Lovers of Rain, Rejoice!

“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.” — Roger Miller

Wandering in the wet woods. Photo by Nikolaj Lasbo / TNC

By Nikolaj Lasbo, Digital/Social Marketing Manager

The pitter patter of rain falling on the tree canopy above doesn’t quite reach the forest floor on its own, instead forming together into massive droplets that fall, occasionally striking my head and face with pluvial force. The wet from last night’s storm coats the ferns and moss in the undergrowth of this pine forest and brush off onto my pant legs as I wander the woods with friends to look for the fruits of the rainy season.

A chanterelle mushroom. Photo © Nikolaj Lasbo / TNC

Autumn mushroom foraging is a fall tradition we undertake with a childlike joy. Tromping through the woods — at times running when a ‘shroom is spotted — is like an Easter egg hunt in an entirely opposite season and setting. Nature’s autumnal mycological bounty springs up from the ground in what seems an overnight phenomenon — as our climes switched over from record dry and warm summer days to a sudden torrent of rainfall.

Our Indian Summer in the Northwest had an effect on me as a rain lover — a “pluviophile” is a proper name for our type. I eyed the forecast hoping for a break from the sun — what little rain we got did little to whet my appetite.

The season’s early misting rainfall did produce a familiar smell that made me look forward to full autumn — petrichor. You’re not imagining that earthy scent after rain; it’s an oil produced by plants during dry periods that rain releases into the air with other bacteria byproducts. Oh, perfume-y petrichor!

Fresh rain covers plants in The Nature Conservancy's Great Western Checkboards Project, Montana. Photo © Steven Gnam for the Nature Conservancy

And then as if someone had turned on a firehose, the skies opened up and a river of water drenched Western Washington. From Japan to Seattle, a 5,000-mile stream of atmospheric water aimed its nozzle at us in mid-October. It was time to get the mushroom-hunting crew together and head to our secret spot in a Cascade forest stand.

We primarily hunt for chanterelles — easy for us to ID and of abundance in our spot. But the variety of the fungi kingdom is stunning — the most abundant lifeform on Earth by mass — and on this year’s trip into the woods I found edible oyster mushrooms and my first-ever cauliflower mushroom (a delicacy).

Holding chanterelle mushrooms in the Cascade foothills. Photo by Nikolaj Lasbo / TNC

Now deeper into the dark nights of autumn, we are still eating the bounty of mushrooms we gathered — the cauliflower mushroom made an excellent stew. Cozy with a fire in the hearth, rain pelting the windows and warmed by a stew provided by autumn’s fungal bounty, I give thanks for all the rain provides.

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