I can’t remember ever having been inspired to review a town after a visit, but Prospect, Oregon should be shared. Trent and I visited a few weeks ago to hunt the Broken Lookout fire just North of town. Prospect is located on state Highway 62 about 25 miles from the South entrance to Crater Lake National Park.
Grand Fir forests surrounding the town for miles are perhaps some of the most beautiful and serene landscapes I have ever experienced. Towering firs dotted with dogwood trees in full bloom surround you… everywhere; dark and hauntingly beautiful. These seemingly endless forests are natural hunting grounds for both morels and spring boletes – a mushroom hunter’s mecca.
It was one of the busiest camping weekends of the year, just outside of one of the busiest National Parks. We arrived early on Thursday, picked up our mushroom hunting permits at the Ranger Station in town and headed to Abbott Creek Campground (closest CG to the burn site), with fingers crossed to find a spot. Luckily Abbott had opened only that morning and it’s possible not many folks knew this fact – we were the first to settle in, warmly welcomed by our camp hosts.
When you are chasing burn morels in remote areas of Oregon you never know what to expect. Prospect was no exception to the rule – as it turns out, this area is incredibly remote. No cell service, no internet connections and basically no communicado with the outside world! There was only one spot in town where our AT&T or Google phones worked – the local gas station/mercantile. Pretty good for business I’d say! The Prospect library, although almost never actually open, also has a router on all the time with free public wifi access. Without these two modern conveniences, we would have been in a black zone for 4 days – slightly panic inducing for us web designers!
Despite the lack of connectivity, we fell in love with Prospect. It is a hyper local area where generations of families have grown up immersed in a culture of mushroom hunting. Even though we were on a quest for burn morels, we quizzed our waiter at one of the local watering holes about natural morels and spring boletes – were people still picking them, is it true they grow right around town, what habitat is good, etc. His response was… “well, they pretty much grow… everywhere around here. Yeah.” Like, duh – look around you people. As if it was something so common, the questions were ridiculous. It was at that moment that I gained a bit more of an understanding about the truly special nature of this place.
Speaking of the local watering hole… Beckie’s Café also merits a mention. Perhaps the only restaurant for miles (there is a pizza place in Prospect), Beckie’s is about 11 miles from Prospect in Union Creek, at the turn off toward Crater Lake National Park. This cute log cabin has a 100 year old history and their food is delicious! They make an effort to create things from scratch. Not something you find every day, especially not in a remote area. Even the deep fried veggies and cheese sticks seemed to be crafted in-house versus ‘fresh’ frozen from the Sysco truck. The burgers were divine and the french fries, again real. The veggie burger was so good, I had to question whether or not I got the right patty. It tasted too much like the real deal. They also offer perhaps 14 homemade pies on their menu. Try the very berry or huckleberry when in season. No regrets here.
We did go on to find a handful of natural black morels (almost at the end of their season) and several spring boletes in unburned forest cuts inside the burn perimeter. Our main prize, burn morels, were productive for days at the Broken Lookout Fire around 4,500′.
We also explored the forest at several locations between our campground and the town of Prospect looking for Boletus Rex-veris (spring porcinis). We found them in impressive quantities along OHV trails, but they were big, buggy and blown out. We were probably a week late, however, it’s apparent that morels and porcinis abound in the grand fir forests between Prospect and Union Creek.
Several locals were out in the burn, picking to supplement their income (there were two mushroom buyers in town) – all were kind and helpful to us Colorado outsiders. Overall, everyone in Prospect treated us very well. They were more than willing to answer our questions and/or point us in the right direction. For a small fee, Crater Lake RV Park even shared some electricity with us to get our mushrooms dehydrated! This was a pretty nice RV Park by the way. So cool, made my day.
You could easily take a first glance at Prospect and drive right on by, as there really isn’t much there. The true value lies not only in the incredible forests surrounding this town, but in its rich culture and in its people.
Thanks for welcoming us, Prospect Oregon!
Enjoyed your article. I’ve been picking Morels for 50 years in Eastern Oregon, (in the Blue Mts.) and this is the 1st year that I can remember almost being skunked. I found 30-40 morels three weeks ago and haven’t found any since. Maybe next year.
Hi Dennis, thanks for reading! We love Eastern Oregon, so much of nature’s bounty can be found in your area. Sorry you were skunked, we mostly chase burn morels – have you ever tried hunting burns? As long as the weather participates, it’s incredibly rewarding 🙂
I would love to tag along and learn as much as I can..Hunting ediable mushrooms has been a life long dream of mine..Jenny