Good evening, friends,
This week we’ll stray from the single mushroom format and instead I’ll recap the weekend at the Northeastern Mycological Federation’s 44th Annual Sam Ristich Foray. Not to worry though, the mushrooms we found this weekend will be sprinkled throughout the text.
Before we go any further you need to open a new tab and checkout the new mushroommonday.com. Ciara has worked tirelessly on crafting this new internet home for us and that's why we've got a new look in the newsletter as well. The whole operation is still under construction but the soft open of the website debuts a search feature and an events page.
This year’s foray took at Soyuzivka Heritage Center nestled snuggly in the Shawangunk Ridge with a beautiful view of the Catskill Mountains. The Ukrainian retreat was built in this specific location due to its similarity with the Carpathian mountains of eastern Europe. The crumbling concrete on some buildings and peeling paint on others also gave the center a very eastern European feel. I actually quite enjoyed the venue despite the gruff appearance. The staff was awesome and I’m always more inclined to enjoy a place that is a little rundown but doesn’t take themselves too seriously over somewhere hoity-toity.
The weekend got off to an auspicious start when I got there Thursday evening. I forgot that I signed up for Friday-Sunday, not Thursday-Sunday, and I realized this in line as the person in front of me did the same thing. While awkwardly waiting to get the situation sorted, I tried to make a little small talk with the other person in the same situation. She commented on dinner and how tasty the beans were.
I said “Oh yea, summer greens are delicious”
She stared at me emptily and I realized she said “beans” not “greens”. I tried to salvage the conversation with “oh yea beans are good, too” but there was nothing really to salvage. I moseyed over to the vendor setups to try and scrub that interaction from my brain.
The early arrival situation was easily accommodated and I was eager to get my room key for a room that didn’t have a functioning door knob, let alone a locking mechanism. What the two-story, cinder block dorm lacked in hot water it more than made up for in charm. One such charming feature was the metal doors that slammed with urgency behind you so when one person got up in the morning the whole floor was now awake.
Friday morning I was leading a walk in Minnewaska State Park and the group was extra enthusiastic because the foray's walk coordinator and longtime MM subscriber, David Logsdon (who in all seriousness did an excellent job throughout the weekend), had secured a permit from the state to collect mushrooms for scientific purposes. This meant we were going to be able to collect fungi in this park and use DNA sequencing to officially document them for the first time. The group eagerly assembled at 8:30AM where there were two buses idling for three walks and it quickly materialized we were the odd walk out.
The other buses left and a five minute wait for the third bus turned into fifteen which put my leadership skills to the test. I could feel my command over the party waning as people started defecting to other talks/workshops happening at the time, or even opting to drive the ten minutes to Minnewaska themselves. Those that stood by and waited with me were not rewarded as after thirty minutes it was evident the bus would indeed never show up, so we split up into cars to carpool. “They’re expecting you at the gate and will let everyone in for free” David said to me before I pulled out in front of a caravan of ten cars barreling toward the gates of Minnewaska.
“I don’t know what that is” the young ranger at the ticket booth replied as I confidently informed her that we were with NEMF. Well, park admission was only $10 and theoretically the money goes to the park so I didn’t mind paying. And when I say I didn’t mind, it was really another MM reader, Jackie, that stepped up and covered our car’s entrance fee. I figured the rest of the group would follow suit but the guy behind me was adamant that he shouldn’t pay. That’s when I unfortunately realized that I was going to have to do something about this.
I pulled through the gate and pulled over before our car emptied out and started walking toward the gatehouse. Sensing she was outnumbered, and perhaps this wasn’t the hill she wanted to die on this Friday morning, the young park ranger working the entrance booth raised the gates under the condition that we would go talk to her boss who was parked about 100 yards away.
As we were driving up to said boss, the green pickup promptly drove away before we could even attempt to address the issue. That meant that we were finally unhindered in our search for fungi. As the walk leader, it felt good to have someone else pay the ten-dollar entrance fee (thank you Jackie) while simultaneously getting the credit for everyone else getting in for free. They truly don’t teach you that in school, folks.
I spent most of the weekend on walks looking for mushrooms, but Saturday morning I took a microscopy workshop to improve my comfort level with an important tool for mushroom identification. Up until this point, I had a 7th grader’s working knowledge of the microscope I bought a year ago. Credit to Paul Sadowski and Ethan Crenson because I left the class feeling confident that I could "focus a condenser" and use the scope at a high school level. I followed the microscopy class up with a lecture on lichens as I’m preparing to give a presentation on the fascinating organisms at the NYMS Fungus Festival.
The evening programs featured presentations from some of the most distinguished mycologists in the world (albeit the world of distinguished mycologists is unfortunately not a big world). The highlight of which was João Araújo’s presentation on cordyceps, or “entamopathogenic fungi” - fungi that parasitize insects.
Saturday night was capped off by a live auction which ended strangely for me. I was responsible and sat on my hands for the first few items but all the “I thought I was going to spend more for getting in early but didn’t since the extra night was cheaper than I thought” money started burning a whole in my pocket. This resulted in me carrying a Tito’s vodka box overflowing with newspaper wrapped, Sears catalogue ceramics out of the venue. I like to talk about downsizing and shedding excess material possessions which made bringing home a "14 piece pottery mushroom kitchen set" a tough sell to Ciara.
Overall it was a great weekend for finding fungi, seeing good friends, and making new ones. I actually reached the length limit on Substack so I believe this is the longest MM ever published. Fun little fact if you stuck with it this far. INext year the 45th Sam Ristich Annual Foray is in Cape Cod which has me even more jazzed up.
See you there,