We crawled out of bed to get us fed, gassed and watered to be on the river road by 8 a.m., we made it on time, mostly. The ride on a Sunday morning out through the river towns was fairly light and uneventful. The drivers GPS speaks in a soft British accent and is very kind, or so she seems. She took us to Cazadero then up the Austin creek drainage on a twisty, winding road through hill and dale, very few mailboxes were on the old road. There were sweeping vistas of some of the wild back country of Sonoma County. At one ridge top the view seemed to go forever, the Buddhist temple topped by a shiny copper finial was clearly visible to the northwest as was another religious structure atop a ridge near our destination. We passed several bicyclists trudging up the steep grades, their lungs billowing in and out as they pushed on the pedals. We also passed by several motorcycles who were also out enjoying the day. Eventually we found ourselves at the famous fork-in-the-road, Tin Barn road to the right, Old Cazadero road to the left and Hausser Bridge road straight ahead. We had seen at least six mailboxes over the last five miles so things were looking up, civilization wise. We forged ahead and finally crossed the ‘new’ Hauser Bridge, dedicated back in 2017. Up we climbed, the pickup seemed to love the rough terrain, bumps and clumps, twists and narrow turns were all part of the roller coaster ride. At last we came to the end of the bridge road and the north end of Sea View Road, a road more familiar to mushroom hunters. We turned into a private drive and found Annalisa home waiting for our arrival. She carried a little fur ball of a puppy which was in my lap right away. The little one and I hit it off, we both think alike so it was a match for friendship.
Annalisa and her friend William guided us through the redwood and tan oak forest, we found lots of mushrooms but not the ones we were after. I’m not sure how many dog miles the puppy walked but he was conked out wrapped in my coat. After goodbyes and some target shooting we were off to nearby Salt Point State Park to foray, I rounded a stand of live oak and there on the ground a beautiful Golden Chanterelle smiled up from the leaf litter. I gently uncovered her and found she was part of a half-moon shaped line of Goldens. I carefully cut them off at the ground and brushed off the dirt and leaf debris and stowed them in the box in my backpack. In the end it was a great way to spend a sunny Sunday playing in our own backyard between rain storms.
Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.