Summer Sunday: Finding Chanterelles

DSC_0318 The goal of the trip wasn’t to gather mushrooms. We were headed to a hut to enjoy the last days of summer before school began. We were 12 people strong, 6 adults, 6 kids, loaded to the gills with chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers, tequila, wine, and beer—all of the recipes for a fun weekend.

But when you spy a lone chanterelle on the trail, you know you are a fool if you don’t stop and look for more. Even if it means throwing off your pack and hunting for a while. Even if it means throwing off the group’s momentum up the trail. For when there’s one chanterelle, there’s often more. Chanterelles are like outdoor enthusiasts or liberal intellectuals: they tend to cluster. Especially in the mountains.

DSC_0308 We didn’t need to look for long. No sooner had we stepped off the trail did we hear my husband Andy shout from an nearby spot in the woods. “Holy cow. Mother load.” A few of us caught up to him and were soon gathering chanterelles by the fistful, filling hats and shirts as fast as we could as if our discovery might vanish before our eyes. As if it were some mercurial pot of gold that had appeared at the end of a rainbow and might vanish at any moment.

DSC_0324 We sprinted up to the rest of the group to show them our find. Turns out we weren’t the only ones having luck. On a large flat boulder lay a pile of chanterelles and king boletes that resembled the shape of the peaks that loomed in the distance. Everyone stood around in awe of the luck that had transpired in a mere half hour. One of the littlest girls of the group, 5-year old Belle giggled, “We’re going to have a feast tonight.”

We got to the hut and a crew started in on scrubbing and trimming the mushrooms while the rest of us set up the cabin and worked on prepping dinner. On the menu? Caprese salad with local tomatoes and basil. Local cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto. Elk steaks from a successful hunt the previous fall. And margaritas made with local peaches. And now? Local mushrooms sautéed in butter.

DSC_0317 When everything was ready to share, we sat at the big farm table watching through the windows as the falling sun set the mountains on fire. The colors drifted from orange to pink, from purple to black, closing out a spectacular day. The weekend already held the right ingredients for the right weekend—great friends and a great place. But the discovery of the mushrooms added an element of magic to the trip. We were great friends feasting on local foods. Great friends who together found more mushrooms in one afternoon than we had ever collectively found together in our lives. Great friends who had found that pot of the gold at the end of the rainbow and discovered that at least for the weekend, it was there to stay.

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Emily Brendler Shoff

Emily Brendler Shoff

Emily Brendler Shoff found true love when she moved to the Rockies for her freshman year at Colorado College in 1994. Her love affair with the mountains hasn’t wavered since. She writes, teaches, and makes cookies for her favorite people in Telluride, Colorado.
Emily Brendler Shoff

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