Monthly Archives: May 2012

Sparky’s Tip of the Week #2 – Whistles

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Tips by Sparky

Sparky’s Tip of the Week #2 – Whistles

Sparky has decided to write his own  outdoor column called “Sparky’s Tip of the Week”. He hopes you enjoy some of his insights.

What kind of whistle do I need?

Good question! If you are heading out to the forest, you must have a whistle. Traditionally, the most common whistle is the pea whistle;

Pea Whistle

you know the one with the little pea inside the whistle. However, you want the loudest whistle available, and one that is heard over a long distance. I have two recommendations; both can be purchased from REI either in their store or on their website at




1. Rescue Howler by SOL—110 dB audible over 1 mile. (carry ear plugs)

Rescue Howler by SOL







2. Tri-Power Whistle by REI—produces three different pitches and is very loud.

Tri-Power Safety Whistle


Sparky recommendations: Sparky make me carry both of these whistles whenever I am in the forest. If I am separated from the group or get into trouble, the whistle is to call for help. Again, purchase a single function whistle. Expect to pay $4-5 each.

Remember: 3 blasts on the whistle mean “Help! I am in Danger!! Send Help!”

Purchase at any good outdoor store like REI

Sparky says: join Steve at for a mushroom tour. Click here for a free emailed brochure.

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Sparky’s Tip of the Week #1 – Compasses

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Sparky’s Tips

Sparky has decided to write his own outdoor column called “Sparky’s Tip of the Week”. He hopes you enjoy some of his insights

Sparky’s Tip of the Week #1 – Compasses

If you are heading off to the forest without a guide, you need a good compass—your life may depend on it. Walking through the forest is not the same as walking down the street in a city. There are no signposts and often no trails. If it is cloudy or raining, direction becomes difficult to impossible to figure out. Your only means of direction is using your compass. Wear your compass on a lanyard around your neck so it is easy to find and use. Lanyards are easy to find at an outdoor store.

Compass—What to look for:

  • Bezel degree intervals—compasses with needle use a magnetized needle that aligns with the earth’s magnetic field. The bezel outer ring is mark in degrees from 0 °-360 ° degrees.
  • Liquid filled—for a steady needle to allow precise compass readings.
  • There are other optional features to get with your compass depending upon your budget.
    • Declination adjustment
    • Ruler
    • Map scales
    • Luminous needle and bezel ring
    • Clinometers
    • Sighting mirror
    • Global needle—for use in the Southern Hemisphere




Compass—What you do not need:

  • Combination compasses with whistle and mirrors or any other accessory are useless – unless you want to explore your fenced backyard. These compasses are too small to be practicable and the whistles are not loud enough to hear unless you are standing next to the person who is blowing it. If you want a compass and whistle, purchase them separately and get good quality. Your life may depend upon them.




What do you really need?

Sparky says you need a big enough baseplate compass that has large readable Bezel degree intervals and a directional arrow. Liquid filled is a bonus. All the other option, bell & whistles are wonderful but not necessary. My Boy Scout compass that I have used for over 50 years is not liquid filled and works great.  Expect to pay $14 and up. Any good outdoor store                                                like REI, Cabella’s, L. L. Bean

Baseplate Compass

Take a basic navigation class, too. Having a compass on you will do you no good if you do not know how to use it. You are just as lost as if you did not have one. In addition, you can get your 15 minutes of fame on local TV News when the Search & Rescue people have to find you.

Sparky’s says Steve at teaches basic compass navigation before heading out into the forest. Click here to get a brochure e-mailed to you.


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3 Things to look for when hunting wild edible morel mushrooms on Mt Hood

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1. Weather—what has the weather been like? Warm, cool, rainy or dry will encourage or discourage fungi mycelium growth. What I look for is a wet period followed by a warm, dry weather spell.  A good website for weather is: Weather Underground 

2.  Habitat—morel mushrooms they can grow virtually anywhere.  They can grow solitary, in groups, scattered along the edge of woods, in burns, in urban areas, in bare soil, intermixed with groundcovers, along railroad tracks, orchards, paths, under leaves, under logs, under brush piles, in grassy areas, in shade, in sun, in part shade. You get the idea! Pretty much wherever they darn well please.

Morel habitat

3.  Identification of true morel—true morels have hollow cap and stem with the cap intergrown with the stem.  If they have solid like or cottony pith centers in the stem, or the cap is not attached to the stem, or no stem they can be Verpa, Gyromitra or Hevella.  It is generally not recommended to eat these genera. If eaten it should be done with caution. They are, in any case, much less tasty than true morels (Morchella)















True Morel with hollow center


If you want to learn how to identify wild morel mushrooms, call Steve at and join one of our foraging tours into the wilds of Mt Hood.

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3 Things To Do With Your Morels

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After you have gone into the woods, worked and sweated all day locating your treasured morel mushrooms, what are you going to do with them? Here are three suggestions of what to do with your morels:

1.  You are probably not going to like morels, so I will volunteer to take these unwanted orphans off your hands. In my heart of hearts, I want to help you through this distressing time. Donations are willingly and gratefully accepted.

2. So, you did not fall for that one. Try drying them so you can rehydrate them next autumn when morel season is a dream and you want to relive your adventure tour with Steve on Mt. Hood. Use a dehydrator to dry your morels and store them in an airtight container until you are ready to use them.  Then simply take a handful of dried mushroom, put into a bowl of lukewarm water until re-hydrated and then cook.  On a serious note: Morels need to be thoroughly cooked before eating. Never eat wild mushrooms raw.

Morels on trays ready for dehydrator







3. My favorite way to use morels is in an omelet or scrambled eggs. As noted above, cook morel first before adding to dishes.

Egg & cheese omelet with morel mushrooms







If you want to learn about wild morel mushrooms, call Steve at and join one of our foraging tours into the wilds of Mt Hood.

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Using Dogs to find Morels

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This highly controversial and seldom discussed subject is not often seen in print. Using dogs or any other animals to find fungi is frequently touted as a green, sustainable, environmentally acceptable way of hunting.

Sparky not really interested looking for Morels

Now my dog, Sparky is a border collie. Border collies are among the smartest breed of dogs. However, even with an IQ of about a 3-4 year old human, he is still looking for truffles. There must be something about the scent of morels Sparky does not find attractive. Frankly, I have almost given up hope he will find even one morel unless he sits on one. Perhaps, if I let him sleep with the morels, he will start dreaming of them as I do. And I do often dream of hunting morel mushrooms on Mt. Hood.

Sparky trying hard to please his master

Sparky trying hard to please his master








In conclusion, using a dog is an excellent way to sustainably forage for morels (because you will never find them that way). If you want to collect morel mushrooms ethically and sustainably, call Steve at and join one of our foraging tours into the wilds of Mt Hood.

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What are Morel Mushrooms?

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Morel mushrooms are a highly sought fungi by people, other animals and insects.  The esteem for these little fungi reaches back through history and beyond. They are fun to hunt and find. They do, however, take a trained eye to locate these most elusive of mushrooms.

10 morels


Technically, Morels or Morchellaceae is a small family incorporating three genera Morchella, Verpa and Disciotis.  Of the three, Morchella is highly desirable and most sought after. Verpa is often found but is less desirable as some people experience gastric distress after eating.  Disciotis is easily confused with Peziza and Discina, which may or may not be edible.

Do you want to learn more, contact Steve at and join one of his foraging tours into the wilds of Mt Hood.

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