Sunday, August 12, 2007

Backpacking Colorado: Never Summer Wilderness

North of RMNP in the Never Summers.
Fishing at near 11,000 feet usually requires a little work. These days ordinarily start bright and early from the trail head. But this time the group decided to get a head start on the day and walk 2 miles of it in the dark the night before. Loaded with 3 day packs and using head lamps we strolled into the forest not exactly sure where we would squat for the night, but not really caring either. We had mild evening temperatures, and bright star filled skies for night

There is something about the transformation from employee to explorer during the work week that really speaks to me. These trips have been some of my favorite in the past.

A Colorado Amanita muscaria. 2007
I have always wondered about these mushrooms. I remember seeing them as a kid and walking out of my way around them like the mushroom might leap out and grab me. The red with white spots to me screamed Danger! The fact that most of the time they are in perfect condition also told me at a young age these are trouble.

I saw quite a few of these during our walk. Most were perfectly round, not poked or bruised in any way. However I noticed a small percentage were cracked, chipped, chunked, and even nibbled on?! To my amazement some of the mushrooms appeared to be half eaten. This got me curious.

So I got home and googled. Poisonous mushrooms of
Colorado “red with white spots”
Surprisingly This searched did not return the content I was looking for.

So I deleted the word “Poisonous” from the search and tried again. What I discovered about these mushrooms was unexpected and delightfully interesting.

Here are my top 10:

  • Over six hundred different species of the Amanita have been identified, both edible and poisonous.
  • Amanita muscaria, is also known as "fly agaric" or the “sacred mushroom.” And may have lead to the term “magic mushrooms”.
  • Amanita muscaria probably originated in Asia or Europe but can be found scattered from places as far north as Alaska and Siberia to areas as far south as Australia, South Africa, and South America.
  • The cap of the mushroom is the fruit of the larger mycelium beneath the soil which exists in a symbiotic relationship with the roots of the tree. To ancient people, this mushroom was literally "the fruit of the tree."
  • Amanita muscaria contain chemicals called muscimole and ibotenic acid that produce psychoactive effects. These compounds do not break down in the body and can be consumed with the same effect from urine. A preferred method in some parts of the world.
  • A fully grown cap can measure 2-12 inches (5-30 cm) in diameter.
  • Usually a distinct blood red color with white speckles, some varieties have a cap that turns orange or yellow as they age.
  • The white spots (also known as “warts”) can wash off.
  • Rarely toxic to adults but may be fatal to small children.
  • Most of the major elements of the modern Christmas celebration, such as Santa Claus, Christmas trees, magical reindeer and the giving of gifts, are originally based upon the traditions surrounding the harvest and consumption of the Amanita muscaria.

Keyrock on the water.
This trip was mostly about the fishing. We picked the location based on the natural water features and remoteness of the area.
The morning hatches here were unreal. The lake "boiled" as the trout fed during the sunny but cool early hours. We had a hard time competing with the real insects on the water, there was easily 100,000+ of little buzzing bodies. We had to be patient and keep our sanity in the bug swarm. It looked like a insect cloud above the lake on day two, with the ringing of tiny wings in the ears and the occasional bite, inhalation, swallowing and one even flew into my eye. Plenty of trout food.

Still, cool mornings and clear skies made from great fishing conditions.

’s Greenback Cutthroat trout.

T-Bone shows us how it is done. With the most fish and biggest fish of the weekend. The fish he is holding was about the average size for the lake and was quickly released after the picture.

1 comment:

  1. Love the picture of the mushroom! Also the fishie pictures!