Morels on the Brain
UPDATE: Pacific Northwest burn morel maps and information (OR, WA, ID, CA, MT, CO, NM, AZ, UT, AK, WY).
Each spring we head to the Pacific Northwest to hunt burn morels in last year’s wildfire burn sites. This is far and away one of my favorite trips of the year. This year marks our third annual trip to the area. We are heading West in about a week, and I can barely contain my excitement! Soon my “morel vision” will become crystal clear and sweet dreams of mushrooms will be with me for weeks. Strangely – this really does happen.
In years past we’ve spent most of our time hiking the varied terrain of Oregon. In fact, I’m certain we’ve explored more wide ranging terrain in Oregon than in our own home state of Colorado. I often think – if we didn’t have such a beautiful place here in CO – Oregon would be a clear next choice. The widely varied climate zones, from alpine desert to rain forest to coast, are a wonder to explore and the natural beauty is unparalleled. Oh and let’s not forget the trees, so many grand trees – and the pristine condition of the Forest Service roads, tough to top!
This year we also hope to make a stop in Idaho. I just learned that the Pioneer fire will not be open for morel hunting until June 1 and will only allow a 30-day window to forage. They are also limiting commercial permits ($300 – yikes) – issued to 400 entities, first come first serve – and heavily policing the area. Personal-use permits in this area do allow a generous 5 gallons/day so this is not an issue for us. We’ll just have to flip flop our original plans and stop in ID on the way back to CO – we are always flexible when on the hunt!
It may be hard to believe but we start planning for this trip in March when a hint of spring enters the alpine air and reminds us that mushroom season is just around the corner. Why all the prep you ask? It all comes down to mapping and burn data. If you are going to hunt burn sites, you need to know a few things:
- Where are the burns located?
- Are the burns easily accessible by car?
- Are we allowed to hunt in the area? (private property, National Forest, BLM, state land, etc)
- Is the terrain favorable for the mushrooms? (too steep, no trees)
- What kind of forest burned, what types of trees were there?
- What elevation runs through each burn?
There are so many things to consider if you wish to have a successful hunt. Trent is a master at Google Maps and spends many hours pouring over the data to create carefully crafted digital burn maps for OR, ID and WA. He then exports the data to our hand held GPS and creates offline maps for our phones so we are well prepared when in the woods with no internet access. Check out the photos; his track record so far is stellar!
Sounds pretty cool, right? If you are interested in learning the Google mapping process, check out our e-Book, Pacific Northwest Burn Morels. It’s a morel burn goldmine with a whole ton of tips and information… you still have time to use the maps!
Want to get started burn morel hunting in the Western states? We also have morel burn maps >
If the excitement of pounds and pounds of burn morels isn’t enough, Oregon also offers a plentiful fungi harvest from its natural environs. Timing is key, but if you hit it just right, you will also find beautiful yellow morels and spring porcinis.
Elevation, moisture levels and soil temperature are going to dictate where and when you will find the much coveted naturals. In a big snow year, you may not locate much of anything at the same time as the burn morels. But sometimes, if you are lucky, all things align and Mother Nature delivers many sweet delights.
It’s sometimes hard to tear yourself away from easy picking in the burn sites when there is a much lesser chance of finding natural mushrooms. But we always set aside a few days to explore our favorite areas… finding them is just such a thrill!
Tips for a Successful Trip
The mushrooms and the weather dictate where you need to be (follow the rain!), so you must be flexible and most importantly – mobile. We take a camper and grab power and showers every 3 days or so at an RV Park. Hotels are expensive when traveling this way, lesson learned from year one.
- Figure out how to do the research before you go – so many burns, different forests, elevations, weather patterns, access. Don’t leave it to chance!
- Make sure you have the right gear. This is a wet, muddy and sometimes cold excursion.
- Know your forest service locations – during burn season everyone is super serious about permitting. You will likely need multiple permits.
- Oregon’s forest service roads are incredibly well maintained. You could throw your camping gear in the back of a Subaru and be totally fine getting where you need to go. Really no need for the burly jeep. Save some $$ on gas.
Ok… You have enough information here to get started (if you’d like to skip the hard work and just want the OR, ID + WA maps, get the e-Book). I wish you success and hope to see you in the woods!