Hugh Erle Smith
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Favorite Forays

Alaska Foray, August 6 - 13, 2010

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There were so many tasks to accomplish before the trip!

I don't know when I fell asleep. And I don't remember if I dreamed.


This can't be! There are so many mushrooms!

Bill White's Lodge

Am I dreaming?


Am I sure?


Where am I?


The land of the midnight sun?


What time is it?



Over 16 hours now.

Where IS the sun then?

Over there, behind those glacier covered mountains.

Who is this?



That's right.

Are you sure I'm not dreaming?

It's August, the peak of summer. It's 100 degrees at home.
But here, it's like late Autumn on the California coast. There's a lot to do here. One week could never be enough! Two weeks would be a good start, "start" being the key word.

Twelve of us were there at Bill White's Alaska Sports Lodge for the big foray. Bill's lodge is primarily for fishers and hunters, but not this week. Our awesome hosts, Bill and Jerri, have their place right on the Kenai (KEE nye) River. This is the fastest and largest river I have ever seen. The volume of water that flows by their lodge is astounding! And the many kinds of fish that live and migrate to this place are giants by any standard. The record King Salmon is now 103 pounds! Gosh, just think if that was edible!

If you like to fish, this is the place.

And then there's the other wildlife... Eagles, Seagles, Hawks, Otters, Black Bear, Brown Bear, Caribou, Porcupine, Moose, Mice and Bunnies.

There are no Skunks, no Raccoons, no Ticks, no Reptiles.

And the forests... these woods are not like what we're familiar with. The bogs and swamplands control the height of the trees.

The wetter the land, the shorter the trees. You can see exactly where the land is the wettest, and driest. A lot of the forest has a Dr. Seuss appearance, like another world.

There are deciduous trees too and many types of berry bushes.

There's Slime Molds, and fungus.

On your mark, get set, HUNT!

Mushrooms, mushrooms everywhere. DON'T STEP THERE! Everywhere! WATCH WHERE YOU'RE STEPPING!

At the beginning of this trip, everyone is yelling, "STOP THE CAR!"

Later in the trip everyone would be saying, "Quit looking and drive." Mushrooms mushrooms everywhere!

I understand there are 12 types of Leccinum here.

And Dimitar, I'll bet 1 out of 2 mushrooms are Cortinarius.

Yes, one out of two. But I am deceiving you. Just because every other mushroom is a Cort and half of what's left over is a Leccinum doesn't
mean you couldn't step from one King Bolete to another, because you could in many places. From one Boletus edulis to another.

Why pick'em or kick'em when you can just walk on' em?

Think about it. Walking on Boletes. 

Bill took us to a place he had recently discovered. It's what I would call a "secret laughing place". You just fall down on the ground and laugh.

I've seen very few places like that. And here's one of them. 

This must be a dream.


Recently some of us had been conjecturing on how Moose can be so large (7 feet at the shoulder!) that they must only lumber about, being too
heavy for their own legs.

So here I am, layin' on the ground... laughing, when something large and dark thunders the ground as it goes running by me.

I jump to my feet and run after it (wouldn't you?), reaching for my camera like a gunslinger as I go. I still have no idea what ran by.

It must've been a deer to move that fast.

I don't see anything. And then, there she is.

I'm 87 feet (about) away from her. She's looking at me and standing perfectly still. I position a tree between her and me and move in.

Now I'm 53 feet (approximately) away. I stand out from behind the tree.

We're on level ground and even from this distance I can sense that I have to look up at her. I take a picture. Then I move to the other side of the tree. She's standing between me...and her baby!

OH. I get it!

I take another photo and walk away.

There are many things here named King something. There's King Bolete, King Salmon, King Crab, King Burger...

All are robust by definition, and nutritional too.

I think there may be two kinds of King Boletes here in this secret laughing place. Some of the Kings have their lower recticulations as deep valleys and ridges. They probably taste the same.

But how would I know? I don't eat them. Like fish, they are not something you would want to put in your mouth, unless there are good chefs around, which there were.

(We had many great chefs).

They DO have good trading value though, and there is chicken about...

So why am I here then? I guess what I meant to say is, why aren't YOU here?

Here's some verses I wrote for a song you may be familiar with.

Here's some verses I wrote for a song you may be familiar with.

These lyrics are written to the song, "North To Alaska", by Johnny Horton. I am currently considering quitting my day job.

What do you think?

Way up North............
Way up North............

North . . to Alaska, we're goin' north,
the rush is on.
North . . to Alaska, we're goin' north,
the hunt is on.

Ol' Hugh left the city, in the year of twenty ten, with
Sandi, his partner and some other mushroom friends. They
found the Kenai River, and they went where they were told. They found
Cort caperatus, Lec Si Num,
and Boletes, big & bold.

Where the river is windin', Bill's Boletes we're findin',
North . . to Alaska, we're goin' north,
the hunt is on.

Well Hugh turned to Phil with a Bolete in his hands.
Said, "Phil, you're a lookin' at a hungry hungry man.
I'd trade all these Porcini, that are found in this here land, for some
good ol' deep-fried chic-ken, an' a chocolate dessert, man."

Where the Kenai is windin', big Boletes they're findin',
North . . to Alaska, we're goin' north,
the hunt is on

I know, I know, it still needs a little work.

But what do you think? Should I quit my day job?

No, not to be a songwriter, to hunt mushrooms!

Mushrooming is not all we did though. We went to Seward (SOO word) and did some mushroom hunting on the way there.

The gift shop and information center in Seward has two mushroom books available, "Mushrooms of North America" by Schalkwijk-Barendsen and "All That The Rain Promises And More" by David Arora.

We then went to the Exit Glacier and hunted mushrooms. We stopped at vista points and hunted. We went to where the Salmon were being counted
as they run up Hidden Creek to spawn. Bears are known to frequent this place because it's an easy meal. We didn't see the bears but there were mushrooms. We stopped at some bathrooms and hunted. We stopped for lunch and hunted. We hiked to a great fall and cascade on the Russian River where the fish were also working their way upstream, and hunted.

We went clamming on a low tide for Razor Clams (no mushrooms on the mud flats but they WERE in the parking lot).

Yes, we did many things that were not mushroom-related.

One day Bill said he could take us to a place where we might find some mushrooms. I said, "Bill, can you take us to a place where there AREN'T any?"

I startled myself awake.

Was it all just a dream?

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