Along autumn trails

trail-blaze fungi
It’s rained for the better part of a month, and the woods are wild with fungi. We’ve been been eating like kings: maitake, chicken mushrooms and giant puffballs. But some of the inedible mushrooms are eye-catching, too, and so plentiful they can even cover a trail blaze, threatening to replace our way-making with their own.

polypores on log

Ever since traveling the old pilgrim road to Santiago de Compostela with my family as a kid, I’ve had trouble disassociating shelf fungi from the ubiquitous scallop shells emblematic of St. James. You don’t have to look far in the damp forest for ersatz baptismal fonts seething with mosquito larvae. Yet spring, not fall, is the pilgrimage season, according to Chaucer.

woodland puffballs

Then there are the woodland puffballs, ready to disgorge their fertile smoke, waiting like penitents for the tread of paw or hoof,

dead squirrel and puffballs

or even the brush of a raptor’s wing. Any ridgetop forest as full of squirrels as ours makes a welcoming hostel for migrating hawks.

autumn spider

Gone are the spined micrathena spiders of July and August. Only the occasional marbled orb weaver stretches a web across the trails now, its orange abdomen almost camouflaged against the autumn leaves as it winds its silk road into a labyrinth.

6 Replies to “Along autumn trails”

  1. I think of all the things I haven’t eaten because I don’t know what’s tasty, bland, or poisonous. Well, long live the kings.

    Wonderful shots. It’s so nice to visit here.

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