In the wake of a deluge of Biblical proportions, the mycological landscape is exposed and naked. Well-concealed secrets have been pushed to the surface in a rare tipping of the mycelial hand. Knowledge of the underground mycelial layout that would usually take decades to develop is readily available to anyone with a keen set of forager’s eyes.
For the mushroom hunter, this is all very overwhelming. The forest is erupting with fungi. New species are stepping into the scene daily, from bicolor boletes to black trumpets. It is only mid-July, but it has already been an epic chanterelle season – even in unknown territory, I am finding new patches on almost every outing. Just follow the yellow brick road.
In a gleeful celebration of the rain, Jenna and I headed out into the wilds of Hinesburg. On the drive over, we eagerly listened to a VPR story about the unprecedented early summer rainfall, before setting out into the woods under partly cloudy skies.
Soon we had gathered a satchel full of chanterelles. The distant grumble of thunder, slowly closing in from all directions, felt oddly comforting to these rain-dependent mushroom maniacs.
As the grumble grew to a rumble, the sky turned black and heavy, enveloping us in its dark grip. “Ari, we’re going to get rained on,” Jenna exclaimed, stating the obvious with an uncharacteristic warble in her voice.
Before I could even respond, we heard a sharp snap of thunder, as the sky opened up in all its glory for the tenth day in a row. We might as well have been swimming. “Make sure you keep those chanterelles dry,” I quipped.
The rain was relentless, saturating anything and everything. Soon it had made victims of our iPhone and camera, handily penetrating the plastic bag we’d brought as a contingency plan. Even the mycelium was probably overwhelmed. We were in too deep but we boldly marched on, as our fingertips became prunes and the trail became a river.
As we neared the end of our hike, we arrived at a raging rapid. It was quite the sight to behold, the kind of whitewater that could drown dog, deer, dromedary or dragon. However, the sheer grandeur of the rapid was less inspiring once we realized that this was no river – this was the road we had driven in on!
The landscape had been transformed beyond recognition. The 8-foot diameter culvert that we had driven over into the parking lot had been swept downstream, leaving a muddy ledge that was rapidly eroding as the violent waters slammed up against its shore.
And there, across the divide on a quickly shrinking spit of land, was our Volkswagen.
A friendly family took us in and offered us towels and a change of clothes. When Judah sank his canine teeth into the rear end of one of their chickens, they graciously laughed it off as they saw me tackle him, throwing the traumatized bird out of the ravenous setter’s mouth just in time for it to walk away with a raw, bloodied behind.
We made it out by evening, walking over the closed town roads and meeting a friend on the other side. Our car was stuck on its lonely spit of land for nearly a week, but the floodwaters narrowly spared it. Even the iPhone and camera magically came back to life. Most importantly, though they sweated a bit in the frying pan, the chanterelles we had gathered held up beautifully.