First of all, before going Noah Seigel was saying it was going to be a banner year for mushrooms in Alaska. They had been gettting plenty of rain this year. Last year, it was a drought year and the rivers were low. I was getting excited and checking the weather of Soldotna months before the trip. My palms were sweating.
This will be my fourth consecutive trip now and I am an Alaskan fixture at Bill Whites Sports Lodge.
I will start off with Hugh's unique verbage of our trip, "North.. to Alaska, we're goin' North, the rush is on!
It rained for two weeks before we arrived in Alaska. Locals said it rained for a month. Wednesday we landed in Anchorage and the sun came out. Everything was wet. No sign of rain. We arrived two days early so we could do something other than mushroom hunt (!). After all, this IS our 4th trip. (On our 3rd visit we said that it would be our last).
We drove to Seward. Arriving there, it was still raining. It rained all night. It rained harder. It was raining Thursday when we woke up. And then... it stopped. The sun came out and it never rained again for our entire 11 days in Alaska! (Forecast for days after we left was rain).
Thursday morning We took a six hour cruise to Kenai Fjords National Park. There are no roads in this park, paved anyway, and it is our nation's largest park next to Denali, also in Alaska. (Denali has roads). I've got to tell you; until you've been up to the face of a glacier in the ocean, you have not experienced a glacier. Although the face of Holgate Glacier is 200 feet high, all scale is lost. The captain shut the engines down. The whole scene appeared to be static, motionless. Silence.
Then great cracks and explosions were heard in the ominous silence, as if from many bolts of lightning. The sky was clear. Pieces of ice, some as big as cars, fell off the face from multiple sites. In actuality we were not near the face at all. The sound was arriving too late! The ice was hitting the water as the sound arrived in great rolls! Silence again. But static? No! Is that a creek at the base? No. A river, hardly noticeable on this scale, was gushing from a void at the base of the glacier, violent and raging like a boiling cauldron. This is no creek. This is beyond description.
The next day we went Zip Lining. Sandi and I have done this in the Tropics a couple times and I must say here, I think the Tropics were much more fun. But the Arboreal forest has much to offer in it's own right. One of our guides knew the trees and our other guide knew the berries and plants, the forest floor. He knew of 6 types of berries that were edible and other plants with medicinal uses. They knew almost nothing of mushrooms. Although they did know of Morels and Chicken Of The Woods (which we found), that was the extent of their mushroom knowledge. Sandi and I started pointing out mushrooms from our perches up in the trees.
There were Russulas, Cortinarius, Leccinum, Hedgehogs, Hebaloma, Clitocybe, Yellow Feet... too many to name. They were fascinated! I showed them a few they could eat, the differences, the warnings. It was an exciting trip for all of us. They were ready for a hunt and they had access to the land. What a day!
On the Kenai Peninsula everywhere we went is one hour forty five minutes away.
Anchorage to Seward.
Seward to Sterling.
Sterling to Seward!
Sterling to Homer.
Homer to Sterling!
Everywhere, that is except for the mushrooms. The mushrooms are not far apart at all. The mushrooms are everywhere you step. Just try and NOT step on one. Go ahead. Think you can do it?
Sent two dehydrators ahead of us.
Shoulda sent 4. Running 5 right now. Coulda used one more.
(That's a poem).
The hunts were awesome. We found King Boletes, Chicken Of The Woods, Hedgehogs, Hawk's Wings, Yellow Feet, Matsutake, Man On Horseback, Gypsies, Alaska Gold, Bears Head... But those are the mushrooms I didn't eat. Weird huh? Yeah that's weird. But I'm Hughish. I actually tried several though... King Bolete (stipe, no. Cap, fair, on the BBQ), Matsutake (better in Top Ramen), Alaska Gold (no), Russula xeramphalina (no), Man On Horseback (pretty good), Bears Head (that's good!). It really DOES depend on the chef and the method, doesn't it.
We have added many species to the original list created by our group from the 2010 trip. Debbie, Irene, Mark and Phil documented 192 species on that list. That was the trip where we had several Mushroom Wizards in our group. A Wizard is one of those people I look up to. Wizards can identify pretty much any mushroom, at least to Genus. Mushrooms not on the 2010 list include Laetiporus conifericola, Ganoderma applanatum
(Artist's Conch), Hygrocybe (2 species), Amanita (grisette), Inonotus (Chaga), Neoboletus luridiformis (Boletus erythropus?), Daldinia, Hericium abietis (Bears Head)...
To make a long story short, it was another great trip!
Now we are home to the Dog Days of Summer. But what a trip!
And last, A special thank you to our gracious hosts, Bill and Jerri, who also extend their thanks to their son. Without their son's influence, and without Bill and Jerri's, this kind of trip may not ever have happened. Without them, we may never have experienced Alaska. Thank you! "
Hugh sums up our trip pretty much. We found many mushrooms. The B. edulius was plentiful near the lodge, but with all that sunny weather many were big and beautiful, but buggy. As we headed out toward Seward and Girdwood they were younger and pristine. More mushrooms we collect (try to stop us), more mushrooms we had to prep and dry. All the agony of cleaning and prepping a trunk load of mushrooms, pounds and pounds. You got to feel sorry for us!
Several of us got on planes and got a amazing unobstructive view of Denali and joined the lucky 10% club, where I too am a member (year 1) while some of us went out to Cooks Inlet to view grizzles. Both groups got amazing views of glaciers along the way.
"The flight over Denali was the high point of the trip for me. Crystal clear weather; glorious views. Loved seeing the Native art exhibits and picking lots of boletes. Potlucks were fantastic. Hugh's antics were delightful and everyone was in high spirits (with a few resultant hangovers)" - Richard Rammer
Alaska is truly the last wilderness we have and we need cherish it. We can freely pick mushroom in all the parks and they cheer you on, what a breath of fresh air.
"What a spectacular time we all had in the Land of the Midnight Sun! The best company, breathtaking scenery, delicious food , more mushrooms than one could take home, tons of laughs and almost too much fun!. What more could anyone ask for!" -Ron Bader
Thank you Bill and Jerri for introducing Alaska to us. For those who have made it here, we are lucky. I want to come back... so much more to do and see.
"Another magnificent Alaskan foray! Great people and phenomenal mushrooming in the midst of incredible natural beauty. What's not to love? Hard to choose just one highlight, so take your pick: Crossing Kachemak Bay with otters and a pod of humpbacks, followed by a spectacular hike. Denali! Epic quantities of boletes. Mushrooms to dye for! This was my third visit and definitely not the last." - Debbie Johnson
Now if I can shake off the tiredness. Days in the Alaskan summer where the sun does not go down until 9PM mess with your cerulean clock. You wake up early and go, go, go all day - hunting, fishing, shopping, hiking and eating. Crash to sleep at midnight. So when you come home, you are dragging for days until you body says OK, I finally made up the rest you failed to provide me on your vacation.
Till I return, I will have to hang on to the memories... This was my husband first trip to Alaska. If his smile is not advertisement, I don't know what is.
Checkout Hugh google photo albums of this trip
Checkout the foray photo album.