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Ever since the weather started warming up this year, we’ve been on a mission to find morels. When we lived in Iowa, we had several friends who’d go mushroom hunting but we never heard of anyone having much success. Since moving to Indiana, mushroom hunting is sort of been taking to a new level. The variety we can find here is amazing and the places we can go seem unlimited.
Don’t mind if we do!
When the conditions were right and Jack had heard of people having luck finding the tasty little fungi, we decided to pack our hiking bags and go to the Morgan/Monroe State Forest. All of Indiana’s parks are cool, but Morgan/Monroe is really awesome because A) it’s close by, B) it’s free, C) it’s HUGE, and D) hikers can go off trail, which makes it MUCH easier to mushroom hunt.
Our first attempt as a family was mid-March, right around the time there were whisperings of the coronavirus shutting down the entire world. It was a breath of fresh air (literally) to get outside and away from the tension and worries that had been gnawing at everyone.
Look! Moss!
It was also the first big outdoor trip we’d taken since the end of winter. It was still a little chilly but totally worth the sunshine and being engulfed in nature. Of course, while we were scouring the hillsides for mushrooms, the kids had to stop every five feet to pick up a patch of moss, a half-rotted nuts, and rocks, insisting they wanted to take all of them home. They stuffed their pockets as much as they could before I had to call off their collecting and remind them we were looking for edible mushrooms, too.
Up, up, up the hill we go.
There were a few cars where we’d parked but for the most part, we didn’t see another soul. The buds were barely poking out on the trees, there were delicate, lacy flowers along the forest floor, and birds were just starting to move back into the area and fill the air with their songs. It was a little slice of heaven.
One thing there’s never a shortage of is mud during an Indiana spring. It’d rained heavily a few days before we went and the evidence of rushing flash floods along the trails was everywhere. It was a bit slippery and sloppy but we came prepared and made the trek with dry feet.
At the top of the hill, a friendly fellow mushroom hunter showed us one of his many spots for mushrooms. Poking around in the leaves, he gave us some tips and surprise, surprise, Henry bent over and found an itty bitty morel. Success!
We continued to look until I had a headache–it’s a lot of squinting and careful looking for morels–but found no more. However, we did find several other mushroom varieties, including a large helping of scarlet cups, which are very impressive red mushrooms. They stick out like a beacon against the otherwise dull brown leaves.
The bigger the better to Henry!
The best part of the trip to me was finding a minuscule redback salamander hanging out in one of the redcup mushrooms. It was so CUTE! Upon closer inspection, there were several hanging around the log where we’d found the first.
We also found several devil’s urn mushrooms (I love the common names of mushrooms…so much superstition! 🤣). They’re black, cup shaped, and when mature, they puff clouds of spores into the air.
Aside from the baby morel, we weren’t able to find any more, which was no surprise. We were obviously seeking during the very beginning of the season, and were so pleased we were able to find our very first morel of the year. It gave us hope that a return trip the next week would have equal if not better success.
On hands and knees, looking.

A week after our initial trip, we returned to the same spot. The weather had been pleasant and warm, making it ideal for morels to grow larger than what we’d found. Instead of following the same path, we headed the opposite direction to see what else the forest trail held.

Best seat in the house.
It was pretty clear not far into the trail that we weren’t going to find any mushrooms. Not only was a lot of the forest pine, which isn’t conducive to morels, but it was also much more heavily hiked by fellow nature enthusiasts. Morels aren’t exactly a secret in Indiana and are easily identified. If people come across them, they pick them. Still, that didn’t stop us from having fun on our hike.
There was still plenty to see, smell, investigate, and especially climb. Claire and Kate have been on a weird kick lately, trying to find bizarre, difficult things to scramble up, and the forest offers endless possibilities.

They’d go up everything from skinny, wobbly barely-more-than-sappling trees to behemoths that’d lived a long life and were on their way to returning back to dust.
Hiking can be a little challenging with a baby and since my car accident, it’s complicated things a bit more. Some of the time, some of the time Jack carries him but now, Evelyn’s getting big enough to pack her brother on her back. I LOVE our baby hiking backpack and so does Peter. He’s eye-level or above everyone else, he doesn’t have to do any of the walking, he gets to snack while we’re on the move…
…and he has mastered the art of napping while sitting upright.
Even though the second attempt rendered no mushrooms whatsoever, it was still a successful hike. Jack found a hearty patch of ramps (often called wild leeks, though they’re not actually leeks), and we snagged a few handfuls of redbuds for our Easter feast. Henry even ate them as a mid-hike trail snack. It tastes sort of as you’d imagine–flowery and sweet.
Ramps in particular don’t last long once they’re harvested, since they basically little more than thick grass leaves. Solution? Ramp butter. A little bit of citrus zest, chopped ramps, salt, and a whole lot of butter and we’ll have this yummy treat long enough to last us until next ramp season. 🤤
Despite our two unimpressive first attempts, we decided to go out again another few weeks later. Things were really starting to green up, especially the underbrush and ground temps were ideal for finding several varieties of morels (yellows, grays, and blacks). Raven loves hiking as much as we do, so we brought her along for the trip, too. She sometimes gets underfoot, but for the most part she spends most of her time straining against the leash, which in turn helps pull me up the hills.
Having not had any luck with mushrooms on our second attempt, we decided to go back up the trail where Henry had found his teeny tiny morel to see if anything else had matured. By then, we knew the trail enough to hurry up to the spot he’d plucked it from the ground.
Um, that’s not what the mushroom bag is for. 🤣
I was kind of not paying much attention–I was too busy passing out snacks while Jack pointed out several funny-looking plants that resembled morels but were in fact, not morels. If finding a tiny mushroom in the middle of a several thousand-acre forest wasn’t hard enough, having a decoy plant didn’t make it any easier. But then, ah ha! Jack spotted one!
He fell to the ground and asked for a photo of him and his very first morel. It was a moment to celebrate!
Can’t see it? That’s why they’re so hard to find!
We wandered a little further into the forest, treading carefully and keeping our eyes open. One by one, we started spotting morels all over the forest floor.
Evelyn and Claire were able to find one on their own but the younger kids needed a little bit of a nudge to find “their” mushroom.
Kate was on the verge of getting teary because she couldn’t find one when everyone else had been finding them in quick succession. “All I see is that weird looking mushroom at the base of that tree over there.” 😥 Jack and I tried to hold in our laughs and told her, guess what…she was staring right at a morel.
As for Zoey, she was outright crying at her inability to spot a morel. With a little more help, she and I worked together and found the biggest morel of the family.
Henry didn’t mind at all that his was the smallest–it’s called a half-free morel and it basically doesn’t look like the top has matured. Still picked it, ate it, and yes, it was just as delicious.
It was all good and exciting when we were pulling up morels left and right but eventually, our luck ran out and we spent another half hour looking without finding anything. The kids’ feet got tired, my back hurt from carrying Peter, and we decided to go home and have some steak and mushrooms, ramp butter, and redbuds on salad.
One of our favorite things about that particular section of the Tecumseh trail is that right by the parking lot, there’s a gorgeous, gently flowing slate stream. We look for fossils, cool off our feet, and filter some water to drink before we pile into the car to go home.
It was by far our most successful mushroom season yet and makes us excited for the fall season when other varieties of edible fungi are out.

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True stories of raising children, remodeling, braving the elements and plotting out life, all while living on a humble acreage in central Indiana.

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