It’s raining here in Southern California for the first time in a year. Rain always makes me think about foraging for mushrooms. I know this storm won’t produce enough moisture to bring chanterelles to SoCal as it has in years past, but it does give me the time indoors to write about our incredible score of a different kind of wild mushroom during a recent backpacking trip we went on for my birthday in the Eastern Sierras..
Big Pine Lakes is a 13 mile loop in the Inyo National Forest which goes through a series of seven high alpine, icy blue, glacial-fed lakes that make for an amazing backpacking, fishing and rock climbing destination. The small town of Big Pine is located 15 miles SouthEast of Bishop off the 395. From Bishop, there is a road called Crocker St/Glacier Lodge Road, which goes up approximately 10 miles to the trailhead parking. It is a 3.5 mile hike which travels up 1,700 vertical ft. to reach the first lake at an altitude close to 10,000 ft.
You have to get a permit at the Lone Pine Ranger Station (if your coming from the south) and they have a 25 person per day backpacking quota, so we suggest making those arrangements the day before your trek.
Backpacking is one of my all time favorite things to do which is why I asked Ari to arrange this trip for my Birthday. I really do experience a “natural high” when I spend multiple days in the backcountry with only a pack and my partner. The trip was gift enough, but to our delight and surprise, Ari caught eye of a very special present from the gods: Boletus Edulis, aka Porcini mushrooms.
As you can read from my previous posts, Ari has a special history foraging for mushrooms. He has found all kinds of delicious species of edible mushrooms in the wild; Chanterelles, Morels, Hedgehogs, Angel Wings, and Lobsters..
But before this backpacking trip he had never found a wild Boletus, and they happen to hold a special significance to his French family. They were, and still are a major source of sustenance for Ari’s family in France who has wild harvested them for generations, and are in part responsible for bringing Ari’s parent’s to move to the United States from France when Ari was 4 years old (his father’s sales of his familys’ wild-foraged boletus to the upscale restaurants in Valence led to his apprenticeship and later employment as a chef).
This was the first backpacking trip we had been on in a while and we didn’t make all the best choices for lightweight packing so we both felt the consequences at the end of the trip. Since it was my birthday, I insisted we drive the extra 60 miles north to the epic Hilltop Hot Springs in Mammoth for a soothing soak.
After a fun day exploring the High Sierras, we went for another soak at Siphon Hot Springs, and indulged in one last Porcini-parmesan and pasta dinner with our friends before leaving town the following morning. What a fabulous birthday. I really couldn’t have wished for anything better 😀