October 23, 2007

Mushroom hunting and. . . where's the rain?



On Sunday morning, we went to an undisclosed location for mushroom hunting. My friend's husband is an expert from way back and he had a mission: chanterelles for dinner. Mushroom hunting is big up here in Oregon, and everyone seems to have some experience.

We marched into a forest aside a rest stop, walked a short distance up the trail, and then went off road, seeking mushrooms under ferns, trees and detritus. On that day, it was cool and rainy, and it was fun getting our feet soaked in the underbrush. Of course, my friend and her husband were wearing hiking boots and gaiters; not quite as vulnerable as running shoes. The baby even joined us, riding along in a pack and happily breastfeeding along the way.

I'm proud to say I found a chanterelle, right off the trail. But it was my friend's husband and my own who found the motherlode (a "mushroom hole") - a couple dozen all in a ten-food radius, apparently quite unusual.

We had a lovely chanterelle soup for dinner, with a cheese plate and some excellent California and Spanish wines.

Now we're sitting in the lounge at the Columbia Gorge Hotel, founded circa 1921. There's a view straight down a cliff of several hundred feet - we're eye level with the tops of deciduous trees and the top of the Wah Gwin Gwin falls. We're listening to a piano player singing "Night and Day", drinking local pinot gris and eating a black bean burger with pomme frites in Oregon truffle butter. Pretty nice. . . but.

But . . . the weather is not cooperating. I'm desperately wearing wool sweaters, hoping for rain, or even mist. There's a fire in the fireplace, about 15 feet away. And the weather outside is warm, sunny, and SoCal-like. Very disappointing. Everyone we talk to asks hopefully, "Are you getting outside and enjoying the weather?" And we have to tell them how disappointed we are.

I could have 70 degrees and sun back home in Santa Barbara. I was hoping to snuggle up by the fire, drink hot chocolate, run for cover under awnings, and enjoy the chilly Pacific Northwest for a couple of days. Instead, people are walking around in shorts and tank tops, drinking smoothies - unlike us in our sweaters and long pants. Something is wrong here.

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