There’s something primal and deeply satisfying about gathering and harvesting wild foods. But with the exception of morel mushrooms, we’ve never been brave enough to venture into the world of mushroom hunting. When we discovered a mushroom identification class offered at Fort Stevens State Park in Astoria during our stay there, we signed right up.
Mushroom Hunting 101
October is the perfect month for mushroom hunting on the Oregon coast. A staggering array of fungi emerge when the fall rains arrive, and some of the choicest mushrooms in the world of gourmet delights make a brief appearance in the coastal forests.
The morning of our mushroom class dawned cloudy and gray, and by 10:00, the skies let loose with a drenching rainstorm. We figured the class would be canceled, but noooo….this is the Pacific Northwest, and folks are hardy here.
We stood in the pouring rain in parkas and beneath umbrellas while the ranger introduced us to the colorful world of local fall mushrooms. There are some that will make you sick, some that might kill you, some that are edible but not very tasty, and some that are highly prized choice edibles. The choicest of all is the king bolete—also known as porcini—and we were there at the perfect time for nature’s festival of boletes.
Click on any photo for a larger version
Boletes are easy to identify, and we learned how to choose the best ones (firm, no worm-holes, not overly large, a creamy tan color). They like the sandy, pine needle-strewn, moss-covered floor of the coastal forests. While some sit out in the open for easy picking, others are tucked into tree roots or hide beneath thick carpets of soft moss. When hunting boletes, we learned to look for unusual uprisings of moss.
After our first successful rainy afternoon of bolete gathering, Eric and I were hooked. We spent the next several days hiking through the woods searching for mushrooms and had to stop ourselves from gathering too many. We sautéed boletes with garlic, white wine, fresh thyme, and a touch of cream (good for topping just about anything); added boletes to a Thai curry dish; folded sautéed boletes into omelets, and ate our fill of these fleeting, delicious gifts of nature.
More Delights In Astoria
Along with mushroom hunting, we biked miles of trails in the park, walked the beach, and drove across the bridge to Astoria, one of our favorite Oregon coastal towns. Astoria is a vibrant small town with a rich maritime heritage; a colorful and interesting downtown; cool breweries, cafés, and shops; and an excellent Sunday farmers’ market. (Click on any photo for a larger image: You know that, right? :-))
We visited all of our favorite places and added a couple of new ones to our list: Buoy Beer Company on the waterfront (which may be the only brewery in the world with a glass viewing platform showcasing sea lions cavorting on the pilings below) and Albatross & Company, an excellent little restaurant and bar that houses El Pomelo, a pop-up taco café on Sundays. (For more details on the many fun things to do in Astoria, check out our post here: A Charming Maritime Town: Astoria, OR)
Traveling south, we headed to Nehalem Bay State Park, another of our favorites on the north Oregon coast. We walked the beautiful beach, biked and hiked the many trails through the park, and discovered a bumper crop of king boletes in the forest.
Several cute little towns are within a few miles of the state park—we visited (twice) Buttercup chowder shop in nearby Nehalem, which once again wins our vote for the most creative, tastiest chowders anywhere. While biking in Manzanita, we discovered MacGregor’s Whiskey Bar, and returned one evening for cocktails on their lovely little patio. One of their many offerings was Angel’s Envy whiskey, the distillery that we enjoyed visiting last spring in Louisville. Making our stay in Nehalem even better was a visit from our daughter, her partner, and our grandson from Portland, who drove over for a day of playing on the beach and chowder at Buttercup.
Visiting Family In Portland
We’ve been to Portland many times, and always have a great time in the city. While we enjoy the attractions of the city and always make time for wandering the interesting neighborhoods, the farmers’ markets, and checking out a new restaurant or two, our biggest draw is visiting family—our daughter and grandson live in the very cool Mount Tabor area (we also happen to have good friends living there), and Eric’s sister is in Hillsboro. We had a wonderful visit, sharing the simple pleasures of daily life together. It’s always hard to leave, but especially so this time, knowing that we won’t be returning to the west coast until the summer of 2020.
(If you’re interested in more in-depth info on fun things to do in Portland, here’s a link to one of our previous posts: Rainy Days and Gardens: Portland, OR)
One of the great gifts of traveling fulltime is that we’re able to spend time with our families on opposite coasts and our friends who are scattered across the country. The downside is that we never feel like we have quite enough time with anyone. It seems that we’re always waving goodbye to someone who is dear to us.