Mendocino Woodlands

Somewhere a little north of Bodega Bay and somewhat inland. Fog snatched tall trees. It was fall, and we had gathered to hunt. Our prey were elusive forest dwellers emerging from the underground, beneath decay and litter. These expedition were part of a course entitled Higher Fungi, given by the emperor Dennis Desjardin . He was flanked by his faithful lieutenants JR Blair and Brian Perry. Kelly Collins cruised alongside, Atik of west Java, and Aaron French. A dozen of pickers laden with baskets of cane and bamboo, willow and rattan, ready to wander and attack at will.

The ground was punctured with splinters in hues of beige, green, and dew. The thin pies of pine needles and broken remains of redwood and firs lay about on the soaking spongy carpet. The mouse tails of douglas fir tree cones. Yellow and red madrone leaves had curved margins pointing to the sky. Upwelling roots punctured the trails, resembling large monster brains.

Mushrooms are the fruits of large underground organisms. The organism's body is properly called mycelium - the white twisted webs that course throughout the dirt, trees, and dying logs. Given the proper humidity, temperature, congealed masses of swollen tissues cluster and erect.

Our tummies ached for tasty edibles. A covey of hedgehogs, six pointed bolete. Oyster mushrooms ringed and spiraled up a douglas fir tree. A net full of shrimp mushrooms. A stringer of coccora amanitas. Black trumpet on the trail blared. Golden cups glowing in the hillside - chanterelles! Yet, our interest was not strictly culinary. Dennis and Brian had a particular bent for the tiny and insignicant.

The first night at Salt Point, the grand sillouette of boletes buckled under sidewinding flashlights even as everyone was already fast asleep in their bags. We plucked boletes from their earthen chalice, carved their bases, and placed them into our woven baskets.

That night, Yutaka Wada cooked at the helm, while Mike Boom stirred the pot. With a whiff of shaggy manes, the drums rode atop the elfin saddles and began to wag their tongues.