Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Treasure Hunting in the Minnesota Woods

As a kid growing up in southern Minnesota, I had two things in abundance:  close proximity to the woods and a vivid imagination.  I took advantage of both.

I made forts to protect me from the bad guys that I just knew were out there, searching for me with nefarious intentions. I climbed trees to survey the land in case anyone was in distress and needed the assistance of a skinny, nine-year-old, self-proclaimed Master Of The Woods.  I skipped rocks on the river, practicing up for that big rock-skipping-contest that I was certain would happen any day now in the ravine behind my house.  Sometimes, things got heated and I had no choice but to take matters into my own hands, shooting the bad guys -- who bore an uncanny resemblance to glass bottles -- with my slingshot, grinning ear to ear when the bad guys smashed nicely into little pieces.  And, it goes without saying that I regularly searched for and found hidden treasures scattered throughout the woods.

This, of course, should not come as a surprise.  Any self-respecting kid simply knows that there is treasure in the woods.  It's just a matter of finding it.  Which, for me at least, was always an adrenaline rush because the treasure was actually real.  

Every spring, my family would grab some pillow cases, hit the woods and hunt for marvelous Morel mushrooms.  Morels are an easily identifiable, edible delight that can be found in the woods across the entire Midwest, New England and parts of the South.  Fried in butter, they are a tasty treat indeed.

Even better than the eating was the finding.  There's just something about tromping through the woods, knowing that just around the bend might be a treasure trove of goodies waiting to be found.  Or not.  Sometimes, we'd spend an entire day scouring the countryside and not find a thing.  Other days, it seemed we'd see Morels everywhere we looked.  Regardless, it was the thrill of the hunt that kept us coming back.  Much like how a slot machine keeps you playing with the promise that the next pull might be the jackpot, the woods keeps you hunting for that next delicious score.

Just over a week ago, for the first time in over twenty years, I decided to fuel my addiction once more and entered the woods just outside my hometown of Mankato, Minnesota. This time, I had a Morel beginner with me and I really wanted a successful hunt so that she would understand what all the fuss was about.  Literally within three minutes we struck gold.  There, like a diamond in the rough, was a cluster of three Morels poking through the leaves.  After that, we found them everywhere.  For the next hour, we weren't treasure hunters, we were treasure finders.

And another Morel mushroom lover was born. ^_^

Marvelous Morel Mushrooms
(Click HERE for larger version.)

Mushroom Hunter
(Click HERE for original version.)

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