The ride over was somber, the heavy, dripping fog held onto us like a cold, cotton glove. As we felt our way along River Road, oncoming cars broke through the mist, headlights first. The fog would then swallow them behind us, the red tail lights like a sinking ship. As we passed Duncan's Mills the soup began to lift, the turn north on Highway One was clear. Jenner was not sunny at nine in the morning but beautiful none the less. We crested the hill just north of town and pulled over to stretch and check out the seal colony. There were not many new pups just yet, spring is seal pup time, divers call them 'shark candy bars' a bit of a grim reality. At the top of the Russian Gulch switchback we turned onto Meyers Grade Road, the view about halfway up looks over the blue water, Bodega Head, Point Reyes and the Golden Gate were before us.
The back road to Plantation always brings home the isolation and beauty we have in our backyard, the long vistas, the steep cut down to the highway, all framed by the Pacific, a big exhale for the outdoorsman. We pulled over at the secret spot, took a last sip of coffee, cinched up boot laces, checked the water bottles and shouldered our packs. We locked up and walked to our spot, just a few steps away from the main road and we were in deep forest. Towering Redwoods and Fir were under shadowed by Tan Oak. We trekked down the gentle drainage, the old landmarks were there, like old friends.
Crossing the small stream at the bottom we began the climb up through the Huckleberry and Hazel, here our walking stick came into play, to lift the skirt of brush and peer inside for our prey. “I've got Hedgies over here!” Steve called out. I had just spotted my first Black Chanterelle of the year. We were in it.
“I've got a row of Golden Chanterelle over here!” Roger called out. The mid-winter mushrooms were there to greet us, willing to grace our baskets and ride home with us. We found a few Candy Caps, tired and not too fragrant but a small part of our catch.
We ate lunch by our 'picture log' an old mossy chunk of Redwood left by loggers decades ago. The name comes from the many trips I've taken first timers over the years, it is a perfect backdrop for happy fungi-philes to line up for a snapshot.
The ride home was warm and sleepy, fortunately someone else was driving. Nasty work but someone has to do it.
Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.