Monday, December 3, 2012

How to Stay Alive in the Woods

Rarely do I get lost in strange woods but it was 4 p.m. and the sun was low in the naked trees with darkness scheduled to fall within the hour. A trail I'd followed had petered out, tempting me to bushwhack to my goal: the riverfront. All my tricks to get back (such as retracing my steps, or walking at an angle where I'd surely cut across the trail -- sure I would! -- didn't help me. A book I like called How to Stay Alive in the Woods says that most lost people, at worst, miss a meal, and that's nothing. I walked toward the sun, because on my way in it had been behind me.

Fortunately I had some drinking water, a hiking stick, and a small firearm, and knew that if one is lost at nightfall one stays put, hopes the cellphone is working, and when the searchers are searching, fires three shots into the air to guide them. "Be prepared" is great wisdom; I felt lucky and calm. Too bad I'll miss a meal, I thought. And then I was presented with this cluster of mushrooms growing at eye level on a live tree. I said thanks but no thanks; I'm no expert, won't put wild mushrooms in my mouth without proper I.D. I got back to my car before dark and at home looked these up because they seemed so familiar. They are oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) like you buy in the market, graded  "choice" for eating. So I want you to know, if you're ever lost, look around, and you'll probably see you've been provided for.

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