We parked our car at the Great Gulf Wilderness lot and headed into the White Mountain foothills for a pilgrimage to a favorite camping retreat during our high school and undergraduate years.
Hearty flushes of hygophorus milkies and painted suillus welcomed us into the wilderness, and scattered bands of chanterelles drew us deeper into the coniferous woods. After a sweaty couple mile trek in, we arrived at the majestic campsite in the shadow of the Presidentials and laid down our packs. We could hear the river rushing below, so we headed down for a swim. We were delighted to find the shores lined with gold, and we enjoyed a frigid dip alongside the chanterelles.
Soon the sky grew dark, and we lamented the fact that we had not brought olive oil into the woods to cook up our treasures. We lovingly tucked them into the pocket of our tent, and spent a restful night dreaming of chanterelle omelets.
The next morning I stumbled out of the tent and brewed a pot of cowboy coffee as Jenna walked into the dense spruce and birch woods with toilet paper in hand. She emerged a few minutes later, just as I was taking the first sip of coffee straight out of the metal pot, with a glowing smile: “Chanterelles!”
I felt like a gold prospector as I bushwhacked my way into the evergreens with my pot of coffee. Jenna’s find was stunning – a long, winding band of chanterelles that almost glowed against the dark ground. I sprung into action, heading deeper into the wilds in search of additional golden nuggets. More chanterelles punctuated the forest floor, as well as my first yellow foot chanterelles and black trumpets of the season.
I even found a few pristine looking early porcini, but upon closer inspection their savory flesh was already squirming with life. Unable to resist the season’s first ceps, I detached the maggot-infested stem, peeled off the pores, and carefully selected a couple relatively maggot-free bites. There are few mushrooms that I eat without cooking but, like the maggots, I find raw porcini to be a divine trailside snack. Its nutty, bolete-alicious aftertaste lingers on the tongue long after the fear of having consumed raw maggots subsides.
The hills are alive with the mushrooms of summer – now is the time to find your own forest feast!