My dear friend Pam and I have an annual tradition of heading into the woods in late May to hunt for morels. Here’s the highlight reel of our spectacular success in 2011:
But this spring has been strange in Minnesota, with heavy snow in late April and a cool, monsoon-like May. Everything has been out of sync — the birds arrived early, but the flowers bloomed late — so my dear friend Pam and I didn’t hold out much hope of finding the delicious (but famously elusive) mushrooms.
I’m not going to tell you where we went, because I’m sworn to secrecy. But I think it’s probably safe to divulge that our route took us down Highway 61 and across the old blue-gray truss bridge in Hastings.
I felt a pang of sadness to think that I’ll never cross the old bridge again: Next week it will be demolished, and its replacement (at right, below) will spring into service.
After lunch at another location I can’t disclose, we tromped into the woods in search of our quarry. It was slow going because of the invasive buckthorn, which has choked out the native understory.
Pam and I got separated a few times in the dense forest. Here she is, in all of her mushroom-hunting glory:
We took the blooming jack-in-the-pulpits as a good omen; they usually coincide with the morels.
We also saw a variety of other mushroom species — another encouraging sign. But alas, still no morels.
We split up to improve our hunting, and after a few minutes Pam called my name. Her whisper-shout sounded urgent. She had found our first morel!
A few more followed, until we’d amassed maybe a dozen.
We strolled rather aimlessly for another hour but found no more. We did see a stand of pines that Pam planted as a kid, though — and also a charming little cabin that practically screamed, “Ya, you’re in Minnesota, you betcha!”
On our way home we stopped in Hastings for a stroll through its historic downtown. To our delight, today was even more historic than usual: We’d stumbled onto one of the city’s “classic car cruise-ins.” I’m not a big classic-car enthusiast, but I was smitten with the setting.
And I was especially smitten by the detailing of the old cars. Every one of them was a testament to its owner’s care and passion.
So there it is … the chronicle of another successful morel hunt — and a splendid Saturday. Is it silly that I’m already looking forward to next year?
Thank you for a wonderful adventure, dear Pam.