|Posing in front of a sea of Virginia bluebells.
The first trip of the year is always met with excitement (well…mostly). It’s been several months since we’ve been out to the Low Gap trail at the Morgan/Monroe forest and the kids are excited to see the things they’ve not seen in a while. Every few minutes, they’d stop to pick up a pinecone or a special rock or a giant sycamore leaf while I waddled and huffed behind. It’s the first time I’ve gone hiking so pregnant (going on eight and a half months!) and it wasn’t easy. Once we made it to the pinnacle of the hills, it was exponentially easier to keep up.
We had planned a light picnic lunch of fruit and cheese sticks, trail mix and chips. It was nice to sit down and rest a few moments before pressing on.
It wasn’t much farther until we reached the spot where we’d made our morel discovery last year. Though it was around the same time we’d stumbled upon the morels last year, it was pretty obvious that we were early. There were no May apples, the bear corns were barely poking out of the ground, we saw very few red cups and devil’s urn. The weather was gorgeous, but not quite right for morels.
We made the best of our hike–I love getting outside for a walk, regardless of what wild edibles we find. On the way back, we stopped by the slate-filled creek that moseys through the forest, near where we park. That is the kids’ idea of a reward for their efforts. Maybe a slushie or snow cone to go along with it when we get back into town.
We tried again the following Monday to the same kind of success and much less enthusiasm from the kids. It wasn’t surprising–hiking really does take it out of them and after school, it was a little too much for them. Especially because we didn’t come back triumphant with armfuls of morels.
Despite our lack of success, Jack was still anxious to try out our luck. He’d been hearing other people in southern Indiana finding the first morels and he wasn’t going to be left out. Another rainy Saturday rolled around and while I made it pretty clear I didn’t think I’d be able to make it with him. I needed rest. So, he asked which of our children wanted to go with him, and Zoey, Henry, and Claire took off to get ready. Several hours later, a little wet and muddy, and very worn-out, they returned with the same success we’d had. Namely, none.
After that, we waited a couple of weeks, hoping to give the morels time to mature so they were at least poking out of the leaf cover. Though we were well into spring, the weather couldn’t quite make up its mind if it was going to be spring or winter. Another overcast Saturday brought cool temps and some drizzling rain that made everybody grumpy. But, when morels are out, there’s very little time to go and find them. So, we went.
At the same time that morels are popping up, wild ramps are also making their appearance. The nice thing about ramps is that they’re dependable and grow in the same place year after year. The problem is that at the Low Gap trail, ramps are in one direction and our best shot at morels is in the opposite. So, we made a plan to cover as much ground as possible, partly to keep the kids happy, partly to keep me from going into labor, waddling through the forest. Jack went in the direction of the ramps and the kids and I took off on a mission to find morels. It was slow and steady, especially since I put Peter in the hiking backpack to keep him from running off or stopping every five steps to pick up something.
Right as we made it to the top, Jack caught up with us. We stopped for a quick snack while Jack looked around, and I found an adorable little salamander, some of the kids took potty breaks (thank goodness they don’t have any hesitation peeing behind trees), and we gathered up our things to walk over the hill to our designated morel spot.
Jack spotted the first one, right along the edge of the trail (surprising, since so many people had been hiking past us that day). Then, one after another, more were found. Evelyn found one across from Jack.
Claire found one nearby, right behind Jack’s…
…and Henry almost squashed the one Jack pointed out to him.
It wasn’t exactly a morel motherload, but it was enough to make the trek worth it and dinner very tasty. Plus, with the late freeze and snow we experienced, there’s talk of it resetting the morel life cycle so we can go out looking again…maybe after the baby’s born. Otherwise, Jack’s going to have to be on his own. 😉