Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wilderness

One of the things I love about living in the Northwest is the proximity to unspoilt forest wilderness. Each Spring and Fall my son Nathan and I take to exploring the forests of Eastern Washington and Mt. Rainier, respectively, with the excuse of hunting wild mushrooms. (Morels in the Spring, and Chanterelles and other varieties abundant in the Fall.)

The Fall mushroom season is coming upon us now, so we have made two forays so far into our favorite mushroom hunting grounds. (No, I won't reveal exactly where they are. Suffice it to say they are at about the three- or four-thousand-foot elevation level in the forests on the flanks of Mt. Rainier.)

And we are planning another for this coming weekend. Our last trip yielded a large quantity of lobster mushrooms, and also some early chanterelles, a few hedgehogs, and a variety of others. The quantity had significantly increased since the last time we visited, about three weeks earlier.

If you are unfamiliar with the lobster mushroom, it has a fascinating story. It starts life as a very plain and boring white mushroom by the Latin name of Russula brevipes. It's edible, but extremely bland. But then this Russula fungus gets invaded by another predatory fungus, a parasitic ascomycete called Hypomyces lactifluorum. The net effect of this takeover is nothing short of miraculous ... the Russula swells several times its normal size, turns bright orange like a cooked lobster, and develops a very distinctive lobster-like flavor as well!

The photo above right shows approximately 10 pounds of lobster mushrooms that we harvested in our last outing. Nathan, a genius chef, turned a portion of these into a delightful Thai dish called Tom Kha, and I dehydrated the rest to save for a later date.

During our foray we also visited some high country lakes to try our hand at fishing. Supposedly they were stocked with trout three years ago. We didn't have much time to fish, and nobody got a nibble, but when we return next weekend I expect we'll be able to sink ourselves into the task with much greater focus. (In the photo above, my brother Don is sitting on the shore of a wilderness lake, thinking carefully about our spectacular lake of nibbles.)

The weather report for the day we were there called for sunshine. But Mt. Rainier, America's largest active volcano, has a microclimate of its own, and while we were fishing a spectacular thunderstorm rolled overhead. Something about sitting out in the water on a log, the high forested ridges all around, holding a fishing pole, while thunder rolls back and forth across the valley and huge rain drops fall, makes the slight risk of being struck by lightning seem almost worthwhile!

One thing this outing helped me realize was how hungry I was for wilderness. I work three days a week in a steel-and-glass building. My office is in a beautiful setting, but unfortunately I have to crane my neck to see a window. Our home (where I work the other two days) is surrounded by forest, and deer and bunnies wander through our yard; nevertheless nothing quite compares to getting quiet and alone with the wild in a place where you can't see any impact whatsoever from the presence of mankind.

Jesus withdrew into wilderness, to pray and renew and get alone with His Father. Even when life was at its busiest, He made this a premium.

The nearest "wilderness" to you may be a city park, or perhaps even a quiet corner garden somewhere. Nevertheless, I would encourage you to take time out of all the busy-ness to seek and fine some space to "Wait upon the Lord ..." for you know the reward for those who do so: "They will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles!" (Isaiah 40:31).

Like the R. brevipes and its H. lactifluorum invader, may God "infect" you today, as you wait on Him, with something that turns you into someone much more interesting than you would be otherwise!

2 comments:

KC Bob said...

Sounds like you had a great time Larry.

Thanks for the advice to wait.

Blessings, Bob

Larry Short said...

Thanks Bob! If you're ever out Seattle way during the Fall, let me know and we'll get you in on a mushroom hunt.

We went out again last weekend (took a party of 10 out in steady rain) and found nearly triple the number of lobsters and chanterelles. What a blast, despite the dreary weather!

My son Nathan and I also preceded the hunt by backpacking up the mountain's flanks and spending the night camped alongside a high wilderness lake. Our dismal luck fishing made Saturday's mushroom hunt seem even more productive!