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  • Writer's pictureChristine

Road Trip!!

Updated: Jun 9

Not long after my last post I got a call from my friend Jenn who needed to move very last minute from Oregon to Massachusetts so I offered to fly there and drive back with her. It’s not as selfless as it sounds, especially because I learned that a few of our friends were getting together in the Cascade Range for a morel camp weekend. So I invited myself and planned my flight accordingly. Hunting for morels in Oregon has been on my bucket list for a few years now. Meeting friends in person for the first time is always on the list. Oh, and driving cross-country was also on my bucket list. So many boxes checked!

I was met at the airport by Jenn and two of the loveliest people I know, Craig and Megan. Even if it was brief I was so happy to be able to hug them again. Then Jenn and I headed to Dawn’s, a friend I hadn’t met in person yet. We stayed at Dawn’s and the next day left for camp. We had to watch the weather because even in May there are snow conditions in the Cascades. We had to be sure our friend Dawn could make it through Tomahawk Pass pulling her camper behind her truck. Once at camp we started setting up my sleeping tent and cook tent. Our friends Adam( Mushroom Marauder) and Susan arrived. It was the first time I got to meet them in person and that’s always such a joy. We started wandering the area and found lots of “shrumps” in the needles and leaves that hid various species of mushrooms. On day two we realized there were tiny baby morels right in camp so we built little stick cages for them. It turns out we were a little early for a big morel harvest but we did find enough for Adam to cook up some nice steak and morels paired with ramps that I had vacuum sealed and packed in my carry-on. It was definitely an east meet west meal.

The morel hunt was… I’m not sure how to describe it. The forest is different there. The trees are different. It’s lush and green and moss covered. And the burn areas. We don’t see large burn areas here in New Hampshire. It took me a while to realize the groups of good-sized holes in the forest floor were left from when the tree roots burned to ash. But that’s what some species of morels like. They feed off the ash and the charred wood bits. And I had to train my eyes to see them. Really see the morels. Their texture and color. Their angles and curves. They blend so well and they’re low to the ground. But I found some and learned pretty quickly that when you find one you have to “hoot” to let everyone know you found one. It makes me smile just typing about it. Being out of my element was definitely humbling but I learned some things.

I also was in awe of the color of wolf lichen, a dye lichen, not found in the northeast. They are yellow-green lime colored and really catch your eye. I harvested some that had fallen to the ground. I also found tons of Lobaria pulmonaria, or lungwort, that had fallen from the trees. I gathered a bunch of that as it is also a rare lichen and hard to harvest sustainably in the northeast.

Jenn and I ended up leaving a day earlier than planned but before we left I got to meet Brian and Kevin and Marcia, more friends I had never met in person. I hope next time I get to spend more time with them.I hope I get to do it again soon. Next year? Hmmm…

The quick-ish recap of the rest of the trip is that we had to do a lot of weather watching and zigzagging to avoid it. You name it, it was out there. Snowstorms, flooding, tornadoes, accidents caused by all of the above. So Bend OR to Smith Rock State Park to Hines Or. Then to Shoshone Falls in Idaho to West Wendover NV, and Wendover UT. It was an amazing surprise to find out we were 5 minutes from the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah! I had always wanted to experience the salt flats. The clouds were incredible. From there we drove to SLC, UT and then over Soldier’s Pass to Moab. Unbelievable beauty. The next day we got up really early to get access to Arches National Park. Since we hadn’t planned ahead the only available tickets were for 3:00pm the next day and we needed to be on the road by then. Our hotel owner let us know that the gates would be open before the 7:30am open time and that we could go right in and buy a pass online once we got there. There is your pro tip should you ever unexpectedly find yourself in Moab. And, yes, if you find yourself in Moab you absolutely have to go to Arches. 

From Moab we drove to Glenwood Springs CO but had to stop there due to snow and accidents on the Vail Pass and just hoped it would be cleared the next day. And it was clear but still a little icy and somewhat stressful for Jenn. But it was gorgeous and I can’t believe the road takes you to elevations above 11,000 ft! Breathtaking views and tons of snow in May. The van breaks were not happy cruising down into Denver but after that it was a few states of flatness, such a stark contrast to the previous week. We headed east to Kansas then north-east to Nebraska then east to Newton Iowa to avoid flood warnings and thunderstorms on the more central route. From there we drove through Illinois and made it to Portage Indiana. 

We took some time checking out Indiana Dunes National Park and the beach on Lake Michigan. Did you know that dunes can occur miles inland? I learned that a few years ago in Oregon but I knew nothing about the great lakes so to see the dunes and feel beach sand between my toes, just like an ocean beach, was amazing. The bonus of that stop was seeing the northern lights for the very first time, on the shore of the lake, and having my kids share their pictures with me in real time from Kentucky. From Indiana we drove through Ohio then New York and then on the last day we stopped in Pittsfield, Massachusetts to get one more ramp harvest in before the season was over. From there we made it to New Hampshire.

So I did not get to harvest as many ramps and fiddleheads as usual and I did not get to morel hunt with my friend Chris In Vermont and I did not get to turkey hunt with Hugh and Liz, but I got to do so many other amazing things and meet so many other amazing people. I got to see more of the country and I got to spend time with Jenn. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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