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Life's Magic, at Least in Oregon

Posted by johnnieraz on September 15, 2019 at 3:00 AM

The first Chanterelle find of the season. Photo by John Rezell

By John Rezell

    There’s a magic to the universe. I’m can feel it.

      Problem is, in my humble opinion, we often overlook, if not downright ignore it. We simply think too much.

     I could spend the whole Saturday morning giving you mysterious examples in my life, but I’ll focus on the past month.

     I’m talking about things like grabbing my cellphone to text my daughter only to have a text from her arrive before I could start typing. Or my uncanny ability to be at a stop light and out of the blue countdown 3-2-1 and it turns green. My older daughter says my accuracy rate with her in the car is about 95 percent, and frankly, it freaks her out.

     I can’t count the number of times this summer my wife and I are sitting together when a thought pops into my head — often something we haven’t discussed in months — and before I can bring it up, she does.

     And just the other day, driving home after dropping my younger daughter at the airport knowing I didn’t have dinner planned for my wife, I thought about stopping for a whole chicken at the grocery store — something we eat maybe twice a year when our day gets too crazy — only to arrive home and find out she stopped for a whole chicken to bring home for dinner.

      I bring this up because living in small town (pop. 15,000) in Oregon allows me to spend countless hours away from the endless distractions that keep most minds occupied throughout the day.

      I hop on my bike and in 20 minutes I’m in the woods, chugging up logging roads where I won’t hear a car or bump into another person for the next two, three, four or more hours. That’s a lot of time to not think, just be.

      So Friday I headed out to one of Oregon’s sweet collection of mountain bike trails as I attempt to keep my well-toned fitness for another week until a major ride. I’ve spent more hours on my bike this year than I have for many, many years.

      The good part is being able to head out for a four or five hours without killing myself. The bad part is being on a bike for four or five hours slowly becomes rather boring for me if I do it too often.

      I pulled my mountain bike out of the Santa Fe only to find I have no rear brake. The hydraulic fluid, if there is any, won’t respond to my disc brake.

      To get to this level of fitness means I do a lot of climbing. A LOT OF CLIMBING. More than most normal folks would consider sane (I’m not talking to you serious cyclists, but us average folks).

      There’s something about being alone out in the boondocks, plugging my way up an hour climb, that I enjoy. And I do mean plugging. By no means do I set any speed records. I’m the tortoise. If there were others out there, say young fit hikers, they’d probably leave me in their dust rather than vice versa.

      In any event, what comes up must go down, and I pretty much wear out my brakes every few months because I descend like a baby, born out of 13 years riding with my black lab when I had to descend at 5 mph as to allow her to survive for the next ride.

      At this particular set of trails the consensus would be that you have to be an idiot to ride them without a rear brake. Then again, I’m used to doing idiotic things not to mention, as I said, descending like a granny.

     So, I went for it.

     Truth be told, I went for it because there were no other cars at the trailhead. I do have an ego.

     After about 90 minutes of climbing and descending on the perfectly designed flow trails, well, I got bored. So I hopped onto the nearest logging road and just started climbing.

     I hit the summit about 45 minutes later. Once again, bored. And then something hit me, out of nowhere.

     Some rain has fallen recently in Oregon, and later on in late October or November, I heed that as a call to find Chanterelle mushrooms in the forest. I’ve never hunted this early, no matter how wet it might be. But, I’m in the Coastal Mountains, so what the heck?

      I hide my bike in the brush and begin slipping my way in bike cleats down the mountainside with about a 50-degree pitch. I see an old logging road covered with brush, and know I’ve struck gold on one of these before.

     But understand that over the past 13 years I’ve also spent the equivalent of weeks foraging in the forest coming up completely shut out. It’s never a sure thing, finding mushrooms, even at their peak.

      Just 10 steps down the hill, literally from 20 years away, a sliver of gold no bigger than an almond catches my eye. No way, I say out loud, somehow knowing it isn't a fall leaf.

      Sure enough, upon further inspection it’s the edge of a Chanterelle emerging from beneath the fir needles. Since they are communal, there must be others. There are.

      For the next two hours I hug this rich, steep, mountainside, filling a grocery bag with my precious gold. I’ll smother my homemade pizza with them tonight.

     Ahh, just another magical day in the Oregon forests.

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