My knowledge of mushrooms is very limited, based primarily on my food preferences and “shrooms” references. So when I heard about a “Mushroom March”, I was curious to find out more about it (full disclosure, I was invited to cover it).
The Monroe Mushroom Foray was sponsored by The Friends of Monroe and the West Virginia Mushroom Club (headquartered near Morgantown). The foragers convened at the Waiteville Community Center in April before heading off to the Potts Valley Trail to begin their march. I missed them at the Center by about ten minutes and finding them took a little longer than expected since I took the long way around to the trail parking area.
Right off, it’s very peaceful in the Waiteville Valley. (Note to everyone: Cell service and online maps are unreliable there). Listening to the sounds of birds and flowing water is very easy and calming. It also allows voices to carry on the wind and after parking, I soon found the foragers on the hillside, picking through leaves and rotted stumps in search of fungi.
I edged up beside a fellow who appeared to be more knowledgeable than the rest as he explained to some other folks what they had discovered near an old tree. Drew Palmer is a member of the WV Mushroom Club and one of the guides during the Spring Foray. They had found a hydnum, a toothed fungus (instead of gilled), from last season, which was old and rotten. That’s part of the fun, looking, discovering, and identifying what’s collected.
I spoke with Drew a little about the foray, talked about his interests and tattoos, and then I mingled a bit with the other foragers. Tammy K. had driven down from Charleston and she had come prepared with a mushroom encyclopedia to help her identify her finds. She was looking at a shelf fungus, a half fan shaped attached to the trunk of a tree. In order to make a positive id, she had to use her hand lens or “jeweler’s loop” to look closely and find small, club shaped patterns on the edge of the fungus.
“Oh, I see the black clubs! I do! That’s cool!”, she exclaimed. She also shared that she enjoyed learning new things and meeting like-minded people in the woods.
I also chatted with a young couple from Monroe County, a fellow from Rock Camp, a couple from Charlottesville, VA (the husband is a geology professor), and other fungal fans.
After about two hours, my group hiked back down the hill and drove to the community center. As I followed Drew back, he stopped in the middle of the road, hopped out and ran past my vehicle to check out something he saw along the side of the road. He had spotted and collected a Cedar Apple Rust sample, “a very cool mushroom”, which can infect local trees.
Once we were back at the center, we shared a lunch of soup, chili, and sandwiches provided by The Friends of Monroe. The different collecting groups filtered in, filled their bowls, and talked about their adventures in the forest. As the hiker’s recovered, the guides sorted through the group’s findings, identified the various mushrooms and fungi that were collected (including the Cedar Apple Rust), and shared their own war stories from the day’s and previous forays. I enjoyed listening in on various conversations and checked out a local vendor’s display, along with the Mushroom Club’s merchandise and information table. There were some pamphlets displayed along with T-shirts from the current and past forays. I also spotted some prize baskets for the drawing later in the afternoon.
There were three groups altogether roaming and rummaging different areas of the trail. After eating, everyone migrated to one of the classrooms at the center where the lead guides discussed what was found, their benefits, and all things mushroom. In addition to talking about edible and non-edible mushrooms, they discussed other benefits, both to people and nature, that mushroom and fungi offer. It was really an eye opening lecture time and I have to wonder why mushrooms aren’t more commonly used for their medicinal properties and health benefits. I was definitely inspired to learn more.
Overall it was a very pleasant day in the valley meeting new people and discovering mushrooms. I may be contacted at email@example.com by those interested in hearing more about the Mushroom March. If you’d like to know more about the WV Mushroom Club, you may visit their website at wvmushroomclub.net.