Playing Lorax for the day the mushroom hunting way

Wednesday I moved to a goat farm nestled in the coastal mountains of Brookings, a small town 7 miles north of the California-Oregon border.

And I witnessed forest abuse

The property is surrounded by a dense forest of stories-tall second generation douglas firs. Where’d the first generation go? Ask South Coast Lumber Company. Despite their “build green” mentality, a quick hike to the property line proved illegal logging etiquette.

“They’re not supposed to cut 50 feet from the water source,” said Robin, my WWOOF host, pointing out portly stumps lounging a mere three (if that) yards from the creek.

Oregon’s Forest Protection Laws supports Robin’s claim: if a small stream houses fish or provides drinking water, logging must be conducted at least 50 feet from the water source (see table 2-3 from the link above).

Before you go on thinking I’ve turned into a hairy-pitted environmentalist, remember the last time you sought shade under an umbrella-branched tree. Did you ever catch yourself counting the colors of the changing leaves?

And have you ever watched a tree’s demise?

First you’d hear an angry snap, and then you’d see it fall like a feather: the last mortal dance of the voiceless ballerina. Tree by tree, they keep going until the forest is nothing but a clearing filled with stumps and branch debris.

Robin seemed conflicted. She hated it – that was obvious – but she accepted it.

“They’ll plant more,” she said, still slightly wincing. “And we’ll have the forest back in about 30 years.”

Because what else are we going to do but accept that which feels beyond our control?

The answer is to hunt for mushrooms 

Yes, that’s a thing. Apparently it’s huge in Oregon, and I can see why: ‘shrooms of all varieties thrive here.

Our backs to the loggers, Robin almost instantly spotted a bright orange Chanterelle mushroom and plucked it from the ground.

“Where there’s one,” she said, inching her way through the soon-to-be-nonexistent forest. “There’s more.”

And more there were. We gathered 20-some pumpkin-colored Chanterelle beauties: some the size of my handspan, some the size of my face. Katie, fellow WWOOFer and newfound friend, said Robin makes a mean soup out of these prized mushrooms.

But Chanterelle aren’t the only ‘shrooms that shake. These woods are home to all varieties of edible fungi: turkey ears grow mostly on deadwood, corals glow neon red, candy caps smell like maple syrup, and oysters sheen like the inside of a seashell.

We collected what we could before South Coast demolished the trees and their edible neighbors.

That night, I tasted Robin’s Chanterelle soup, and man was Katie right. And this is coming from me, who used to wrinkle my nose at the sight of a ‘shroom. The soup was a soothing combination of creamy and sweet. Paired with hearty rain heard overhead and an Oregon-brewed pale ale, it was meditation in the form of food and drink.

We can’t save the forest, but we can certainly celebrate it.

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