May 23, 2022
Good evening friends,
This week’s publication of Mushroom Monday is going to deviate from the traditional mushroom profile and recap the Georgia Mushroom Festival which Ciara and I attended this weekend. It will be formatted more like a memoir and will be longer than the typical weekly MM. There’s no shame in just scrolling through the pictures, or even exiting out right now. In fact, it’s never a bad idea to turn off your screen. However, if you do go ahead and read this I think you’ll find it quite enjoyable. Conditions were dry and mushrooms were sparse, but we did happen upon the handsome Neolentinus Lepideus (seen below), commonly known as the trainwrecker.
It wasn’t necessarily the midnight train, but it was a 6AM flight on Friday in which I promptly left my phone under the seat while filing out of the plane. A friendly gate agent remedied the situation and I was able to contact Maverick, a man I met on the Georgia Mushroom Festival facebook page. Whether you believe it or not, this is not a plug for the new Top Gun: Maverick, in theaters this Friday, May 27th. Our Maverick was simply generous enough to answer my inquiry about hitching a ride out to the festival in Cave Springs – a small town just over ninety minutes northwest of Atlanta.
Upon arriving to the campgrounds, we set up our tent under a large sycamore next to the crick (that’s creek for you yankees) before laying down for a much needed nap.
It wasn’t long before the unmistakable voice of Jerry Garcia and the drifting odor of marijuana roused us from our slumber. The campground was filling up so we decided to head over to the festival grounds at Rolator Park – two and a half miles down the road – and see if we could join one of the mushroom walks scheduled for the day. A quick look at the map on our phone made the walk to the grounds seem feasible, if not enjoyable. It wasn’t five minutes before we were throwing our thumbs up to hitch a ride – the road was a major truck route without any shoulder. Another five minutes of timid walking ticked by before Wren Terry (possibly Brent Terry – his accent was as thick as the dual rear wheel tires on his truck) pulled over just as we were starting to sizzle under the scorching Georgia sun. A generous and inquisitive man, he was heading to town after dropping off hay at the campground and took us right to the festival grounds in Rolator Park.
Soon after arriving at the festival grounds we realized there wasn’t anyone in charge. The whole festival was organized by one person, Claudia. Every volunteer seemed to be doing their best with the instructions they inferred from talking to others, and the really fortunate folks may have even received some sort of direction from Claudia earlier in the week.
The festival, and the whole weekend, toed the fine line between charmingly and alarmingly unorganized. After receiving no information from the information tent on where walks would start, nor where talks would occur, we figured we’d go back to camp where there was the allure of a band stage with live music. Mukti, the proprietor of the finest gas station in Cave Springs (Harbin’s Market) drove us back to the campground where the rest of the day was spent swimming in the crick and listening to groovy tunes.
Saturday was the main day of the festival with activities starting at 9AM and running all the way through to a UV flashlight walk at 9PM. We took in a few stimulating presentations – one specifically from Dr. Bradley Cooke of the National Institute of Health on neuroscience and how psilocybin affects your brain. What stood out to me was the new science on conscience and perception. It has traditionally been understood that perception occurs when external stimuli is received by your eyes (or other senses) and then the image/stimuli are processed by the brain. However, new science suggests that the brain will predict what you’re going to see, or even feel, and perception actually works inside-out. Images and ideas are generated by the prior beliefs and understanding you hold in your brain and is then influenced by the new, external stimuli received by your senses. A few pictures from the talks are included below:
At 1 pm we tried to go on a mushroom walk with renowned mycologists Bill Yule (above) and Walt Sturgeon. In what turned out to be a microcosm for the whole weekend, both Bill and Walt – the leaders of the walk – didn’t even know where it was supposed to start. It was also so dry that after a few minutes of conversing the walk dissolved into some folks going to look for mushrooms while others hung around the spring from which Cave Spring derives its name. Dry as it was, we did find that beautiful, gregarious, and fragrant trainwrecker.
Neolentinus lepideus is saprobic on dead wood – typically favoring pine and conifer stumps. It is found across temperate forests in the northern hemisphere and the mushrooms grow summer through fall (they can be found growing year-round in warmer climes). It has a scaly cap and stipe, along with an anise-like smell that was eloquently simplified to “it smells like a mushroom” by the person next to me. It is known as the trainwrecker because it is capable of colonizing and fruiting from chemically treated rail ties. Hardcore. Notice below all the ants crawling in the gills and spreading the mushroom’s spores.
Another laugh-out-loud highlight was when we left the speaker series and attempted to go on a 4pm mushroom photography walk with Alan Rockefeller. After fruitlessly searching for half an hour, and talking to others hopelessly looking for the walk/Alan, we returned to the speaker room. You can then imagine the surprise on our face when a question at the end of the 4pm presentation on fluorescent mushrooms in UV light was directed toward Alan, who himself was sitting in the audience. Fortunately, the air conditioned room cooled off any perturbance we might have had. The rest of Saturday was spent browsing the various vendors, making new friends, swimming, and taking in good music.
Sunday was low-key as well, and in addition to a couple mushroom presentations – including an inspiring talk from Gowin Valley Farms and Dr. Chris Cornelison from Kennesaw State University – a lot of time was spent exploring the grounds with friends and meeting new fungal folks. The neat thing about the town of Cave Springs is that it does, in fact, have a cave spring. Some folks travel multiple hours to fill up gallons of water from the spring (note the gallon and five gallon jugs in the second photo below).
I could write thousands of more words about this weekend, the presentations, and the people (and I very well may) but I’m going to wrap up this MM with a hearty thank you to all the generous souls we met. Thank you Randy, Ryan, Maverick, Eric, Jake, Lily, Jen, Miller, Dan, Gypsy, Brian, Amma, Carlesto, Pat, Roxanne, Mickie, Mukti, and Wren/Brent Terry. Whether it was a ride, a bite to eat, or just that warm southern hospitality, Ciara and I deeply appreciate everything you did for us. See you down the road 🙂
Next week will be another fungal weekend recap from the Friends of Fungi retreat with Catskill Fungi. It will hopefully feature more mushrooms, and I know it will feature at least a touch more organization.
Mush love everyone,
1) Kuo, M. (2019, February). Neolentinus lepideus. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/neolentinus_lepideus.html