Yesterday morning was as soggy as it could get with over an inch of rain dropped through the night. But the temperature was a lovely cool 60 degrees. Having watched our Sunday worship service on youtube the night before, we were anticipating a different kind of Sabbath. In spite of possible run-ins with rattlesnakes, black bears, poison ivy, briers, and mosquitoes, I was eager to get out in the woods and look for mushrooms. I didn’t even mind getting up at 6:00 a.m.
Our friend, who lives thirty-five minutes from our house, had often talked about going to search for mushrooms. It sounded intriguing to me, and finally he invited my husband and I to go with him. In these parts, edible mushroom locations are deep secrets, so I was almost surprised to be invited. As the three of us drove west of Staunton, he reminded us not to tell anyone where we were going. With all the winding dirt roads we were traveling and the look-alike old logging roads we passed, there was little chance we would be able to retrace our route–much less tell anyone else where to go.
Finally we stopped somewhere in the middle of George Washington National Forest and started walking down a left-over logging road from perhaps thirty years ago. At first, we saw a variety of mushrooms that were not edible. Suddenly we began to see neon orange blobs with wavy edges peeking out of the forest floor. Their vivid color seemed to shout, “pick me!” They were the delicate Chanterelles we had come to find, and they grew in groups, called troops, not far from the old road. This was the first time I had ever hunted for these mushrooms, and it almost became an obsession. The good thing was that they were easy to spot and not easily confused with poisonous varieties. We foraged for about an hour and a half, and by then we had collected a copious amount in our large buckets. I was also happy to spot a seldom seen white Indian Pipe poking out of the ground. I only took its photo and left the plant.
With a portion of what we had gathered, our friend stirred up a delicious dish of risotto. I had brought a beet and cucumber salad, and we all enjoyed a well-earned lunch. It felt like a special day–an event that would make this COVID Sunday memorable.