SOUTH FORK— Mushroom hunters from across the Valley and beyond gathered in South Fork on Friday and Saturday at the visitor center to head out into the San Juan Mountain Range to try their hand at finding the elusive mushrooms growing in the dark, dense forests. Avid hunters look forward to this time of year for a tasty treat that can only be found in the late summer months during the rainy season in Colorado, and this year proved to be one of the best yet.
South Fork was hopping this past weekend with people coming to close out their summer vacations right before the formidable start of fall, school and winter. The center was packed with about 25 people per day in the early morning hours just before 8 a.m. to hear a brief presentation from the Marvelous Mushroom Man Roger Dawson. Dawson took a moment to talk to the groups about specific characteristics of the mushrooms they would be hunting and where to find the fungi in the terrain around Park Creek, Willow Park and Del Norte Peak areas.
Those that ventured out throughout the two days ended up bringing home not bags or handfuls as in previous years, but bushels and baskets filled to the brim with delectable mushrooms of all sorts. The high amount of precipitation over the course of the last month and a half combined with cooler temperatures in the higher elevations resulted in a very bountiful year for mushroom hunters.
Forest Service officials have even commented on the amount of fungi that have grown this year, stating that it is an excellent year to be a mushroom enthusiast. According to Mark Teders with the visitor center, “We even had people come back in on Sunday just to say that they had gone home and cooked their mushrooms and that they were wonderful and delicious. We really had a positive turnout.”
The event sold out just days before the foray took place with only a few cancellations on the day of the event. Teders stated that even though they had some spots open up on both Friday and Saturday, the spots were filled immediately with waiting guests. “I would have to say it was one of our biggest turnouts,” finished Teders.
It is always important to remember that when hunting mushrooms to know what to look for and to ask questions if in doubt prior to consumption. Teders is always on hand at the center to help anyone who might have a question or two on the spoils of the day and can even offer a mushroom identification book or two, for those who wish to make an investment in their palate.
After the hunters returned to the visitor center with their day’s treasures, Dawson supplied them with tips and tricks on how to prepare the mushrooms and with a list of recipes to take home with them.
The event was a huge success with over 55 people participating and hundreds of mushrooms collected.