Mushrooms in the North Cascades, Introduction

A weekend in the North Cascades with a purpose.

Back at the beginning of August, I went camping in the North Cascades National Park with Kirk, the guy I’d been dating since late June. Along the way, we stopped briefly at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, one of only two places with lodging in the park. (The other is Ross Lake Resort, which we hiked to.)

North Cascades Learning Center Office
The main office and shop at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center on Diablo Lake.

Later, when I got home, I looked up the organization on the Web. I was interested in staying there, mostly as a comfortable base for exploring the area. But I discovered their Learning Center programs for adults and realized that might be a more interesting way to spend time there. After a long summer stuck around home for work it would be nice to get out, meet new people, and learn something new.

I chose the “Mushrooms and Culinary Ventures course.” Here’s the description:

Autumn rains draw foragers from near and far to comb the forest floor in search of an abundant feast of fungi. Chanterelles, bear’s tooth, oyster and lobster mushrooms — you’ll find these tasty fall delicacies right here in the Wild Nearby.

Join us at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center during peak mushroom season to learn about our local fungi and how to incorporate them into delectable dishes.

Naturalist and amateur mycologist Lee Whitford will provide a general overview of fungus, including a foray into the woods where we’ll learn basic identification skills, ethical harvesting and guidelines for consuming these local edibles.

Upon returning, Learning Center Chef Kent Yoder will lead our group in a cooking lesson on preparing our wild harvest as well as lead a discussion about food’s critical role within a sustainable lifestyle.

When you’re not foraging, feel free to soak up the views of Pyramid and Colonial Peaks, linger on the shores of Diablo Lake, find a book to curl up with in the Wild Ginger Library and rest in comfort at night in our guest lodges.

Tuition includes two nights stay in our guest lodges and six delicious, healthy and locally sourced meals.

I have to say that I am intrigued about the idea of foraging for food. This might be related to my gleaning forays in picked cherry and apple orchards each harvest season. Or the fact that various berries — blackberries, thimble berries, and raspberries — are widely available on trails where I hike throughout the area. Or the availability of wild asparagus and other edibles nearby.

Because one of my hiking friends is an amateur mycologist, I already knew that edible mushrooms were widely available in the forests near my home. The way I saw it, this course would give me enough information to safely forage for mushrooms. I signed up.

The rest of the posts in this series cover my trip and what I learned, with plenty of photos to illustration what a great trip this was. Keep reading.

What do you think?