Morchella, the true morels, is a genus of edible mushrooms closely related to anatomically simpler cup fungi (thanks Wikipedia).
That information is about as useful as the spotter information I received from my fellow hikers: “It looks like a thumb.”
“It grows near some other plant.”
“It could be hidden under leaf litter so look under that.”
Lady Slipper and Bush Goggles had spotted a potentially favourable habitat for this edible mushroom, so sticks in hand, we were digging underneath the leaf litter for about half an hour looking for something that I didn’t have the faintest idea of what it looked like.
It probably didn’t help that the ‘favourable area’ was the side of a mountain… a big one! Or that the bugs were out in force and biting.
We gave up on that area but within 10 minutes there was another more favourable one, so out came the sticks again.
In the end, I gave up and went on hiking and obviously I was the unlucky charm because as soon as I left, they found a batch.
Morel Massacre Photo Gallery
Later that night, the morels were lined up on the log at the campsite. The boys weren’t too sure what to do with them as they weren’t too impressed with the colour. The general consensus was that the snow a few days ago had frosted them.
All thoughts on the matter however were moot as, water bottles in hand, water collecting on my mind and big foot the culprit, I managed to wipe out half the morels in one step.
In some way I might have helped morel hunters in the future by spreading the seeds to an easily discoverable spot but I still feel guilty for my part in the Morel Massacre.
11. A.T. Grapevine
If a picture is worth a thousand words…
Then I have to write a lot of words because it’ll be a while before any pictures get uploaded. A few words can be spent on recent notable spottings of fauna.
Firstly, I’ve seen quite a few deer. There was a trio of deer that came by our tent city in the Smokies. And another deer that was on top of the mountain that I startled and it bounced off. Apart from the deer not a lot more animals except for the smaller ones such as squirrels and mice.
Birdwise though, I’ve come across a lot more species. Probably the most impressive sighting was of a Great Horned Owl during a misty, wet day. It flew straight past me and initially I thought it was a Pheasant Coucal as it had such a large wingspan and similar colours but it nested on a tree in plain sight and rotated its head 120 degrees so that I could see its distinctive owl features.
Then there are the Grouse, maybe the Ruffed Grouse, which I haven’t seen but which have a distinctive mating call. This is a well paced, almost vibrating bass noise that I kept wondering about every time I heard it. Various explanations to the noise included a moonshine brewery backfiring, a diesel generator starting up and a hydro-electric dam turbine until someone said, “Oh that’s just a Grouse.”
Try to describe that with a picture!
Then there was a sighting of a Bald Eagle here at the hostel this morning which unfortunately I missed by seconds although I did see a heron flying over the river. I also had a bit of an altercation with some geese that were along the bike path into Erwin. There were goslings, baby geese, sitting on the path maybe enjoying the warmth and they were hesitant to move off the path. So one of the parent geese reared up and started hissing at me whilst the other parent corralled the goslings slowly back into the water.
There have been a lot of other little birds but I have no idea what they are and I’m still hanging out for my first sighting of a woodpecker. Hear them all the time but the noise echoes through the hills so much that it’s really hard to pinpoint an exact location.
As for news on the trail… the trail works as a grapevine. It isn’t a homogeneous progression of people from South to North. People take days off, zero days, they slackpack certain areas get a shuttle from a hostel and then walk back into town with a daypack on, they skip sections and of course people love to gossip so a good story moves quickly up and down the trail. The latest story we heard was about ‘Lazy Susan’ who we’d met at Fontana Dam and had renamed ‘Dexter’ as there was something not quite right about him Apparently as the story goes he got drunk somehow, he’s only 18 so underage in the states and made threats to a girl which were obviously scary enough because she called the police and they picked him up at gunpoint.
That’ll have to do for now because I’m about to head off but I will probably have time on my hands soon as I’m meeting an Australian friend Suzanne, in Damascus on the 12th. As I’m way ahead of schedule I might take a few days off and do a big write up of the topics that are floating around in my head.
‘Til then, happy trails.
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