Thursday, August 18, 2011

Our Long Letterboxing Weekend in Maine

Thomas Point Beach stage
August 10-14 found us in Maine and surrounding areas for a letterboxing gathering. This was our second year, and we finally are well equipped to camp, with a machete, hammocks, a hammock mosquito net, tent, home-made tripod, bogracs (a Hungarian pot for cooking over the campfire), and excitement. We were located at Thomas Point Beach in Brunswick for most of our time, with some letterboxing in Topsham, Freeport, and Orr's Island.  The event was held by Mudflinginfools, a hopefully annual gathering of insane letterboxers and their talents and personalities. The site letterboxes were fantastic, getting us to visit our fellow campers and their sites. The theme was Dream Vacation Spots: Tropical, Foreign, and U.S. We carved Tahiti, Ireland, and Alaska for our site.

Maine is a new environment for us to explore. We love that letterboxing takes us to places most people would not find, including preserves and nature trails throughout the area. On one of the hikes to find The Lights By the Night in Harpswell, we came across many mushrooms on this trail, along with a bonus of ripe and delicious huckleberries (genus Vaccinium) at the end of the penninsula. We picked several handfuls, and ate them on the spot, sweet and a bit tart, crunchy with their large seeds, or technically nutlets, it was a quick and simple snack.

Driving to Orr's Island, we noticed the abundance of red chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) trees and crabapples lining the roadways. We picked a few branches of cherries and some small apples, making a cooked compote for our morning oatmeal back at camp. Gillian loves the tart and astringent cherries, I wish we had planned ahead and brought some buckets! While hiking in Topsham for the wonderful series Nautical in Nature, we disturbed a trio of female pheasant. We also came across thick carpets of wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) and partidgeberry (Mitchella repens), and dense thickets of blackberries (Rubus discolor), with a few raspberries mixed in. These we brought back to eat with the next morning's granola.

Meadow mushroom spore print
At Thomas Point Beach, the foraging was great. Robert dug for steamers two days in a row in the tidal mud, providing an appetizer to grilled dinners. We also came across more chokecherries, blackberries, and meadow mushrooms (Agaricus campestris) . Robert recognized these as a variety that is commonly gathered in Hungary. We picked a few, very young with still-pink gills, from the lawn, spore printed them for verification, and skewered them over the fire for dinner. There were several available due to the recent rains, and we obseved them is different stages of growth over the 5 days.

Painted suillus
Another mushroom we came across was the painted suillus (Suillus pictus). We found several along a trail, with their distinctive veil, yellow pores,and red cap. We brought several specimens back to camp to spore print them, and the results were brown. Robert sautéed them up and ate them as an appetizer while I chowed down on the steamer clams. Gillian had a great time playing with the multitude of children, laying trails with dried cattail seed-heads and blowing bubbles. We love to see our fellow letterboxers and their families, and spend time outdoors. Here's to next year!

1 comment:

Angela Watts said...

Glad you enjoyed our lovely state. One of the reasons I have stayed in Maine after living in many different states in all parts of the country is the diversity of the natural world, from lobster to moose to ladyfoot slippers and wild blueberries. There is no are too "city" to not be close to a nice natural spot to go foraging and enjoy life.

I never realized chokecherries were edible....might have to go out to the front yard and harvest those before trimming it back (as opposed to chopping it out of the lilac as I had planned).