Sometimes, if you’re looking hard, you can see the mushrooms from the cockpit of a de Havilland beaver. Flying low after a misty morning, the large reddish-brown circles pop from the lush green tundra, your eye drawn to the dramatic color change.
The morning's gray foggy drizzle gave way to warm sunshine in the late afternoon, so Marco flew low along Pike’s Ridge on our journey home. Watching him scour the landscape through the Plexiglas of the maroon de Havilland Beaver, I joined the visual hunt. From under the deep green spruce trees and chartreuse tundra bushes lacing the ridge, King Boletes lay plentiful. Through headsets, we formulated a plan.
That evening, with the arctic sun still shining, we motored along four wheeler paths towards the ridge. King Boletes may jump out of the tundra when you are looking from above, but from ground, they cloak themselves in the thick flourishing foliage of blueberries and junipers. Just like any other edible mushroom, they merely peek out when you’re hunting and only after you’ve thoroughly searched. (Almost like they wait for you to put your time in.)
We crept along the dirt path scanning the green tundra with such intensity, time stood still. Then spotting a touch of brown, I broke the silence, “Hey, there’s one!” We soon ran knives through the fat stems of an endless patch. I gazed up from treasure hunting to see Marco wearing a smug grin as he cut another from the group, careful to leave some behind. I remember wondering if his grin belonged to the moment or to the future. And weeks later, around a small table in his cabin seated in front of an oversized plate holding delicate pieces of homemade ravioli drizzled with wild mushroom creme sauce, I'll think I found the answer.
As the arctic sun dipped slowly away, we rode home. Rounding a bend in the road, a small creek meandered through the dwarf spruce and cut right through the center of a thick low-growing blueberry patch. Streaks of reddish sunlight broke through the dark greens, bathing the area with sparkling gems of warm orange light. I stopped in my tracks. Glancing over, I caught Marco already smiling and nodding. Sometimes, when I’m not looking, I stumble across what can only be defined as wonder.
I miss my friend, Marco Alletto, who disappeared while flying (along with three Katmai National Park employees) two years ago today.
Last year’s post, One Year Later, can be read HERE.
|End of Day, Marco's de Havilland Beaver, 2008 photo by k8|