Nova Scotia Back Roads Adventure…

…or, how an every-day drive turned into an unexpected adventure.

It’s great to make friends with the locals! I met Laura on one of my first beach walks after quarantine late last October and we have been hanging out together ever since. Laura grew up in the Parrsboro area, moved away and then returned several years ago. She is a great guide when it comes to exploring close-to-home and out-of-the-way places.

A couple of weeks ago she sent a message “Going to look for mushrooms this morning. Interested?” No time like the present and I responded with a quick “yes”. within 30 minutes we were off exploring some new-to-me country roads, Laura chatting next to me while negotiating the rough road. We were in search of Chanterelles.

I was relieved that I actually knew what to look for as those were the mushrooms we would harvest in the fall during my childhood in Germany. After a couple of false alarms and inedible varieties of mushrooms we found a small patch near a place Laura used to live in. I think she was disappointed that there were so few Chanterelles compared to the past but it was enough to get us excited and filling up a couple small baskets. Dinners for both of us that night was enriched thanks to our little harvest.

I also found a couple Porcini mushrooms but wasn’t 100% certain if I was correct in my identification of this coveted mushroom variety. I sent a message to a friend whom we consider “the oracle” when it comes to mushroom identification. I never heard back until days later when I had already composted the find. The answer was a positive identification but it was too late to rescue them to add to a meal. Next time!

Emboldened and excited about our last mushroom hunting excursion we connected last week Saturday and set out in the direction of Apple River where, according to Laura, someone had definitely spotted Chanterelles a few days earlier. It’s an hour’s drive to Apple River and it was a glorious day for our excursion. We travelled on roads neither of us had driven before, we pulled over regularly but mushrooms were nowhere to be found.

We did come across a small Venus Flytrap plant on a path leading to the woods. What a treat to make this discovery when you least expect it! I had never seen Venus Flytrap in the wild and decided to spend some time on my knees trying to get a picture or two.

Unsuccessful in our quest of finding mushrooms at our planned destination we stopped for tea at the Church Cafe in Advocate Harbour on our way back to Parrsboro. Rested and restored we set out for home when, just past Spencer’s Island, we turned off onto another gravel road… just in case we could find a few mushrooms after all.

We soon travelled slowly between mature trees intently looking for signs of mushrooms. There: An opening in the woods to the right! I pulled the car over and we set out on foot. As our feet sank several inches into the cushy moss and with birds chirping overhead we breathed in the scent of the forest and let the quiet wash over us. Some call this “forest bathing.” With our eyes peeled for signs of funghi Laura was just making the statement that the environment was ideal for finding what we were looking for… when, for some reason I looked left, perhaps alerted by a slight movement, and there, expecting to look into the eyes of a deer, in the dappled light of trees… stood a human, blending in perfectly with his brown t-shirt, khaki-coloured pants, bearded, hair disheveled, barefoot, mud up to his knees…

I stopped on the spot, unable to move, gasping slightly while trying to find my voice in an effort to let Laura know that we were not alone! Laura is a lot quicker than I am when it comes to meeting strangers in the woods. She was all smiles and greeted him cheerfully. All I could muster was “I suppose we are trespassing?” while mentally trying to recall whether I saw a sign posted anywhere. The stranger’s response was “Is there such a thing as trespassing in Nova Scotia?” He smiled and told us to go ahead and check for mushrooms. He shared that he would collect them himself if he was certain they were edible. Then he turned and walked over to an area about 50 meters away where he was working when we first arrived a few minutes earlier. I still can’t recall what exactly he was doing and whether he has tools with him.

These were the only mushrooms we found and since we were unable to identify them definitively we left them behind in the mossy, sun-dappled forest clearing.

We waved good-bye, thanked the stranger for letting us come onto his land and returned to the car. Behind closed doors we both breathed easier and then we started to laugh and speculate who he might have been and what he was doing in the forest… We will never find out but it did elevate our heart-rate without exercise. At that point we decided that we had explored enough and that by now other mushroom hunter had gotten to the “good stuff” anyways. It was getting late in the day.

We won’t stop our excursions however, we will be more alert in the future when it comes to entering unknown forests, posted or not. Hope you enjoyed our heart-rate elevating adventure! Enjoy the long weekend (in Canada). Warm wishes, Anna

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