Morel Hunt

John and I have been hunting for morels far and wide. We scoured old apple trees and every stand of oaks we could access here in Kingfield to no avail. Until today! As expected, when you aren’t looking for something that’s when you’ll find it. John was moving his turkey blind to a new location and happened upon this little wonder.

I’m not a big fan of eating mushrooms— I like them sliced so thinly on top of pizza, they dehydrate to chewy slivers or swimming in marsala wine and cream. However, I am mystified by them—their diversity, the endless textures, shapes, colors, and sizes. It’s a sweet, quiet challenge, to reverently gather specimens, take spore prints and try to identify a new mushroom. It’s like an Easter egg hunt for adults. Perhaps most of all, I’m enthralled by the way you don’t see the whole organism, just the fruit prodding out of the duff, obscene and jocular.

A few years ago, I picked a red egg-like mushroom, wrapped in a white skin, just starting to break through its veil. I left it on my counter and was astonished to find in the morning that it had emerged from the egg shell, complete with a stem.

Some field guides describe the aromas of mushrooms the way wine labels describe flavors. “Hints of cherry and chocolate with a buttery finish” Really? In this $7 bottle of Cabernet? I don’t get it. Likewise, a chanterelle doesn’t smell like an apricot to me. It’s aroma is more like almonds. But this morel does smell distinctly like anise. What to do with a singular, hideous, delicious treasure?

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A Ski to Crommetts

I love the fun and peacefulness of cross country skiing.  It's so simple--no lines, no expensive lift tickets, and little to no driving.  There are numerous outstanding cross country ski trails in our area.  Recently, high winds shut down Sugarloaf, causing people to find entertainment off the mountain.  The airport parking lot which is used to access the snowmobile, Narrow Gauge, and Huts trail systems was packed with cars and trucks with snowmobile trailers.  We thought we'd see lots of people on the trails.  However, aside from two pairs of bikers, we had the trails to ourselves.  Many people from out of town seem to stick to the Gauge or the primary Huts system.  By taking a different route, you avoid the crowds.  To be honest though, there are never really crowds.  I guess we just get a little spoiled up here.

Deer Wanderings

While following a migration trail last week, we came upon this impressive track:

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The migration trail crossed the West Branch of the Carrabassett River.  Although the river was not completely frozen, the deer were undeterred.  

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Following deer trails in the winter is a great way to get outside.  Because we have not had a lot of snow this winter, it's also possible to still find sheds.  We did not find any, but I stopped to capture some of works of art Mother Nature has formed this winter:

Snow Stories

Yesterday we decided to check out the migration trails in our area to see if the deer were on the move yet.  The snow reveals a world of activity previously hidden in the leaves and forest floor. Along with a myriad of deer tracks, coyote and fox tracks traced the snow in elegant single-file patterns and manic squirrel tracks scribbled between trees. Most interesting to me was to see where deer had been digging in the snow for beech nuts as they walked the trails.

Deer dig in the snow for beechnuts.  In the early spring they will do this for early fiddleheads.

Deer dig in the snow for beechnuts.  In the early spring they will do this for early fiddleheads.

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We often find signpost rubs, but this one on this particular migration trail is remarkable.  It is one that has been used for generations of deer.  Imagine, year after year (15 years? 20?) deer traveling along this same trail, stopping at this same tree to leave their scent.