Story (Mushrooms and Gems)

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A Day of Real Mushrooms and Fake Gems
By Elizabeth OuYang

What a surprise we had waiting for us on the trails of Tom Jones and Parker Cabin Mountains!!  While many had climbed this trail before, no one had seen what we were lucky to see this time-thanks to the wet summer!   Because of the rainy days and humid weather, many of us had not been hiking for a while so this five mile hike, planned by Henry Jiang was meant to be a leisurely stroll to Lake Skenonto.

While it drizzled on the ride down, by the time we hit the trails, it was clear and cool-perfect hiking weather. With Su leading the pack of 15 hikers, we climbed up Tom Jones Mountain (which by the way bares little resemblance to the singer!).  It was hilly in the beginning, but few of us really noticed. What distracted us instead were the amazing variety of mushrooms we saw all along the trail. Some were the size of salad plates, golden brown like pancakes, others the size of a dime in yellow, rose, purple, white and green hues.  They were everywhere-in umbrella like clusters encircling rocks and trees or standing by itself-a single mushroom in the grass or between rocks. H  The mushroom caps were smooth like ice, others were wrinkled, one was spotted like a leopard, a few were porous like sponges. They grew in all different positions- inverted upside down, standing straight or toppled over. Whether perfectly round, oval, disfigured or the shape of an uneven shamrock, they were mushrooms!!

What started out as a hiking trip soon turned into a mushroom siting adventure!  Hidden or in plain view, we spotted them. Several times whether going up or down a hill or turning the corner on a flat terrain, you could see Kady, Terry, Kelly and Liz dispersed and bent over with their nose almost to the ground, John with his digital camera zooming in, and Su, Josephine, Mr. Jwo, Mr. and Mrs. Lui, Anne, Bobo, Bohu, Mary and Jenny in clusters admiring the mushrooms at a distance.  Who would have thought fungus could be so interesting!! Strangers passing us by must have thought we were on a scientific exhibition, not a hike!!  For his fungus collection, John captured the moments on digital camera.  One photo he deserves to brag about is a shadow of leaves on top of a mushroom cap making it seem like the shadow of the leaves are part of the mushroom cap. (If you saw the photo, you’d know what I mean. It’s one of those things where words can’t quite capture the image. If you’re nice to him, John might e-mail you the photo).

There were also funny moments to break up our total captivation with the mushrooms.  To rest or take a photo opportunity with a mushroom, Su would announce periodic 2 minute water breaks. One time she asked Mr. Liu if he needed to go to the bathroom. He responded, you only said “this was a water break” to which Terry quipped, “That is a water break!!!”  On another break, Bobo entertained us with a mini tai-chi demonstration.

Mr. Jwo picked a wonderful spot overlooking Lake Skenonto for lunch. Perched on rocks, we had a perfect view of the lake as it branched into three tributaries.  We had the entire place to ourselves. The lake was so peaceful-the water was so still you could hear a pin drop in it. No boats, no swimmers, just a few ducks paddling in the water.  It was delightful.

Against the stunning array of mushrooms and the placidness of the lake, John starts handing out beautiful pierced earrings made of a variety of fake colored gems to the women hikers for free. While many asked what was he doing with all these earrings, he kept it a secret! He was outnumbered twelve women to three men on this trip, but rather than chase the women, he chased a tiny leaping frog on a rock almost to the water!!

Eventually we had to leave this heavenly spot. On the way back, we started on a simple unpaved road paralleling the lake. But Terri’s laser eyes spotted the trail in the mountains so since we promised the hikers a level B experience, we hiked back onto the mountain trail admiring mushrooms all along the way. (We just couldn’t get enough of them).

It was a perfect day!  We couldn’t have asked for more.  Great weather, great company, mushrooms galore, beautiful lake, few mosquitos, free jewelry, and plenty of “Water Breaks”. When I returned home, I began to read Friday’s New York Times and guess what the leading headline was in the Metro Section- “A Perfect Summer, if You’re a Fungus, Record Rainfall Transforms City Into a Wonderland of Mushrooms!!” .

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