All Mushrooms are Magic

When declaring my excitement for going "shrooming" in my new backyard, I was asked, "are you looking for magic mushrooms?"

 Not poisonous, but you wouldn’t like to eat it, unless you are a squirrel.

Not poisonous, but you wouldn’t like to eat it, unless you are a squirrel.

In college, I had my magic mushroom experimentation experience. My then boyfriend (now husband) thought we would try the “magic” (Psilocybe sp.) mushrooms his roommate gave us. They tasted bad, so we downed them with a bottle or two of wine.

 At lunch: “Waiter, waiter, there is a shroom in my soup!” “Quiet, the other guests may want to identify it.”

At lunch: “Waiter, waiter, there is a shroom in my soup!” “Quiet, the other guests may want to identify it.”

Why not?

It was fun to see new colors all around me. My hands and feet stretched out for what felt like miles. "Here kitty, kitty..." looking for the cat was an Alice in Wonderland adventure as we swam through the house.

Things were spinning a bit too much, and I became aware that I wasn't in control anymore. I saw a serpent dragon dive through the bed covers.

 These mushroom cupcakes are safe to eat, but they look like a trippy  Amanita mascaria  (not good to eat.)

These mushroom cupcakes are safe to eat, but they look like a trippy Amanita mascaria (not good to eat.)

I lay in bed knowing that my breathing was slowing and my heartbeats were gradually getting farther apart, weaker, fainter, and fewer... I was convinced, "I am going to die."

But I didn't.

I woke up the next morning just fine. Well, maybe a bit hung over, but alive none the less. I decided that my husband's wild mushroom stroganoff and his chanterelle mushroom turkey stuffing were the extent of my mushroom experimentation.

But, to make stroganoff and turkey stuffing, we had to go out collecting, and that is where I fell in love with mushrooms.

One of the downsides of living in the great Pacific north-west is the rain. But with the showers come one of the benefits: mushrooms.

I want to learn more about our local mushrooms, so I attended Puget Sound Mycological Society (PSMS) Mushroom 201a mushroom identification class at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Agriculture. And last month, I spent a fun fungus afternoon at the 55th Annual Wild Mushroom Show sponsored by PSMS.

I believe that all mushrooms are magic.

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Mushrooms of all shapes, sizes, colors, and textures were on display and grouped according to the way the bear their reproductive spores. We toured the trays remembering a few old friends. Agarics (gilled), Boletes, veined mushrooms, puffballs, cup fungi, polyspores, jellies, and clubs were gathered and available for our inspection.

 Ask an expert. My mushrooms weren’t anything special, but they were my discovery.

Ask an expert. My mushrooms weren’t anything special, but they were my discovery.

It was busy at the Mushroom Identification Table. I had to wait in line to have my specimens examined. I brought four different mushrooms wrapped in wax paper. Three from my backyard and one from my sister’s front yard - Yard Shrooms.

"This is a bolete because you can see the tubes under the cap, and it is dark on the top..." Danny, the Volunteer Mushroom Expert at the Mushroom Identification Table evaluated the qualities of my samples. "This is Zeller's bolete," he declares with pride and confidence. “You can see the dark leathery cap, and the pores on the underside… and the color of the stem…”

I had a Zeller’s Bolete (Boletus zelleri), a honey mushroom (Armillaria sinapina), a hard to identify species of Clitocybe sp., and a pear-shaped puffball from my sister’s house (Lycoperdon pyriforme).

It was like the "Antiques Road Show." I brought my goodies for assessment, but their only value was a good time.

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My mushrooming partner and I checked out the tables with crafts and how to dye fabric with mushrooms. There was a "Mushroom Haunted House" were musky smelly mushrooms were displayed in the dark under UV lights.

I liked the smell of the mushroom cooking demonstrations, and there was a room where people could make their very own mushroom growing kit. I bought some cultivated Italian pioppini mushrooms to top our homemade pizza.

 Inside the Mushroom Haunted House, the shrooms were all a ghostly glow.

Inside the Mushroom Haunted House, the shrooms were all a ghostly glow.

 Yarns, died with mushrooms.

Yarns, died with mushrooms.

At the Puget Sound Mycological Society’s Mushroom 201a - Beginning Identification Class, we had piles of mushrooms, all gathered by eager students, arranged in take-out food containers for us to attempt to identify.

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The curriculum included “what is taxonomy?” and “what is identification?” We practiced observing and describing mushrooms, identification methods, and (the big one) how to use dichotomous keys.

Like most biology classes, there is a lot of mushroom jargon, a.k.a, “technical terminology.“

Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, then comes Family, Genera, and Species. A neat and specific structure to all things mushroom.

Then things get messy.

 First question in keying mushrooms: Gills or no gills? This one has gills.

First question in keying mushrooms: Gills or no gills? This one has gills.

 This mushroom does not have gills. That was the easy part.

This mushroom does not have gills. That was the easy part.

Gill attachment, decurrent? Shape, pulvinate? Spore color, pink to salmon? Surface, floccose? Stem, saccate? Partial veil, doubly-flared? Habit? Habitat?

Luckily, Mycology Expert Steve gave us an “Easy Guide to Mushroom Descriptions” with little cartoon drawings to help us visualize terms used by most mushroom guide books. “Ha, there it is…” Not so easy.

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Aminita, agarica, gilled mushrooms, truffles, crusts, morels, earthstars, cup fungi; some slimy, some veined, some blue, some pink, all little gems that pop when conditions are just right. Hidden in the ecosystem, they grow in the damp quiet substrate waiting for their time to reproduce. When all factors are in alignment, they make their presence known to the world. Like Dr. Seuss's "Horton Hears a Who" they shout "We're here, we're here, we're here!" awaiting discovery.

Squirrels, insects, and birds eat mushrooms. The remains turn into a slimy, messy unidentifiable pile of muck. Fungi decompose leaves and forest litter and help trees absorb nutrients. They are nutritious, therapeutic, and an integral part of all ecosystems.

I think they are beautiful.

Mushrooms appear from nowhere, they live their life, then disappear into thin air. That's magic.

I don't need to trip-out on hallucinogenic mushrooms. Been there, done that. But a walkabout in the woods looking for hidden gems?

Give me a moment to grab my camera and my collecting basket. Let's go.

 “And who’s been nibbling on my mushroom?”

“And who’s been nibbling on my mushroom?”

Hello, Olympia Camera Club

New Member Profile

The Olympia Camera Club Newsletter editor asked me to fill our their New Member/Member profile for the November newsletter. Here is my Whelan on Walkabout response.

 New to Olympia, my husband Keith and I take a selfie at Tumwater Falls.

New to Olympia, my husband Keith and I take a selfie at Tumwater Falls.

Pam, First, I want to thank you for allowing me this member profile for the Olympia Camera Club. The OCC members made a great first impression. I’m excited about participating in OCC activities this year.

What or who brought you to the club?

In June, I moved from Clovis, California (near Fresno) to Olympia, Washington. I was actively entering photos in the Big Fresno Fair and showing pictures at the Fresno City Hall, and I wanted to find ways to share photos in my new community. I was nervous about being in a new venue, but I entered two images in the Thurston County Fair, and at the Fair, two of the fair exhibit volunteers were very friendly and helpful. They gave me a brochure and encouraged me to check it out. I was impressed. I love my social networking venues, Facebook, Instagram, and Flickr, but nothing beats meeting with people face to face.

 The photography room at the Thurston County Fair, 2018.

The photography room at the Thurston County Fair, 2018.

 Selfie with one of my two, honorable mention awards at the Thurston County Fair.

Selfie with one of my two, honorable mention awards at the Thurston County Fair.

How did you get interested in photography?

Like many, I started at a young age with film, but through school, college and family pursuits, I set it aside. That all changed when I used my first digital camera. I was working for the U.S. Forest Service, and we bought a digital camera for the documentation of issues out in the forest. It was a Sony, it used a floppy disc, and you could only take eight photos at a time. But, when I found out those photos could be downloaded directly into a document, or edited on the computer, I remembered how much I loved photography. No waiting, no darkroom, no worries, just photographs.

 From my photo set “Who Will Take Out the Trash,” cleaning up illegal marijuana grow sites in 2007.

From my photo set “Who Will Take Out the Trash,” cleaning up illegal marijuana grow sites in 2007.

 “We crawled on our hands and knees, following the black pipe from one abandoned campsite to another. Volunteers gingerly picked up rotting trash, rolled up irrigation pipe and gathered bags for California Highway Helicopter H-40 to haul away.”

“We crawled on our hands and knees, following the black pipe from one abandoned campsite to another. Volunteers gingerly picked up rotting trash, rolled up irrigation pipe and gathered bags for California Highway Helicopter H-40 to haul away.”

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I started my re-discovery by taking photos of the people and places I visited for work and became interested in storytelling with images. I really enjoyed my job and loved my co-workers. So in appreciation, I would take photos of a project or activity, print and frame 12-15 images and hang them in the office hallway. I created an impromptu art gallery, and I changed it every month or two. The reaction was so much fun, I kept up the hall gallery until I retired in 2013.

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What kind of photography do you like to do?

I have fun telling stories with photos. I wanted to keep in touch with family and friends, so I created my website “Whelan on Walkabout” www.whelanonwalkabout.com where I show my photos and write about my travels. Without intent, I have become a travel photographer. Mostly, I take photos up close and personal.

I am almost always outdoors, and I rarely take photographs of people. Lately, I do have a thing for experimenting with post processing photos of seeds and pine cones.

 I became a travel photographer while enjoying cocktails at a bar in Rovinj, Croatia.

I became a travel photographer while enjoying cocktails at a bar in Rovinj, Croatia.

What equipment is in your camera bag?

 “It was a very cold night in Iceland. At first you just feel it, then, it takes shape, gradually the colors – green, yellow and distant violet shades. Elusive and only found when the weather is just right.”

“It was a very cold night in Iceland. At first you just feel it, then, it takes shape, gradually the colors – green, yellow and distant violet shades. Elusive and only found when the weather is just right.”

I had a very large pelican box full of Nikon equipment; two Nikon bodies and lots of beautiful Nikkor glass that I drug around for a month photographing Iceland. I’m not getting any younger, and I want to keep taking photos and traveling, so I sold all my Nikon gear and purchased a smaller, more portable micro four-thirds mirrorless system. Although larger sensors have their benefits, I find the ability to carry a lightweight system to be invaluable, especially for my travel photography. I now shoot an Olympus OMD- EM 5MKII with only two lenses, an Olympus pro-40-150 mm 1:2.8 zoom and an Olympus 25mm prime that functions very much like my old Nikon 50mm prime. But even that is sometimes too big to take along. If I'm shooting in the streets of Panama, or hiking Olympic National Park, I like to travel with my Lumix DX-100 and my iPhone (which is becoming my new favorite camera.)

What post processing programs do you use?

I’m a mac person. I am using Lightroom Classic CC on my iMac computer, and for special projects, I use Topaz Studio. I find Photoshop is too fat, slow, and cumbersome. For my iPhone photos, sometimes I just use Apple’s Photos app, but I don’t love it.

 One of my favorite photos, the hill town  Gordes in the Provence Region of France.

One of my favorite photos, the hill town Gordes in the Provence Region of France.

What do you want to learn from the club?

I am really looking forward to finding new places to visit and seeing what and how and what other photographers photograph. Photography is about having a good time sharing with people. To me having fun is being in a new place, taking pictures, learning about others, and sharing.

On a side note, I'm thinking OCC needs a location to exhibit and hang our favorite photos. Maybe the library, or City Hall, or a bar, someplace we could start something new in Olympia. Who knows?

Thank you for asking me about my interest in OCC. It is going to be a great year!

Cynthia A Whelan, a.k.a. Whelan on Walkabout

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Say It Isn't So!

Tacoma RV Show

"How could you leave me? We we have such a wonderful time together. Remember our first trip to Pismo Beach and you were so excited to just be there with me? We had fish tacos and watched the sunset. You said 'I love you.' "

 Our first outing with Eggburt, a rainy Pismo Beach, 2011.

Our first outing with Eggburt, a rainy Pismo Beach, 2011.

 A romantic sunset at Pismo Beach.

A romantic sunset at Pismo Beach.

"I know, I do love you very much," I reply. "But I think I've met someone that..." I hesitate to carefully select my words. "Well... someone that has more space. Someone with a sink and an inside toilet."

Breaking up is hard to do, it is true. But after eight years of traveling with our teardrop trailer "Eggburt," we are looking at moving on. We are looking at getting a new camping trailer.

 We were wondering, what goes on inside the Tacoma Dome?

We were wondering, what goes on inside the Tacoma Dome?

 This one is too small.

This one is too small.

 Is Goldilocks looking for a bed that isn’t too soft?

Is Goldilocks looking for a bed that isn’t too soft?

This month there was an unusual walkabout opportunity at the Tacoma Dome, the Tacoma Fall RV Show. Yes, big names I have never heard, like Apache Camping Center, RV Country, Valley RV Supercenter, and Blue Dog RV. They were putting on their best show and all in one place. We went to see what the recreational vehicle outlook is for replacing Eggburt. We have looked on Craigslist and retailer’s websites, but nothing beats standing inside.

We were modern-day Goldilocks checking out a new little abode in the woods.

 Eggburt has relatives that are bigger and include a toilet. My favorite, T@B.

Eggburt has relatives that are bigger and include a toilet. My favorite, T@B.

And I love the "showcase" of brand names; Hummingbird, Rainier, Cougar, Sandpiper, Solitude, Bigfoot, Arctic Fox, Glacier Peak, and who could resist a Mini Winnie? Big outdoor names that make you want to get up and go.

 And this one is too big. We aren’t Alpha Wolves.

And this one is too big. We aren’t Alpha Wolves.

 Inside compact sink and two burner combination. An interesting concept.

Inside compact sink and two burner combination. An interesting concept.

We aren't looking for something that can leap over tall buildings in a single bound, but our aging bodies are encouraging us to seek a few more creature comforts to keep us happy campers.

There are some things about Eggburt that we just won't give up. Eggburt is so light, we forget we are towing him up steep mountain passes and on rough dirt roads. Set-up involves unlocking the doors and opening the top vent. When we aren’t on the road, he stores in the garage, ready to go at a moment's notice. Every trip, someone asks us about our teardrop trailer. “Is there a bed in there?” “How does it tow?” “It is so cute!”

I’m not asking for much. Not big.

Just easy.

And maybe cute.

We want easy to store, easy to tow, easy to set-up, easy to take down, easy to clean, easy to park, easy to cook, easy to stand up, and easy to get up in the middle of the night when I need to attend to personal body functions. We mostly stay in campsites, but occasionally we go to RV parks, and we want to have everything necessary to “boon-dock,” stay outback, get off the grid, camp where no one is nearby, off the beaten trail, all alone in the environment to look for birds and take photographs. Something always ready for a new Whelan on Walkabout adventure!

 Could this one be just right? Keith’s favorite, the A frame pop-up.

Could this one be just right? Keith’s favorite, the A frame pop-up.

A toilet inside. Inside Kitchen, and a table to sit at night or during bad weather. When I wake up in the middle of the night, it is difficult to find my clothes, put on clothes, find my flashlight, open the door to the cold of the night, and walk the 30 yards to a cold toilet seat. Then go back, hoping that the neighbor’s dog won’t bark and I don’t see a bear in the other campsite.

In the morning, one of us needs to be awake enough to get dressed, go outside, open the kitchen, and wait in the cold for the coffee to brew. Coffee and breakfast with Eggburt gets cold quickly and if it is raining or windy, Eggburt’s kitchen is impossible to use. Cooking outdoors is a fair weather camping activity.

 Very cute and it would still be a conversation piece.

Very cute and it would still be a conversation piece.

But then again, Eggburt is such a good sport, and we have so many wonderful memories together. How could we part? He has been so loyal. There is still Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park and other National Parks to explore! Can we do it without Eggburt? Can we sell our BFF?

We don’t make fast. After seeing the options, we will need more time to get used to the idea of a new travel trailer.

“But he’s so cute!” Maybe, this one is just right.

Maybe, next year…

 New Year’s Day at Death Valley National Park.

New Year’s Day at Death Valley National Park.

Town and Country Canada

Vancouver, B.C. and Spences Bridge, B.C.

Then let not those begin to grumble,
Whose lot is safe though poor and humble;
Nor envy him who better fares,
But for each good has twenty cares.
— The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse

In the Aesop's Fable “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse,” the town mouse doesn’t appreciate the food and lifestyle of the country mouse. In turn, the country mouse doesn’t like the cost of security by living in town.

For my 60th birthday, I wanted to visit Canada. I wanted to be out of the United States and exploring and I didn’t want to confirm any preconceived notions of what Canada is all about. I wanted to see something different. I wanted a Canadian Walkabout Birthday. A visit to the big city life and time in the out-back country life of Canada. A yin and yang trip, a lesson in contrasts, a town mouse and a country mouse experience.

“I cannot understand, Cousin, how you can put up with such poor food as this, but of course you cannot expect anything better in the country; come you with me and I will show you how to live. When you have been in town a week you will wonder how you could ever have stood a country life.”

 Vancouver skyline from Stanley Park.

Vancouver skyline from Stanley Park.

 Fall color at Pavilion Lake.

Fall color at Pavilion Lake.

This walkabout was equal parts city and country; three days in Vancouver, B.C. and three days in Spences Bridge, B.C.

 Our   Airbnb on the 31st floor  , Vancouver, B.C. ( See link for description.)

Our Airbnb on the 31st floor, Vancouver, B.C. ( See link for description.)

Vancouver, B.C. In 2016, the Greater Vancouver area had a population of 2,463,431 making it the third-largest metropolitan area in Canada. Vancouver is on English Bay.

Spences Bridge, B.C. In 1892, the population of Spences Bridge included 32 people of European ancestry and 130 First Nations people. There were 5 general stores, 3 hotels, one Church of England, and one school. The population as of 2016 is only 99. Spences Bridge is in Canada’s 100 mile Desert Corridor.

 Our  Airbnb at Spences Bridge . ( See link for description)

Our Airbnb at Spences Bridge. ( See link for description)

 A room with a high rise urban view. Vancouver, B.C.

A room with a high rise urban view. Vancouver, B.C.

 A room with low rise river view. Spences Bridge, B.C.

A room with low rise river view. Spences Bridge, B.C.

Starting in Vancouver, we needed to pick up the key to our Airbnb. First I had to download the app "Keycafe," then find the Seven-Eleven convenience market where I entered a code, waited for a little box to present the key to our rental flat one block away, up the elevator on the 31st floor. We never met our host but we exchanged several emails.

 
 

The streets were busy downtown, and the food selections were plentiful and international. We started our day in a bustling coffee shop and progressed to Malaysian food at Banana Leaf. After a short afternoon walk in Stanley Park, we went out for the evening to the historic Gastown District where we enjoyed fresh local oysters at Roys Oyster House and live bluegrass at Guilt and Company. Everything we ate was amazing, five stars all!

 The cute little ferry to  Granville Island Public Market.

The cute little ferry to Granville Island Public Market.

 A young bighorn sheep checks us out along the road near Spences Bridge.

A young bighorn sheep checks us out along the road near Spences Bridge.

The next day, starting our day with a different coffee shop, we took a short ferry ride to Granville Island Public Market where we had a vegan noodle bowl and shopped for food to take with us to the countryside. But, before we left the Island I wanted a Cesar, a very Canadian cocktail from Liberty Distillery. We also bought a bottle or two to of a unique small batch handcrafted gin to take home with us.

 You know you are having breakfast in Canada when Hockey rules morning news.

You know you are having breakfast in Canada when Hockey rules morning news.

 Milkweed seeds along the Nicola River in morning light.

Milkweed seeds along the Nicola River in morning light.

 Outhouse across the road was our Spences Bridge neighbor.

Outhouse across the road was our Spences Bridge neighbor.

 Trump Tower was our Vancouver neighbor. It dominated the night skyline.

Trump Tower was our Vancouver neighbor. It dominated the night skyline.

In Spences Bridge, we followed the Host’s directions to our cabin on the river. "Turn right at the yellow street sign, just past the red and white vegetable stand." There was no key, the door was open, and we were met by our host Steve. He presented us with a loaf of fresh home-baked bread. He told us about his mom's house where we were staying. We didn't need a key, but if we needed anything, he was available to do what he could for us.

 Nightlife in Spences Bridge, a free (and ugly) jigsaw puzzle. We couldn’t finish it.

Nightlife in Spences Bridge, a free (and ugly) jigsaw puzzle. We couldn’t finish it.

 “I would like a Cesar, please,” a Canadian Bloody Mary. “Put in on my tab.” at the  Liberty Distillery

“I would like a Cesar, please,” a Canadian Bloody Mary. “Put in on my tab.” at the Liberty Distillery

 Would you, could you BBQ? There is plenty of meat to eat at  Granville Island Public Market .

Would you, could you BBQ? There is plenty of meat to eat at Granville Island Public Market.

 Would you pay if no one knew? The  Monkey in the Garden Permaculture Farm & Market Stand.

We walked along the Nicola River and admired the milkweed seeds, the changing colors of the maples, and the nearby pear orchards. Our days consisted of long drives in the countryside following rivers and mountain tops, watching the landscape change. We saw bighorn sheep along the roadside, and we stopped at several small lakes.

Our evenings were spent listening to streaming music and agonizing over an ugly jigsaw puzzle. That night, it was so dark, and so quiet, I couldn't tell if my eyes were open or closed. Luckily, there was a nightlight in the next room.

 Fall colors along the Nicola River at Spences Bridge.

Fall colors along the Nicola River at Spences Bridge.

 Large colorful artwork at the  Ocean Concrete  on Granville Island, Vancouver. Those are real, cement trucks.

Large colorful artwork at the Ocean Concrete on Granville Island, Vancouver. Those are real, cement trucks.

I can not live my life as a town mouse. The apartment, the dining, the drinks, and the nightlife, are fun, but too expensive for me. The cost of living in a city is too big for my bank account. I never wanted to do the work required to live in a big city. It’s a nice place to visit, but too expensive to live there.

I cannot live my life as a country mouse. Early in my career, I lived in the California Outback, very remote, without groceries, restaurants, libraries, and entertainment. I prefer the availability of having selections, services, and conveniences available and nearby.

But now, while on walkabout, I can pick and choose where I stay.

In British Columbia, Canada, I choose BOTH.

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