Morel mushrooms are a coveted treat in Wisconsin every spring. But the right conditions for finding them can be as finicky and moody as the state’s spring time weather. Yet the result is well worth the effort. Writer Mark Griffin takes you on a journey to find the elusive morel mushroom.
Welcome to Wisconsin’s premier morel hunting expedition. Is it your first time hunting with us? Wonderful! You’re sure to find success, just like I have, exactly twice since 2010. That’s when I began hunting these very woods myself. Yes, exactly twice. And no, I have not had any training whatsoever, but that’s what the internet is for, right?
There is a massive tract of wilderness in front of us. Hundreds of acres of trees, grasses, prairie, swamps and streams.
Somewhere in this box of green lie our golden treasures, the morel mushrooms, poking their obscene little noggins out from under the underbrush. And if we search long enough, we’ll find those elusive fleshy brains.
But neither of us have all day, do we? Out of this necessity, we’ll refine our search. Under a log, next to a fallen oak tree, a shady spot on a steeper grade where a few years ago, I had some luck myself.
Pinpointing the few choicest spots is what you’re paying me good money for. And yet, you will note in the contract you signed that my flagrantly minimal morel hunting expertise does not guarantee success.
But, what if we discover nothing? Then we have failed — and me spectacularly so as your guide and leader.
Yet, in that process, we will have achieved something else. We will become accustomed to zooming in on the landscape in front of us. Combing the painted underbrush and thorny thickets for those fleeting spongy fungi, we may find the perfect fallen ash to rest.
Slowly, everything begins to shrink. The tiny becomes large, and the large fuzzes out of focus. That buckthorn scrapes your shin, but refrains its sting.
The fly landing on your hat is left, unswatted, to catch a warm break.
In the light breeze, the leaves on the farthest branch of that aspen perform the dance they were meant to do on this earth: the shiver and quake. We start to notice something different in the afternoon light, as well.
Then, we begin to empathize with the still undiscovered morel mushrooms of the day. They’re enjoying a cloak of invisibility just over that hill, beyond the map, just out of reach.
Let them go from our expectations. Let go of the need to do and finish and accomplish this morel hunting task that, let’s be clear, could absolutely be completed with the right expertise and luck — neither of which you enjoy today.
Do we have any other choice?
An oak Savannah, long and familiar, breathes a simple sigh.
Now’s the time in our adventure where I cut you loose for a few minutes to search on your own, and … what’s that? You’ve found some?
Already. Huh. Well I guess we’ll call it beginners luck, won’t we?
So you did find what you were looking for today, that elusive morel mushroom.
Are you ready to go home now?