A morel mushroom grows in disturbed gravel on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo credit: USFWS)

A morel mushroom grows in disturbed gravel on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo credit: USFWS)

Out of the Office: Morels surge confidence

I’m writing this in the car on the drive to Anchorage. My boyfriend, Nate, and I are in the process of moving back to the city, where we both are from, and we’ve been spending our weekends moving carloads of books, shoes and other nonessentials to our old/new home.

Right now, we’re driving toward Cooper Landing, beyond Sterling. Right along the road are acres and acres of long, charred spruce trees, free of any branches, sticking up from the inky hills of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge — like bristles on a hairbrush.

On these drives to and from Anchorage, I’ve been looking for potential spots where we could pick morels. We were lucky last summer when we explored the Skilak area. We found enough to make dinner, and that’s all I can really ask for after an afternoon trampling through an ash-covered forest that’s no longer really a forest, and more of a graveyard.

Last summer, when the Swan Lake Fire ignited on our peninsula, I was worried, but took comfort in the promise of spring morel hunting.

Now it’s spring, and it’s just about time to start looking for morels. Morel mushrooms are truffle-ey, buttery, earthy, savory morsels. Like uncovering sparkling gold flecks in a pan full of dirt and rocks, morel foraging requires a bit of research, a little finesse and some good, old-fashioned luck.

Morels are known to grow after a burn. In areas scarred by Mother Nature’s fiery reset, the little mushrooms actually seem to thrive. For some reason, fire prompts the morel to burst from the earth as if to say, “There’s nothing that can stop me!” and, “I can do anything!” Seeing their little honeycomblike caps among ash and rubble has a way of making me feel like anything is possible.

Right now, I’m looking for burned areas near birch trees. I heard morels might grow near birch. Thinking about morels means I don’t have to think about the new coronavirus, or my friends who’ve lost their jobs, or who’ve had to cancel their weddings or the other happy gatherings to which we all look forward.

These days I’m stuck thinking about moving and how to start life over in a new place with a new job all within a new normal with which we’ve all become acquainted in the last couple of months.

Nothing has felt easy in the last few months. I was just beginning to feel burnt out by work and life when the threat of COVID-19 revealed itself back in mid-March. Almost immediately, people needed news of canceled events, mandates, panic shopping and the closure of the economy. I was happy to inform. The speed of the news gave me an adrenaline rush that lasted for weeks.

As the breaking news subsided, then came the more harrowing news — the first positive cases, first deaths. I took note how people in my life were reacting. It’s hard to watch your family and friends suffer from loneliness and illness, lose their livelihoods or be stripped of their pastimes. I’m lucky though and I can’t forget that. Thousands and thousands of others are losing everything.

Now we’re in Girdwood along our drive to Anchorage. When we get to Anchorage, we’re heading to Spenard where we will get the keys to our new little apartment. Earlier today I accepted a job offer from KTVA. I feel like, “I can do anything.” We’re passing hooligan fishermen along the Seward Highway.

It is finally summer and almost time to pick morels.

More in Sports

tease
Saturday baseball: Soldotna topples Kenai for NLC title

The Soldotna baseball team defeated Kenai Central 2-1 on Saturday for the… Continue reading

tease
Saturday softball: Kodiak tops Soldotna to defend NLC title

The Kodiak softball team defeated Soldotna twice on Saturday at Palmer to… Continue reading

The Kenai Central High School girls celebrate after a goal by Katie Johnson during the ASAA Soccer Division II State Championships at Veterans Memorial Field in Wasilla, Alaska, on Saturday, May 25, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Central girls, Soldotna boys claim DII soccer titles

Both programs rise to top for 1st time

TEASE
Soldotna softball reaches NLC final, earns 1st state berth since 2017

The Soldotna softball team secured its first Division II state berth since… Continue reading

Soldotna senior Kaleb Swank dribbles around a West Anchorage defender Friday, April 5, 2019, at Soldotna's Justin Maile Field. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)
It’s Kenai-Juneau girls, SoHi-Juneau boys for Division II state soccer titles

The Kenai Central and Juneau-Douglas: Yadaa.at Kale girls, and Soldotna and Juneau… Continue reading

tease
Kenai, Soldotna baseball will play for NLC title Saturday

The Kenai Central and Soldotna baseball teams will play for the Northern… Continue reading

tease
Kenai, SoHi, Homer girls; SoHi boys advance to DII state soccer semis

The Soldotna boys and SoHi, Kenai Central and Homer girls all advanced… Continue reading

tease
Kenai, Soldotna baseball advance to NLC semis

The Kenai Central and Soldotna baseball teams advanced to the semifinals of… Continue reading

Most Read