The disappearing world of the ‘shroom pickers…

 

Well, I think that should be “The disappearing ‘shroom pickers” really.

Because mushroom picking is the only thing that still remains from humankind’s ancient history. It’s the last remnant of the nomad life still remaining in the world, aside of the real nomads in places like Mongolia, the Sahara desert etc.  The last time where this kind of camaraderie existed, the gold mines, died out years ago….the freedom, independence and all the rest that comes bagged with this kind of life.

I’m fortunate in living in BC, Canada where a lot of the mushroom hunting goes on. Some time ago, I ventured out to the Charlotte Islands myself, or to give them their real name, Haida Gwaii…..mushroom hunting was the least thing on my mind at that time….I just wanted to get away from the rush-rush life of the city, and a trip to a far away place such as the Charlottes was too good to give up! Pity my wife, who ‘volunteered’ to stay at home!

It’s a long way away, and getting to the place all depends on how urgent your visit is. You can fly there from Vancouver via AirCanada which drops you off at Sandspit, or you could take the BC Ferry from Prince Rupert to Skidegate.

I had plenty of time on my hands, so I decided to take the more scenic and laid-back route, driving from the mainland to Port Hardy on Vancouver island, and thence the BC Ferry to Price Rupert as above.

The Haida Gwaii are an archipelago of 138 islands, 80 miles off the coast of northern BC and most of them are uninhabited, the native peoples having been moved forcibly when Canada first became populated by the white man.

Anyway, my idea was to travel alone and just camp by myself whenever the opportunity arose, but a chance encounter in a drinking place changed all that. nevertheless, I was still able to go it alone afterwards.

I met a guy in the bar who started small talk etc and very soon the topic of “where are you going…” came up, both from my side and his. I told him what I was planning to do, and he told me that he was there to pick ‘shrooms.

That intrigued me, as I’d never met anyone in person who’d done so, and we got talking further. He saw that I was interested, but I could sense a wariness about what he was telling me…he steadfastly refused to talk about where he  would be going, who with or when. And he was quite open about his secrecy, too. “Their places are as sacred to ‘shroom pickers just as the Vatican is to Catholics!” he said!

I asked him if he was going in his own. He replied that some of the pickers work alone, but he works with a gang, whom he’d be happy to introduce me to if I wanted….but he warned me that they were a rough n tough bunch and don’t take too easily to meeting strangers!

The next day, I met him again at the same bar, we had a few drinks and he said he was going to drive over to where the rest of his friends were camped and I could come with him. The camp was about a 30 minute drive away, in a quiet forested area just off a dirt road. Sure enough, when we arrived and I got out of the pickup, the few people who weren’t in their tents all suddenly stopped doing whatever they were doing…and started staring at us…well, not us, but ME!

My friend Jon winked at me and said “…told you so…”, relating to me what he’d said about strangers in camp etc. It was late afternoon by the time we finished talking and telling our own stories, so Jon asked if I wanted to stay with them overnight or a few days, which I jumped at….I was not going to give up this golden opportunity easily, I tell you!

During the next few days, I met and talked to, it seemed, a whole cross-section of people……from a group of Chinese who kept themselves to themselves, only mixing with the rest of the people if they needed to, a single mother with her 4 children, some Hispanics who couldn’t speak a word of english but were the happiest people on earth, judging by the smiles when they met me, a native Indian guy who’d been picking mushrooms for coming up to 15 years, an office worker who, like me, had become fed up with the rat-race and had taken to mushroom picking because “it paid the bills and let him be with the eagles and the wolves..”, a student who wanted to make some cash, two russian guys who were as inscrutable as they come, and many more such colorful characters.

I got talking the office worker, seeing as he had the same ideas as myself. I asked him why he gave up what was a very comfortable life, to live in the wilds. I knew what he’d say, but what the heck. And sure enough, his answer was text-book.

He explained that he’d been working in administration for over 20 years, and in that time, all he could see was that he was working himself to death….it was the same boring pattern that I escaped from myself….work, eat, sleep, work, eat sleep, work, eat, sleep….ad infinitum.

Here in the wilds, he said, there were no deadlines….no boss to answer to, no office politics, nobody to please but himself. He still had an apartment in downtown Vancouver which was paid for, so there was no problem with paying a mortgage or anything, but he’d rented it out as he was away for most of the time.

And he also confirmed that mushroom pickers were a very secretive bunch indeed…and rightly so, as the crop was very elusive at the best of times and one could make substantial money once a site was found.

Bc was not the only place in Canada where mushrooms could be picked in large numbers….when the crop in this area was depleted, they’d head over to the East coast, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan or the Yukon.

I also learnt that there some varieties of mushroom that could be grown artificially, but some could not, only becoming available in the right conditions in the wild.

I spent a total of 3 days in the mushroom pickers’ camp and in that time everyone had become friendly with me, knowing that I was a person who loved the wilderness just like them!

😉

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.wholeearth.com/issue/2100/article/145/migrant.mushroomers

For newcomers to hiking, try this one in BC

New readers to this blog may get disheartened about seeing info of exotic places like, Katmandu, Nepal, etc etc.

I do realise that many of you will be thinking of emarking on your very first hiking or walking trip locally, so what you will need is advice about trips you can undertake rather more close to home!

Today, I want to talk a little about a very good area in British Columbia, Canada.

It’s called Manning Park, and is located about 150 miles and 3 hours across from Vancouver city, and about 40 miles from the town of Princeton. Here’s the exact address if you’re using SatNav in your car:

7500 Crowsnest Highway
Manning Park, BC V0X 1R0
Although Manning Park has been now developed as a resort destination, it still has vast areas that are free of people congestion and can help you develop your hiking and walking skills, before you jump in at the deep end with larger, more specialised hikes.
You can go at virtually any time of the year, as each season is catered for there….there is alpine skiing in winter, snow-shoeing in the spring, camping and hiking in summer, fishing, hiking and boating in the autumn.
Camping sites are also available, with hook-ups to septic, electric, etc.

If you want accommodation, that’s also provided. As an example, for a Queen sized room, the cost is US$144 per person in February to around $90 in August.

Hostelling is another option with 9 rooms offering single and double beds, at a rate of $30 a night per person.

If fine dining is your forte, that is also covered by a range of options.

All in all, an excellent destination for an easy and safe start to your hiking and walking future.

I can understand that guy….

Just read a book called “Out there” (forgot the name of the writer!).

In it, the writer talks about the time when he had come back to civilisation after a prolonged stay in the Northern Territories of Canada, and how he couldn’t handle all the noise around him in his modern house!

He talks about difficulty falling asleep due to noise from his tabletop clock, the hum of the fridge downstairs, the noise of traffic outside his window and finally, he even is able to hear the hum from the electric cables buried inside the wall behind his bed!

I must say I sympathise with him. After having been in the wilderness, whenever I come back to town, I too hate all that noise. But, once I stand underneath that lovely hot shower, everything is forgiven!

 

Thank you for your queries…

Just like to say a quick thank you to everyone who has emailed me asking me to post reviews on more equipment and gear etc.

It’s really wonderful to see that there are still people out there in this world who have managed to keep away from the materialistic culture we have everywhere today, whether we live in the USA, Canada or even Katmandu!

It requires dedication and patience, and even more than that in my opinion, satisfaction with what you have already, not impatience or envy at what you haven’t.

I will be doing many more reviews as we go along this year…I’ve just posted a note about my favourite stove today. Happy reading once again and please keep it here!

 

Once upon a time, in the land of BC…

 

Once in a while, you stumble across a gem of a hike and then, you wonder if you should tell your friends all about it, where it’s situated,etc, because once you’ve let the cat out the bag, there’s no going back! That super secret trail of yours is going to be open knowledge to everyone and his aunt! And that means crowds!

That’s what I was thinking when I completed a hike in my very own stomping ground, right here in British Columbia, Canada. Shall we tell all our friends and risk losing this paradise to the crowds every year?

I’m talking about many, many years ago and at that time, the trail was not common knowledge at all. It took me and my friends around 15 days to complete it, a distance of about 100 miles in all.

We took it real easy, so’s we could soak up all that heaven-sent scenery!

Fast-forward another 20 or so years, and that trail is now so popular, everyone and their aunt DO know about it!

It’s now called the Sunshine Trail. Read all about it here or better still, come up to BC and be our guest!