We spent last week at what may be our favorite state park yet: Joseph H. Stewart State Park in Trail, Oregon. Perhaps it was because we had perfect weather, or because the park was incredibly clean and spacious, or perhaps it is because we took advantage of the outdoor recreational opportunities that this area had to offer. Last week we learned to close our computers at the end of a work day and go outside! We hiked, biked, kayaked, tossed a football, tossed a Frisbee, and had a surprisingly exciting visit to the local fish hatchery. Seriously, who knew a fish hatchery could provide an hour of pure entertainment? We perfected the art of feeding intensely hungry and somewhat aggressive rainbow trout. In addition to these relaxing activities, we spent some quality time in the local town of Prospect, Oregon.
Prospect, a small town of 530 residents, provided the closest Laundromat and apparently the best ham steak Chris has ever consumed. While doing laundry one night, Chris went for a walk to retrieve quarters from the Upper Rogue Rural Action Team (URRAT) center (apparently the only place in town to offer quarters according to the sign at the laundromat). What was supposed to be a quick run to retrieve quarters turned into a lengthy journey. I sat and waited patiently (no, seriously…I was pretty patient on this one…they had People magazines at this place so I was easily entertained reading about Brangelina). After 30 minutes, however, my mind began to wander. Had Chris been mugged in this sleepy, innocent-appearing town? Or, and more likely, had he joined in on the fake tug-o-war match currently underway at the main intersection in town? That’s right…a fake tug-o-war match…no ropes necessary…not sure how one wins that game. At last, a car pulled up to the Laundromat and out comes Chris. His new friends from URRAT had given him a ride. Upon seeing my baffled look, he explained that in addition to learning all about URRAT and making new friends, he had met the Mushroom Man. The Mushroom Man? Yes, the Mushroom Man.
During his quest for quarters, Chris passed a young man sitting at a table with some empty buckets and a scale in front of his suspiciously nondescript van. While I would have continued walking and internally question the presence of this curious setup, Chris stopped to ask the man what he was selling. The man explained that he was not selling anything but rather buying mushrooms. Unbeknownst to us, there is apparently a large yet somewhat secretive mushroom market here in the northwest. Pickers walk for miles searching for the mysterious morel mushroom and then bring their baskets to the Mushroom Man in exchange for money. According to the Mushroom Man, who did not go into specific details of the competitive business (we suspect he wasn‘t sure of those details himself or just did not trust Chris), stated that he sold the mushrooms primarily overseas. As we left the laundromat, we drove by the Mushroom Man and the mushroom pickers had arrived to sell their day’s findings. It was a random yet fascinating sight. Needing to know more about this (and, clearly, the Mushroom Man was not interested in conducting an information session) we found an informative New York Times article that provides an interesting story on the elusive morel mushroom business. Enjoy!