Hunting for Mushrooms (and Finding Yourself)
Tis the season for mushroom hunting, and this is definitely an outdoor activity that takes people off the beaten path. We’re not going to weigh-in on the finer points of fungi (there are many sites and books for that*), but we are going to take a moment to remind people that when your head is down, looking for those hard-to-find mushrooms, it’s easy to find yourself completely lost. Here are a few tips to keep in mind, and items to keep in your pack, as part of your emergency plan and kit:
- Bring your (fully charged) cell phone. You probably won’t have cell coverage where you are, but if you do, you now have a communication device and a way of determining where you are. Phone GPSs have gotten much better over the years and, while they’re not perfect, they’re better than nothing. If you have Google maps and your location finder on, pressing and holding the icon sitting over your location on the map, latitude and longitude coordinates will display. Another tool you can load on your phone is a GPS app. A handy one is ‘Coordinates’. It will determine your coordinates and display them in different formats (think of it as kind of a Rosetta Stone for lat/long).
- Bring a GPS unit and learn how to use it before you go. Remember to bring spare batteries!
- Bring a Map and Compass: There’s a chance that, in dense forest, your GPS will not work well. This is where carrying a map and compass comes in handy. Again, practice using them before you go. Refer to our Map & Compass write-up for a brief overview.
- When you arrive at your location, before you begin your hike, look at the terrain you are in. Note the lay of the land. Observe major geographic features like mountains, rivers, streams, power lines, logging roads or cuts. All of this can help you orient yourself and plan an exit strategy if you become uncertain of your location.
- To help prevent getting separated from your hunting party, bring radios and whistles to communicate with others in your group and bring flagging tape to mark your direction (so that you can find your way back again). Please remember to remove the flagging tape on your return though!
Before you go, refer to the Ministry of Forests and Range document “Harvesting Edible Wild Mushrooms in BC” for guidelines on what areas are accessible for mushroom picking, and a lot of other great information too. Our Mountain Safety for Fall post also has helpful reminders regarding outdoor conditions in the autumn. It’s already colder and darker than summer and there are several logistical items to consider. And, you guessed it, complete a Trip Plan!
Stay safe and have fun everyone!
*One of the recurring pieces of advice for novice pickers is “Go with an experienced mushroom picker.” Doing your homework on sites and with books before heading out may not be sufficient. So, if you’re interested in trying mushroom picking for the first time, consider going with an experienced group. You’ll be safer than going alone, learn from other’s successes and errors, and you’ll probably have more fun!