Surprise Morels and a View

We made plans to hike the Empire Bluffs trail with our friends yesterday. We most recently walked the path back in super-snowy February, but Jim and Jess (and Jackson too) hadn’t been since the fall, and yesterday’s temperate weather seemed perfect for the short trek.

The journey is quite different in late May than three months prior. For one, you can see the trail, but for two, the woods are so green. The entire path is crushed gravel punctuated with 4×4’s that serve as erosion control and stairs.
bluffs trail

It winds over gentle hills through beech-maple-ash trees that tower over blankets of violets, (aging) trillium and ramps (wild leeks).

We clipped along at a decent pace – set by four-year-old Jackson – in the gender-divided groups that we seem to form: Tony and Jim lost in music/programming discussion and Jess and me talking about all the most important things…and Jackson settling in wherever he was happiest. And then, even though I had just declared the previous day that we were done mushroom hunting for the season, I spotted a lovely grey morel just a few feet from the trail.

Not the morel mentioned above, but one of its friends
surprise morel

As these things go, we immediately descended into the woods, tossing aside our plans for the hike in favor of ‘shrooming. This impromptu hunt was some of the most fun we’ve had finding morels this year. We each found a few, we never went long in between finds, and we left the woods with a nice mess that we sautéed after dinner. Mmmmmm.

We didn’t linger overly long in the undergrowth, since we did still want to see the overlook. When the finding petered out, we angled back to the path and meandered out to the overlook. The trail was fairly busy, but we arrived at the big view just as the previous group was leaving. The five of us soaked in the views for about fifteen minutes before anyone else showed up.

View as you first descend to the overlook
Empire Bluffs overlook

Panorama after I adjusted my polarizing filter and cloud cover deepened
Empire Bluffs overlook panorama

Since we didn’t get distracted by errant morels, the return leg of the hike was much quicker. Also, Jackson and I ran most of the way because he was over the woods time, wanting instead to be at the beach playing in sand. Jim, Jess, and Jackson finished out the afternoon on the chilly (breezes blowing in over a very cold lake do that) Empire Beach, and Tony and I rode about two-and-a-half more miles on the longboards. All in all, satisfactory 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Surprise Morels and a View

    • Any day where you happen upon morels, hike through beautiful forests, and end up at a beach…definitely a quintessential NMI day! Narnia FTW 😉

  1. We love morels too and I have always wanted to look for the ramps. Have you “picked” them, if so what do you look for and how long is their season? Thanks for any help. Gloria

    • Gloria,
      I’m not sure where you hunt morels, so finding ramps might be an easy thing, or maybe a little difficult. I grew up hunting morels in southern Ohio, and don’t remember ever finding ramps. In northern Michigan, I don’t know if I’ve hunted a woods for morels that also didn’t support a healthy population of ramps. Their season is right around the morel season – starting a little before morels (we use them as an indicator species), and dying out as the morel season does. If you take a hand shovel, you can dig them up when they’re young, but once the greys are up, you can usually pull the ramps up, too. That of course, is dependent on the soil where you’re hunting – we have lots of sand, so I just grab onto a ramp that’s got a fairly fat, reddish stem and wiggle it up. The greens are also good (great in soups and anywhere you’d use green onions), so if you do break them off without getting the bulb, it’s not such a bad deal 😉 Hope that helps. If you have any other questions, I’ll be happy to attempt to chime in 🙂

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