Lessons From Picking Mushrooms

Not magic, but still magical

No, I wasn’t picking magic mushrooms. Yes, I have enjoyed magic mushrooms, many times. 

When I read the headline above, it makes me curious. “What type of mushrooms is he talking about?”

So I’ll apologize in advance if I let you down that this article is not about magic mushrooms in search of psilocybin, or the profound insights you can experience while under their influence, or the laughter, or the mental health benefits when used appropriately. Rather this article is about lessons from picking mushrooms. But this was still a magical experience.

Random is a good option

My most random friend, and contributor to the Talk2MorePeople book, Rob Gregory suggested that we go. He provided us with GPS co-ordinates, we had the weekend open and we said, “Yes.”

We had heard tales of how you can earn hundreds of dollars per day harvesting these rare mushrooms that only grow in recent forest fire locations. Rob sent us GPS coordinates and we headed to BC from Alberta. We weren’t motivated by the potential of making big bucks (although that would have been welcome) but instead were interested to try this because of the element of adventure. It just sounded like such a cool, random thing to try.

But it wasn’t until we were out of range of reception and still trying to find the location when we realized that we didn’t even know what a morel mushroom looked like! We though, “Hmm. Probably should have Googled that one before heading out.” We actually knew nothing about mushroom picking besides the fact that you can pick them in old “burns” and sell them to buyers who camp in the area. 

After a couple of turns up the wrong roads, we found a buyer in a tent marked – very helpfully – “Mushroom Buyer” who happily gave us a tutorial on the spot. His name was Bruce. He showed us examples of the mushrooms and even lent us a handy bucket to gather with. A colleague of his with wild eyes and a big smile just encouraged us to get out there and to “look for them with our ears.” He explained that when you walk on thick pine needles, you can hear this crunching and the mushrooms are often there. 

And so that’s what we did. We just headed up into the bush, parked the van and went searching. 

Hiking aimlessly int “the burn”, (which really was a very ashy forest floor with blackened trees everywhere) might not seem like your idea of a good time, but we had a blast. 

It took less than 15 minutes to find the first mushroom. 

When Renee found it, I felt like we had just won a prize! It reminded me of the shot of dopamine we receive from a social media interaction. That very thing is one of the reasons why I’m scaling back on my social media use with plans to get off it completely. But this was all a completely natural fix. 

Every single person we met while out there was kind and friendly.

I was so grateful for the experience as I had just completed a very busy 10 days of work co-facilitating or supporting virtual events with NeOle.ca and I was ready to get off the screens. 

We learned that the price of mushrooms fluctuates dramatically. Just a couple of weeks prior, you could sell your mushrooms for $22 / lb. On this day, they were going for $13. 

We were told that we did pretty well for our first day, but I can’t help but think that they were just being kind to us. We brought in 2.3 lbs for a profit of $35. While it’s satisfying to earn a little cash while basically on a hike, we were out there searching that day for 4 hours!

But it was fun, so we did it again the following day. We harvested almost exactly the same quantity the next day but in just over half the time. Someone had told us to “go up”. and we did. While we improved the second day, it was still not profitable as we learned that there were over 200 pickers in the area due to the lack of burn sites from forest fires last year. 

To sum it up

We camped for free on Crown Land (which you can do in many places across Canada) and the lightening storm that I witnessed in those stunning mountainous surroundings was astonishing. Check out wikicamps.co if you’d like to learn where to camp for free or for a fee in 5 countries including Canada. We cooked meals out of the back of the van surrounded by mountains and never saw the bear that a family warned us was near where we were camping. We relaxed, laughed and got exercise in a beautiful setting. It was fantastic. 

In total we earned a whopping $68 from the mushroom buyers which pretty much covered our gas and I learned some helpful lessons.

The lessons from picking mushrooms

Lesson #1. You don’t have to know everything (or sometimes much of anything) to be successful trying something new. You can learn a skill quickly by just doing it and this also applies to meeting new people. 

Lesson #2. Trying something new can be very enjoyable and satisfying. I suspected that I would enjoy this experience as I am a hiking enthusiast, but I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much.

Lesson #3. People are friendly and happy to help, so ask for help. 

Lesson# 4. You don’t know if you don’t like experiences that you’ve never had. So go collect life experiences to find out what you like to do. I will absolutely do this again.

I’ll save the lessons I’ve learned from the other type of mushrooms for another story. For now, my wish is that you will consider trying something new as a method to connect you to the earth and / or to other people. And if you’d like to learn more about connecting with other people, check out “The Human Connection Adventure” which is a course that I’m leading beginning this September. 

Stay connected and stay active!

International facilitator, virtual event producer and Solution-Focused coach Tony Esteves is passionate about creating human connection. He is the author of “Talk2MorePeople: Change Your Life by Meeting People” and holds a B.A. in Communication Studies. When not facilitating live, or managing virtual events, Tony can be found hiking in the Rocky Mountains west of Calgary or performing in the circus.