others in attendance for the first hike of the day.
When I was talking with my mother earlier, making arrangements with her to take Hannah to hockey so that R and I could attend the hike I sent her into a panic with the word "mushroom", which might have been a little over the top, but understandable if you've known someone who has had a severe reaction to eating the wrong mushroom (which she has), or if you've had a severe reaction to eating anything (which I have).
I've never eaten the wrong mushroom though, and I have no intentions to go out picking any to eat anyway - which I reassured her with. I only want to take pictures of them, not eat them. For now I'll leave it to the grocers and farmers to find me my mushrooms. I'm just not that brave or confident with my identification skills (yet).

Dr. Hutchinson had some great suggestions for identification, including having at hand a good guide book. I do have one - the very one he had with him - somewhere around here..., and once I find it I will bring it with me for our next mushroom hike..., after a good rain.

We didn't make it too far down the trail before R and I had to turn back - he had a flight to catch, and I had a hill to climb. While we were there I did manage to find a few fungi to photograph. It was difficult to get too close to Dr. Hutchinson (the group was a little too large in my opinion), and at first I was really enjoying listening to him. He spoke about the different types of mushrooms, how to identify them by spores, and which grow under particular tree species: basically a how to on hunting mushrooms using the forest around you. I'll remember that when we're at the tree farm (one of my favourite mushroom hunting grounds).
What became rather unfortunate early on were people scattering through the forest picking mushrooms and running back to the professor on the path. Rather than leaving the mushrooms where they were growing - making that connection between species and forest, the majority of the group were crowding Dr. Hutchinson on the path making it difficult to both listen and look. Patience ... why is it so difficult?
We waited for the professor by a pair that R found, and had to protect twice (once unsuccessfully) by an eager picker, but had to give up and leave before the Subaru turned into a pumpkin - our time was up, and it was clear the swarm around Dr. H wasn't going to going to allow him to move freely down the trail.
Our time was up, but I was happy with what I got, both in pictures and in the little extra bit of confidence I now have in identifying mushrooms. Dr. Hutchinson made it seem much less daunting, and hopefully I'll be able to label all my photos properly. Though my mushroom hunting will still be motivated by my camera in the forest, at least when I'm filling paper bags at the market I'll have a better idea as to where my mushrooms grew.

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