We are in the right cycle now for mid-winter mushrooms, think Chanterelle, Black Chanterelle, Hedge Hogs and Yellow Foot, also in the Chanterelle family. There are a few other edibles, but these are easy to identify and fun to find. A few words on safety, other than the cardinal rule of mushroom consumption, “If in doubt, throw it out!” Winter storms can bring wind, sometimes wind without rain, so make it a policy to check out predicted winds before heading into coastal forests, like Salt Point State Park.
Anything north of 10 mph is dangerous, twigs, sticks and branches fall like rain in heavy winds. It only takes a limb the size of your thumb to knock you out and that is if it lands across your noggin. If a stick hits you in a straight down latitude, you may become a hot dog on a stick. There are some other things to watch for, never step on a log or tree branch in the rain or that is sodden or frosty, the forces of gravity and slip will put you ‘feet up’ in a flash. This I have not learned from experience; I took a short cut on a fallen log, as I stepped onto the part without bark, my feet did the splits and I was straddling a log like a bronco buster coming out of chute three. The old saw is, no pain, no gain, I’m still waiting for the ‘gain’ part. The first bit of advice for new mushroom hunters is to go out with a mushroom club, there you will learn many of the basics, over the course of a season you will likely feel comfortable on your own. Google mushroom clubs for our area to select a club, to look at photos of the species above go to; mykoweb for details by species.
Western deserts can be very beautiful this time of year, there are several field trips to the California deserts on the calendar, check the local club, Santa Rosa Gem and Mineral Society or Google rockhound field trips to find more clubs with specific places and dates. Consider buying a field guide, there are two that are of value, the Falcon guide books, Rock Hounding Nevada, or Southern California and many others specific to a particular area. The other group that is widely held are the Gem Trails books, I have one of each book to help me find the right spot. There are many, many books on the subject but going with a group that knows what they are doing makes all the difference. Rain time is a good time to lay out plans for a field trip. A small hint, we live in an area of excellent rock hounding trips. Think of petrified wood, California jadeite, petrified whale bone, chert, chalcedony, some excellent jasper and native obsidian, you can make your own arrowheads.
This is also a good time of year to check out ocean and freshwater fishing possibilities, the minus tides during daylight hours start early this year, so think about Tomales Bay. Lawsons Landing has a clam calendar online. The department of fish and wildlife also has resources for you to consider.
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.