Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Morel of the Story

Every season we learn new things about our new hometown, Bend, that will make next year even more awesome. For example, I found out too late last year that this orchard down the street has 100%-totally-free apple picking. This fall, you can be sure I'll be all up on that, and we'll be canning apple sauce, apple butter, and making apple fruit leather for weeks.

This spring, we've been learning about morel and bolete mushroom locations. I've started keeping a list, and maybe next year we'll find enough to share! 

If you're interested in mushroom hunting, I strongly advise you join up with a local mycology club, rather than buy a slew of mushroom books or apps. Trust me, we did both. It's just SO MUCH EASIER to have a bunch of nerds show you what to look for. They've already made all the mistakes, and also, seeing the right and the wrong mushrooms in person makes more sense when you can touch them, smell them, cut them open, etc.

a peek at Wickiup Reservoir through the trees.

The leaders of the forays are dedicated. They scout out locations the night before, so that we're pretty much guaranteed to find something the next day. They brought us near Wickiup Reservoir, one of the many lakes off the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. 

A cool thing about mushroom hunting is that you are generally in a beautiful spot, enjoying a nice long walk through the trees. So whether or not you find something, it's still a winning situation.

I was standing at the actual spring that feeds the reservoir.

I sort of spent the first 30 minutes just wandering, because I'm more of a lucky mushroom hunter, not a good one. Mike is much better at actually spotting them. I rely on the stumbling method, as in, I sure hope I stumble into one. 

And stumble I did! I was the first in our whole group to find a morel. Once you find a mushroom, you're supposed to stop and look around carefully. Mushrooms are social and like to hang in groups. 

My first sighting! Looks sort of like a blonde pinecone, so they're hard to spot.

Sure enough, there was a second right nearby. Mike ran over and we found about 5 more.

a second one!

Mike picking a morel, coral mushroom, and amanita mushrooms.

I felt a little guilty leaving at the end of the day, because you usually do a potluck after a foray, and share all your findings. But since this foray was in Bend and we live here, we just headed home with our goodies...

Beginner's Luck!

We found more than the whole group that day. Go team! Did you know these suckers are like $40/pound? 

An added bonus - we learned how to find and identify boletes, another mushroom that is prolific in this area and very popular with those in the know. I cooked one up for us and although it was tasty, it tasted just like a regular mushroom. The morels, though - they were tasty. It might have been the butter.
King Boletes. According to the book, they are "edible, and choice."

The true test will be next spring, if we can find morels all on our own. If we're successful, I know a bunch of foodie friends (and relatives) who are going to be super happy!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Water, Water, Everywhere....and Beer

It's close to impossible to find a couple where all four of you get along amazingly well - and not just the girls getting along, and the guys getting along, but where you get along with the other person's spouse, and they get along with yours. 

That's why we know that we're lucky, because Bernice and Josh (you met them in our Tokyo posts here, here, and here) are that couple for us. They are our favorite travel buddies, hiking buddies, and just-sit-around buddies. We know their personality quirks and food preferences, how late they'll want to sleep in and what they'll want to see. They adore our fur babies and we have the same vices. Planning for their visit was less about "what should we do?" and more about "how much can we cram in?"

They arrived late night on a Wednesday, and we picked them up and headed right out to Deschutes Brewery. Mike and I hadn't been there yet (shameful, I know!), despite living here for a year. So it was cool to discover that the breweries here have some pretty good food!

Josh and Bernice. We were there til closing - a good start!

They brought us an awesome housewarming gift, too...A few years ago, I had asked Josh if it was possible to recreate this chandelier I loved from this designer, which was an insane amount of money (especially for our humble abode). Well, he was able to weld something very similar, and schlepped it up to Bend in his luggage. So we now have light in our dining area!

Please excuse the crappy pic and unfinished trim on our sliding glass doors!
The next morning, we hit the trails. We started off local, on the Deschutes River Trail and got in a few good miles.

Josh slipped and fell...just kidding!

The next day, we took a lap around Todd Lake, usually one of our favorite spots. Right now, however, it's still got snow and the normally gorgeous wildflower field was super muddy and swampy. We all got serious wet sock, except Josh, who was only one who wore proper footwear. After the wet field, we had to tramp through knee deep snow on the shady side of the lake, so as you can imagine, our wet feet were frozen solid by the time we got back to the car. 

Bernice and I searching for the driest route through the field.

So for the next hike, we decided to do something with a clear cut trail. We took them to Sahalie Falls, one of our favorite spots. It's easy to get to, just off Route 126, and clearly marked with signs. 

This time, we hiked further down, rather than just hanging around by the waterfall. The trail was beautiful! You feel so far away from civilization.

Bernice and Josh on the trail!

A shot of the McKenzie River from the middle of a bridge.

The trail leads you past Koosah Falls, which I think is even more impressive than Sahalie Falls. It's not one raging fall like Sahalie, but more intricate. While Bernice and I were taking pictures, Josh disappeared down the ravine. 

Koosah Falls

We all scuttled down after him, grabbing tree branches and crab-walking the steep hillside.

The view from the bottom was stunning. Super misty and ethereal, and on a sunny day, I'm sure there's rainbows. The moss covered rocks and vegetation make it feel so lush! You could even see the spring, where the water comes up from the underground aquifers. The water here is so crisp and clear, it's turquoise in places.

to the left of the waterfall is the tiny spring, pouring from the lava rock.

On the walk back, we got viewpoints we missed on the way there, which were well worth a photo op.

The best part about Oregon is that you're never more than an hour away from a good beer and a good meal. After gorgeous scenery like that, all we had to do was drive about 30 minutes back to Sisters, Oregon, where we stopped in at the Three Creeks Brewery and had ourselves a snack!

a root beer float the size of Josh's head.

Bernice tasting all the brews on tap that day. The chocolate porter was my favorite!

It was a short but packed visit, and we miss them already. But we'll be keeping busy this summer, exploring more and more of the area...our new goal is to complete every hike in this new book we bought. It might take us a couple years, so wish us luck!