The mushroom fever was here to stay, at least for a few weeks more. Actually most years it was here until she couldn’t find anymore, got a good dose of poison ivy or the forest became too dense to look. If you haven’t had poison ivy you are lucky. It hides well this time of year, barely putting out its little starter leaves. When she was young a good friend broke out in an itchy rash all over while she had none. Over the years of exposure it finally attacked her immunity and gave her a terrible rash. It is the oil the plants produce that causes the irritation. Being around lots of thorns that give little scratches allows an easier area to develop and is hard to avoid. She took her clothes off as soon as she got home and jumped in the shower. It helped but didn’t always work. Driving through looking at future campsites she saw a good looking area and headed off looking. The other pleasure with this was being in deep woods often by herself. Birds called from the treetops and many new flowers nodded when she passed. This ritual had gone on since her brothers took her out the first time and would remain part of her life each year.
Riding with a friend from another town, they went out to see if there were any new blooms she had missed the last time entering into this marvelous area. A gouge in the farm fields slowly opened up to a nice canyon down into river wetlands. It was fun to walk down the beginning to see how this beautiful area had formed. It was amazing how this limestone reef was under a thick layer of rich soil. It was hard to imagine how long this transformation had taken. The trees filled in where they could, with one tree creeping down the side of a steep cliff. She listened for any movement in the caves above hoping to see an allusive bobcat or any other forest denizen who had taken refuge in their depths.
A woodpecker made her look off in its direction, opening up a new set of growth climbing the cliffs. A clump of beautiful yellow flowers signaled the start of bloom for some bellwort. She wanted to look at some other blooms in this family that had barely surfaced farther up on a ridge. The trail had a bench set along it that told her to rest for a bit, the cliffs were a hard climb walking in. She listened to the sounds around her, an act in the opera performed each day. An itch on her neck made her feel what caused it and a wood tick was the culprit. It was hard to stay away from these bloodsuckers, she maybe would have to spray before going out again. It seemed to be a bad year for them. Flipping a log over near her feet she watched a centipede scurry away looking for new refuge to hide. A spider crawled off before she could see what kind it was. Sipping from her water bottle she sat back and listened more. She asked her friend how he knew all the names for the plants around. He said he had to go out and listen to their songs each year announcing their emergence into this new, old world.
Walking out along another trail she failed to find any of the select mushrooms she had hoped to eat for dinner. Between the cold and lack of nice weather this was a short season for them close to home. Perhaps the next week she would go farther north to look some more. There would be an exchange with fishing soon, another fever that carried her through into the fall. When she got close to her van she knew it was late, but was really surprised how many hours she had spent down in the valley. She felt she had missed a few items and would soon return to this plush forested valley to survey more of its immense beauty. Hunger was calling out and reminding her of having missed lunch. She would need to make a sandwich for her next journey. Food tasted better out under the sun anyway. A flit of a small bird stopped her in her tracks to identify it, getting lost in the pleasurable thoughts of the day she had spent here. The thought surrounded other thoughts of happiness drifting across the prairie and made her feel at peace.