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MORAN: Food at your feet

The author's mushroom picking camp on the west side of Arrow Lake.
September 21, 2016 - 12:00 PM



Right now, I am living in the forest on the west side of Arrow Lake, across from Nakusp. My bedroom is a tent, the roof is a tarp, and the neighbours are all mushroom pickers. I am just barely able to get enough cell phone reception to contribute this column. If you look at a map there is a dot representing this location, but there are no houses or permanent structures. Perhaps eighty or ninety years ago there were some permanent residents, enough to justify the dot on the map.

Every day there are new arrivals and more shelters appearing on the branching roads.

On our road, the first thing you see is this sign.

Pictured is a sign posted by a logging company.
Pictured is a sign posted by a logging company.

This sign has a description and map of the logging that occurred here three years ago. This is the most popular, abundant, and beloved mushroom harvest site on the entire Arrow Lake Reservoir, which stretches over 100 kilometers. This is not only an area for professional pickers. Many British Columbians migrate to this site annually for a day or weekend with family. Kids from towns and cities hundreds of kilometers away grew up spending a day in the woods collecting fungi for a family feast.

The sign states a style of timber harvesting has been used that will not take away from the mushroom crop. Strip logging. Cut 100 feet and leave 100 feet. This has been done to reduce the 'edge effect'. This term describes what happens to small chunks of forests. When you enter a large and healthy forest, the temperature will drop immediately. It is a noticeable difference.

The small strips of forest do not maintain that same cool, humid, forest climate. Whatever this logging company was trying to do to protect the mushroom crop, it failed. These strips are barren of fungus, and will be that way until the gaps are filled. Maybe I can come back and harvest when I am a senior citizen.

The foragers, who spend all year looking forward to exploring these lands, have been robbed of the experience. We are pushed to the fringes, constantly exploring for a new patch in the fragile outskirts of the valley. Many have given up, especially the amateur pickers who were just out for a day of fun for good health, good food and an experience that can be passed on to the next generation.

Strip logging in the forest near Nakusp.
Strip logging in the forest near Nakusp.

If you are overwhelmed by all this mushroom jargon, there is a Fungi Festival this weekend in Sicamous from Sept. 23 to Sept. 25. There is no better opportunity to start exploring the amazing world of fungi in B.C. You can the details about the festival on its website.

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