AUTUMN MUST BE my favorite time of year.
There are just so many things to do in this outdoor recreational wonderland that we call home.
You can view the seasonal display of fall leaves.
Watch the majestic migration of millions of birds along our coastline. Or engage in one of the more popular activities, getting lost in the wilderness.
Getting lost in the wilderness is not as easy as it once was since there is so much less wilderness to get lost in these days.
It’s still possible to get lost, but you might have to work at it.
One of the best ways to get lost is to pick mushrooms.
There are so many different varieties of mushrooms available in our forests these days after our heavy rains, but the most popular seems to be the chanterelle.
Chanterelles, with their golden color, meaty caps and fluted stems are easy to identify.
Rich in flavor with an earthy aroma that is difficult to describe, the chanterelle was once famous as a delicacy for the nobility of Europe.
The chanterelle is not only delicious, it’s high in vitamin C and one of the richest sources of vitamin D.
The chanterelle can be sautéed and frozen without losing its flavor.
The pioneer method of preserving the chanterelle by drying them seems to intensify their flavor.
The dried chanterelle can be ground into a sort of flour for making soups and sauces but, of course, you have to pick them first.
To pick the chanterelle you have to get out into the forest and look for them.
You set out through the woods with your eyes on the forest floor, searching for treasure with a wild joy upon your heart strings.
It’s like the Easter egg hunt of your dreams.
In almost no time, you lose your sense of direction — which leads to increasing anxiety and a sudden realization that you are truly lost.
Sometimes, when you are lost, it is good to know how you got there.
You look for your own tracks in hopes of following them back through the woods to something that looks familiar, but there is no sign of a footprint or broken branch.
Everything looks the same.
You look at your compass, but it is useless because you didn’t take a reading before you got lost.
Your phone is useless because it got wet, has a dead battery, or a combination of weather and forest canopy blocks your signal.
You are lost.
Experts say you should never panic when you are lost.
These are the same experts that tell us not to panic when you are attacked by a grizzly bear, the IRS or a telemarketer.
You try not to panic, but face it, no one knows where you went so they will have no idea where to look.
By the time anyone bothers to start the search, you’ll probably be frozen to death or eaten by who knows what.
There are 200-pound cougars, 500-pound bears and 600-pound apes said to roam these woods.
People disappear all the time in the vast wilderness of the Olympic Peninsula without a trace. And you’re not supposed to panic? Good luck with that.
Getting lost is not an ideal form of recreation for everyone, but you can do it if you try.
Just remember to go into the woods alone, don’t tell anyone where you’re going or when you‘re coming back, and don’t bother looking at a compass.
By following these simple rules, you, too, can get lost in the wilderness.
It is the ultimate outdoor adventure.
Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.
He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via [email protected].