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mycologia (part 3)

The road drifts away from the shoreline as rocky cliffs give way to shifting sand dunes on Oregon’s coast.

Oregon's dunes area is a sea of shifting sand.

Oregon's dune area is a sea of shifting sand.

Sand encroaching on the highway.

Sand encroaching on the highway.

I pass a sign indicating a campground and continue climbing to the top of a long hill. I am riding through forest on a still warm afternoon. Fireweed, a roadside companion that has been with me all the way from Alaska, still lines the highway: the plants are like old friends now – I have watched them bloom and fade over more than six thousand kilometres.

Fireweed, beautiful in all stages of it's life cycle, is an old friend now.

Fireweed is an old friend now.

At the top of the hill I change my mind, make a u-turn, and speeding back down the slow upward mile I just covered I return to the campground. The area is heavily wooded and the campground, quiet, almost deserted – closing for the season at the end of the week, a sign at the entrance informs me. I choose a sheltered site where my tent is not visible and set up camp before exploring.

An information board displays a map of a six mile loop trail traversing forest, dunes and the beach. Ignoring the lengthening shadows, I set off uphill through the forest and after quarter of an hour emerge onto golden sand dunes. Where the path crosses the sand all traces of previous footprints have been effaced by a relentless wind. I case about until I find the path again where it crosses a more sheltered area of the dunes but, after some hesitation, I decide that if I walk as far as the beach it will be dark on the return trip so I, opting for ‘sensible’, make my way back to camp.

Dunes in the evening.

Dunes in the evening.

Grass and sand.

Grass and sand.

A perfect dune.

A perfect dune.

Grass and sand calligraphy.

Grass and sand calligraphy.

In the morning, I return to the trail and set off heading the other way around the loop which takes me on a longer walk through the forest. The forest is hushed with that special silence which is filled with small sounds: rustles and sighs, stirrings and sudden disappearances. Constantly irascible squirrels scold shrilly and then silence falls once more. The light is soft, filtered again and again, first by mist and then by foliage. The forest floor is thick and soft, padded with green moss, grey lichen and red brown fir needles. I walk slowly, the path winding gently uphill through old trees – Douglas fir, spruce and hemlock.

A tree frog.

A tree frog.

At the top of the hill the forest opens out and I am lured off the path by mushrooms – mysterious life forms that are neither plant nor animal. They are everywhere bursting forth from the ground, pushing vigorously through the forest litter, clinging delicately to tree stumps, rising up in holes and crevices – magical indescribable beings.

Most of the funghi I see are unknown to me and I have left my new mushroom guide at my camp but a few chanterelles appear and find their way into a makeshift collecting bag created by my tank top sealed by a knot. A white mushroom, which I take initially for a pale chanterelle growing at the bottom of quite a deep hole, turns out to have no gills on inspection of its underside. I put it in the bag for later identification. Some mushrooms have been disturbed and I can see the small yellow stumps here and there. I am not the first mushroom hunter here.

Not sure - a small amanita of some description?

Not sure - a small amanita of some description?

Clusters of mushrooms - honey mushrooms, perhaps?

Clusters of mushrooms - honey mushrooms, perhaps?

Close up of the clusters.

Close up of the clusters.

A mushroom with patent vigour!

A mushroom with patent vigour!

Small knobbly mushrooms.

Small knobbly mushrooms.

Vanished conks - bizarre creatures.

Vanished conks (Ganoderma tsugae) - bizarre creatures, inedible but used medicinally .

Yellow funghi on the ground.

Yellow funghi on the ground.

I wander slowly through the forest drifting away from the path, losing it, finding it and losing it again, heading always upwards. At the top of the hill I can see down the other side over the dunes to the sea. I come suddenly upon a young couple with a dog in a sandy clearing on the hill, packing up camp. The dog runs forward barking as I approach but what I notice is the magnificent mushroom the girl has in her hand. A flash of mushroom envy must have passed across my face, at that moment.

A proud mushroom hunter.

A proud mushroom hunter.

King Bolete (Boletus edulis)

King Bolete (Boletus edulis)

The couple have been here for a couple of days and they have kilos of chanterelles in a couple of large brown paper bags and an odd assortment of other funghi. The mushroom the girl is holding is probably a King Bolete, the prize mushroom, and this one is a beauty. I show the couple the mushroom I am uncertain of and they name it and show me the entry describing it in their book. It is supposed to be good eating.

I walk on down the hill. The forest opens out as the ground becomes more sandy until I find myself crossing the dunes, wind blowing, sand flying, silver tussocks of grass undulating, gulls crying, blue skies above. My heart always leaps as I approach the ocean. I pass through a thicket of dense low conifers and I then I am on the beach – deserted for miles in either directions with barely a human trace. I walk on the hard sand examining the offerings washed up by the tides – broken sand dollars, scraps of kelp, a fish carcass, clam shells. There is remarkably little plastic or glass.

The beach in the morning.

The beach in the morning.

Scary fish carcass.

I walk along the beach until I see the sign directing me back across the dunes to where I was the evening before and return to my camp to a breakfast of mushrooms.

Breakfast.

Breakfast - a mixture of chanterelles (chantharellus cibarius) and hedgehog mushrooms (hydnum rapandum).

{ 6 } Comments

  1. Babs | October 17, 2009 at 2:01 am | Permalink

    MAGNIFICENT photos!!!!!!Sand is so sculptural and the mushrooms are gifts. We live in such amazing world. Thank you for letting me see more of it through your eyes.

  2. cass | October 17, 2009 at 2:19 am | Permalink

    that surely beats my breakfast. cold oatmeal and water…

  3. cass | October 17, 2009 at 2:21 am | Permalink

    oops, sent too early, again.

    did I see on the thorntree that you are heading for the copper canyon? me too. maybe see you there.

    if you go through fairbanks, remind me to pass you on Josh’s details, an avid biker who runs a trailer/pannier online shop there.

    I love the frog!

  4. cass | October 17, 2009 at 2:21 am | Permalink

    oops, I must be mad, too many nacho chips maybe. flagstaff, not fairbanks.

  5. anna | October 17, 2009 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    hi babs, i enjoyed the part of the world that you showed me, so thanks to you, too

    cass, yes, I am heading to copper canyon and it would be great to see you there. I’m trying to drag myself away from a little city break in SF at the moment. A Flagstaff contact would be good – Fairbanks threw me for a second, there, better watch out for the nacho chips. hope your new plan is keeping you a bit warmer now.

  6. Chris Kerby | October 21, 2009 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    Won’t it be impossible to settle down somewhere? We miss such beauty staying at home in our cocoons!

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