Fresh picked chanterelle mushrooms were for sale at the corner of Highway 12 and Highway 131 in Randle in this October 2017 file photo. 

We had reached the dead end of the closed-off road in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest without finding any of our target species — Grouse and wild mushrooms. There had always been birds and shaggy mane mushrooms here when the September weather was wet.

Disappointed, we began to walk back. We had come across the leavings of a deer’s meal of lobster mushrooms on the way up. Most of the mushrooms on the trail were well chewed, but we knew that where there were a few, there were more to be found.

When we got back to site of the deer’s snack, we split up and began circling outward through the forest.

It wasn’t long before my son Jeff called out that he had found some chanterelles. I joined him to pick the bounty, and then we began, once again, to circle outward.

The forest was mostly Douglas fir, and the floor was covered with a thin layer of Oregon grape, a perfect combination for finding chanterelles.

We found more chanterelles and plenty of lobster mushrooms, too. Most were just emerging from the duff of the forest floor, but they were easy to spot. The bright mushrooms stuck out like a sore thumb.

There were enough that we could be choosy, so we took only the ones that were the cleanest and in the best shape, and left the smaller ones to grow.

By the time we reached the truck we were well satisfied with our quest.

Northwest mushroom hunters have had to endure some poor, dry mushrooms seasons recently, so this wet September has been a blessing. Wild mushrooms are popping up across Southwest Washington in a glorious abundance that can make a person forget the last few frugal falls.

The Columbian is becoming a rare example of a news organization with local, family ownership.

Camden McMahon of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest’s Trout Lake Ranger Station reported that this year there is a lot more mushroom gathering happening than the last couple autumns.

“There are lots of people coming out for personal use picking,” said McMahon, “as well as commercial pickers looking to harvest off the forest.”

“Most of our areas are open to mushroom picking, except the wilderness areas.”

She reported that most hunters are after the chanterelles.

“However, we have a lot of variety here,” McMahon added.

She noted that mushroom hunters do not need to visit a ranger station to obtain a free permit.

“We have free mushroom permits on our Gifford Pinchot website. On the home page there is a link where you can get your permit.”

Recreational harvesters must possess the permit while picking. Two gallons per day per person are allowed, and gatherers must fill out and date the permit when they are finished harvesting.

You must have a commercial license to sell any mushrooms collected on the national forest.

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