Mushroom Fever

THERE ARE FEW things more comforting than the sound of a heavy rain on the roof.

It’s a message that tells us the forest fires are being put out without risking the lives of the people who fight them.

The sound of the rain tells us the rivers are rising so the salmon don’t scrape the scales off their bellies trying to swim to their spawning grounds.

The sound of the rain also heralds the opening day of mushroom season.

A scrawny hatch of mushrooms has been sprouting for a month or more, but the heavy rains of autumn are what really sprouts the fungi.

I’ve heard there are more than 500 different kinds of mushrooms on the Olympic Peninsula. It might even be true.

Back in the last century, a pioneer friend told me he had eaten 50 different edible wild mushrooms. That may have been true, too, but he was a fisherman and you know how to tell if they are lying. It’s easy — their lips are moving.

There are many edible wild mushrooms that grow on the Olympic Peninsula.

You’ll want to avoid mushrooms with names like “Panther Amanita,” which can cause hallucinations, or the “Destroying Angel,” which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, trouble breathing, focusing, concentrating or even death by liver and or kidney failure.

Instead, we focus our search for edible fungi like the Shaggy Mane mushroom. It’s excellent if cared for promptly. The porcini and lobster mushrooms are magnificent if you can beat the bugs to them, but the Chantrelles are my favorite.

The Chantrelle is easy to find, easy to pick and with their golden color, meaty caps and fluted stems, they are easy to identify. Rich in flavor with an earthy aroma that is difficult to describe, the Chantrelle was once famous as a delicacy for the nobility of Europe.

These days, the Chantrelle has taken its place beside the truffle and morel as the go-to foodie fungus for gourmet cooks everywhere. The Chantrelle is not only delicious, it’s high in vitamin C and one of the richest sources of vitamin D.

Chantrelles can be sautéed and frozen without losing their flavor.

The pioneer method of preserving the Chantrelle by drying them seems to intensify their flavor.

The dried Chantrelle can be ground into a sort-of flour for making soups and sauces but, of course, you have to pick them first.

Mushroom picking can be hazardous.

There are only two types of mushroom pickers. Those who have gotten lost in the woods while picking mushrooms and those who haven’t — yet.

It’s like the world’s biggest Easter egg hunt, where participants scurry about with their eyes to the ground, shuffling from one prize to another, filling their baskets as fast as they can. The main difference being that no one gets lost on an Easter egg hunt.

Getting lost is an American tradition.

Daniel Boone said that he had never been lost in the wilderness but he did admit that, “I was bewildered once for three days.”

Back then, it was much easier to get lost in the wilderness, since there was so much more wilderness to get lost in.

However, it is still possible to get lost.

To reduce your chances of getting lost, it’s best to pick mushrooms on a hillside. Search for mushrooms above the road so you only have to go back down to find it again.

Don’t know up from down? Then picking mushrooms might not be for you.

There is really only one sure way to avoid getting lost while picking mushrooms — don’t go mushroom picking.


The Great ShakeOut.

IMAGINE A PERFECT morning — whatever that means. Perhaps it means having a cup of coffee with a mountain view.

Above, there are flocks of geese honking their way south through a scarlet sunrise until they slowly fade away.

Mixed with sounds of migration, there is the whistling bugle of the elk piercing through the still air, causing questions to be asked. Is it a bull elk in the rut, a hunter trying to impersonate one or just the ringtone on my phone?

It doesn’t matter. You’re on your way to another full day where no matter what, things could be worse.

What if they were? What if you woke up with no way to make coffee? You had no water or electricity to heat it, because your home was destroyed by the impending subduction event.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a 600-mile fault that runs from northern California up to British Columbia that’s about 70 to 100 miles off the Pacific coast shoreline.

Native American legends recount the effects of periodic subduction events with stories of a tsunami at LaPush that stretched across the horizon.

The Makah tell of Cape Flattery being isolated by a rising sea.

The S’Klallam say they escaped by tying their canoes to tree tops then floating into the mountains. Archaeologists have confirmed these legends. Tse-whit-sen, a S’Klallam village in what is now Port Angeles, was struck by tsunamis every 300 years.

Geologists say there have been 41 subduction events on our coast in the last 10,000 years, occurring between 190 and 1200 years apart. The last one was in 1700.

The pressure of the Juan de Fuca Plate subsiding beneath the North American Plate has been building ever since then. Scientists are predicting about a 37 percent chance that a megathrust will occur in the next 50 years. This could result in an earthquake of over 7.1, with an estimated 2 to 4 minutes of shaking or rolling, along with an associated 100-foot tsunami hitting our coast in as little as 15 minutes later.

It is not a question of if, but when, the subduction event will happen again.

When it does, you want to be ready for it. That is the point of tomorrow’s Great Washington ShakeOut.

This is an annual event that happens every year on the third Thursday in October at 10:20 a.m. local time, when millions of people across Washington, and around the world, will participate in earthquake drills. The goal is to get people prepared for major earthquakes before, during and after they happen.

I know what you’re thinking. This has never happened in my lifetime and chances are I’ll be dead before it happens again. And you are probably right. But what if you’re wrong?

The Subduction Event will rock your world with sudden back and forth motions of several feet per second, causing the floor or the ground to jerk sideways out from under you. Every object around you that isn’t nailed down could fall on top of you. What would you do?

That is the point of the Great ShakeOut. This year’s theme is “Drop, Cover and Hold On.”

If you feel the ground shaking, get down on your hands and knees before you are knocked down. Cover yourself with something like a table to protect against falling objects that are bound to go flying during the event and hold on until the shaking stops.

After the subduction event, it could be weeks before help arrives. You’ll want to be prepared with at least two weeks of supplies and an attitude that we’ve survived this before, we can survive it again.


How’s the Fishing?

“HOW’S THE FISHING?” If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I wouldn’t be slinging mud in the journalistic trenches as our nation’s only wilderness gossip columnist.

No, I would be jet-setting my way to where they actually had some fishing, South America. Thirty-some years ago, Chile took the eggs of our Washington state king salmon and turned them loose in two virgin rivers with no salmon.

The salmon thrived and spread to other rivers along 1,500 kilometers of coastline because, despite the fairy tale we are told here by the salmon mismanagers in Washington that salmon always return to the river where they were spawned, they actually stray to other rivers. That is how they repopulate rivers after natural disasters such as volcanoes. It happened in the Toutle River after the eruption of Mount St. Helens and to the rest of the Pacific Northwest after the last ice age.

Chile now has what is arguably the best king salmon fishing in the world.

Which begs the question: Why can’t we do that here and use our own native salmon brood stock to rebuild the runs of salmon in our rivers?

Follow the money.

Our salmon are worth more as an endangered species to the government agencies and their fellow travelers in environmental crime, the so-called “non-profit corporations” who make their fortunes off the massive slush fund known as the Salmon Restoration Industry.

They peddle a propaganda that the fish in each creek and river are a genetically-unique, threatened and/or endangered sub-species that cannot be compromised or enhanced through the introduction of spawning pairs of salmon or fertilized salmon eggs from other rivers into the barren spawning beds of our dead rivers.

Maintaining the myth that the fish in each river is genetically unique prevents responsible stewardship of the resource and endangers our salmon.

That’s because the more endangered our salmon become, the more money flows from the Endangered Species Act to the Salmon Restoration Industry. It is an industry with no cost-benefit analysis or oversight that would determine what, if any, benefit it has in restoring our salmon.

I can think of no finer example of this timeless observation than our own Dungeness River — where 30 years and millions of dollars of salmon restoration projects have only produced more threatened and/or endangered fish. But I digress.

How’s the fishing?

Right now, on our West End of the Olympic Peninsula rivers, the fishing is as good as it was in the good old days.

The salmon are running up out of tidewater in waves. And there’s absolutely no one out there fishing for them! It’s like a dream come true or an example of time travel except for one thing — the fishing season has been closed due to low water.

That came as a shock to almost no one after our river levels dropped lower than the lowest volume seen in the last 60 years of river monitoring. All of which begs the question I hear all of the time …

“When will the rivers come up?”

“When we get some rain.”

“When will that be?”

If I knew the answer to that question, a question that no one, not NOAA, NASA or the National Weather Service can answer with any reliability more than a couple of days in advance, would I be a humble fishing guide? Probably.

But seriously, the one thing we know for certain is that, eventually, it will rain. And when it does, chances are it will not stop until we are entirely sick of it.

Until then, enjoy the nice weather.


A Bee-utiful Autumn.

IF THE FEEDBACK from last week’s episode is any indication, we are having a “bee-utiful” autumn on the Olympic Peninsula. People are getting stung by bees all over the place.

By bees, we don’t mean our endangered honey bees or friendly bumble bees.

No, we are talking about wasps. Namely the black hornets and yellow jackets that are terrorizing the area about now.

The stories are remarkably similar in one regard. People are engaging in normal outdoor activities with a lack of caution and without the slightest notion that they could, at any time when they least expect it, be subjected to a highly organized system of extreme revenge — carried out by creatures whose intelligence, social order and weapons systems are able to make people run away screaming while trying to rip off their clothes to dislodge the stinging insects that have burrowed in to strike where the hide is the thinnest.

You may be picking berries, having a picnic or opening the hood of an automobile you haven’t started for a year or two.

Or you could be like me, up on a ladder painting the house when a yellow jacket nest I previously pumped five cans of bug death into comes alive and tells you they don’t like the color in a way you will never forget.

One of my more dramatic bee attacks occurred while throwing a stick in the river for the dog to fetch. She came back being chased by a swarm of hornets.

Naturally, she ran straight to her human for comfort since one of the hornets had crawled into her eye socket.

The various details of bee attacks and the related human and brute sufferings are legion.

They are as varied as the treatments people have suggested for dealing with the painful stings which include, but are not limited to, mud, meat tenderizer, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, ice and not getting stung in the first place.

Not being a doctor, I cannot give out medical advice.

That’s really too bad because I was almost a doctor except for one small detail, the fourth grade. That’s when they came out with the new math.

They said pie are square but any idiot knows pie is round.

It’s all part of the brainwash education our nation’s youth was subjected to in the dark past of our nation’s school system. But I digress.

I use a topical Benadryl solution on bee stings. It seems to work reducing pain, swelling and the infernal itch.

Fortunately, we only have a few more weeks of bee season until the demons die or hibernate, but this is the most likely time to get stung.

My favorite bee attack was far away and long ago, 50 years or more — before the recent plate tectonics uplifted the Olympic Mountains, making them so much steeper than they were in my youth.

Nowadays, even the flat sections of the wilderness trails seem longer than they used to be.

We were camping in a cave in a blizzard in the high country. You would think the hornets would hunker down in a blizzard, but you would be wrong.

We were snapping off branches to make a bough bed, something you’d never do in these days of the leave-no-trace ethic, but this was the last century.

The boughs were full of hibernating bees.

Once asleep, our body heat woke the bees up, so they crawled in our bags for a midnight surprise.

It was a bad time to lose the flashlight.

That was a painful sunrise.

I hate bees.