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Farewell to Sparky!

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Farewell to Sparky!


 Tips by Sparky

Tips by Sparky

It is my sad duty to report that Sparky, my partner and mushroom hunting companion has passed away. It has taken me several months to be able to write about this. He was a joyful, happy companion. Sparky had a wonderful personality. He was engaging to everyone he met. He loved to play and always had a smile on his face. He attracted people. The stick was his way of communicating. He would drop it at your feet and begin talking to you with his eyes. You learned quickly what he wanted. Throw that stick.

As a puppy, he entertained himself by the hours chasing birds, treeing raccoon’s and running the fence line with the neighboring horses. Many times I saw the horses come up the the fence and initiate the chase with Sparky. He always obliged. It was with great joy he lived his life. He was renowned for his gentleness with everyone, particularly children.

As my mushroom partner, Sparky was an asset. He always kept track of me and anyone who was in our group while in the woods. He made people at ease going into the forest. His presence gave confidence and led to success.

Sparky died as he lived right to the very end. He began to have difficulty with breathing this summer once the weather became very hot weather. It did not like the 100 degree temperatures and became increasingly uncomfortable. Despite my best efforts at making Sparky comfortable, he succumb to a hidden heart problem. His last day was, however, a good one for both of us. It was Sunday, July 12, 2015. By early afternoon, he had drank some broth and water. I asked him did he want to go for a car ride. He immediately jumped up and smiled, You Betcha! I led him out to my truck and opened the door. I wasn’t sure he would be able to get in but he jumped right up into his seat. We drove out to my friend, Peggy’s, 30 acre farm  that Sparky had spent many days. We got out and walked around the gardens and fields. Sparky did his dog thing, smelling and greeting the other dogs there. After a couple of couple of hours we went into the house. Sparky laid down and Peggy and I chatted. After about 1/2 an hour or so, I said “Where is Sparky?”. I could see him but I wanted to let him know I was thinking about him. He looked up and spotted me. He slowly got up and walked into the adjoining room. He found one of his favorite “squeaky” toys. We followed him in the room. He was squeaking the toy and then gave it to Peggy who squeaked a couple of times and gave it back to Sparky.

What happened next, happened very quickly. Sparky had the toy in his mouth. Suddenly, he dropped and just keeled over toward his left side. As he did, his legs stretched out and he let out a low howl followed by a short yip. By this time both Peggy and I were holding him and talking to him. It was thus that Sparky died at home surrounded by those who loved him. It was over in 10-15 seconds. I would like to think the final yip was him saying goodbye. May I be so fortunate!

Today, Sparky can be seen as a shadow still playing with the birds, squirrels, other dogs and raccoon’s on Peggy’s farm. He has a beautiful view of Goat Mt and sleeps beneath the maple, chestnut and oak trees. May he rest in peace.

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Sparky’s Tip of the Week #9 – Fire Starters

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Tips by Sparky

Tips by Sparky

Sparky’s Tip of the Week #9 – Fire Starters

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 has been on a hiatus of late. He has been in rehab for some undisclosed injuries. It’s hard work being a working dog. We wish him the best. He seems to be in top form again.

Fire starters are one of the essential pieces of equipment you should always carry when venturing out into the great outdoors. If you get lost (which will be covered in a future Tip of the Week) or injured and unable to walk out, making a fire in any weather is a key to survival and being rescued.

Whether you are going to an outdoor store or looking online for fire starters there appears to a plethora of products you can purchase. Sparky, the dog will guide you to what is really necessary to carry. The mail order online stores such as REI, Cabela’s & LL Bean have numerous items available priced from under $2 to $59.99.

Sparky’s recommendations: If you have been reading Sparky’s tips, you know he goes for functional, low cost and efficient. You need two things to start a fire: fuel and heat source.


For fuel: REI has several inexpensive items to choose.

Steve's wax lint firestarter

Steve’s wax lint fire starter

Fire starters made at home for free using old candles, string, used fabric softener sheet and dryer lint. Place lint in softener sheet, use string to tie into a ball. Use an egg carton and place the ball of lint in the egg holder. Melt the old candles or paraffin wax in an old saucepan. Pour the liquid wax over the lint balls soaking it and let dry. Place a couple of waxed balls in a small container with a cover in your backpack or pocket. They should burn for at least 15 minutes, long enough to get even damp kindling burning.

UCO Survival Matches

For a heat source: REI has several UCO brand survival matches. Some can be submerged in water and light. They are very useful in our typically wet autumn, winter and spring weather.

Sparky says: If you want a real adventure, join Steve at www.tourswithsteve.com for a mushroom tour. Click here for a free emailed brochure.

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Sparky’s Tip of the Week #8 – Safety Equipment

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Sparky’s Tip of the Week #8 – Safety Equipment

Tips by Sparky

Tips by Sparky


Safety Equipment is essential to having a good and safe experience. You can never predict when a disaster will happen.

“Be Prepared” is a Boy Scout’s motto, so always go prepared. Do not leave it in the vehicle either.

When mushroom hunting, you are most often off trail and in the wilds, so being prepared can save your life

On Your Body:

—   Polyester or wool clothes + (During hunting season, advise wearing orange or red)

—   Rain pants +

—   Rain jacket +

—   Sturdy boots, water resistant or water proof +

—   Hat – appropriate for conditions +

—   Gloves

—   Wristwatch +

—   Compass + & mirror +

—   Whistle +

—   Hand lens

—   FRS walkie-talkie radio (optional)

—   GPS (optional)

—   Gaiters

—   Flashlight (small) & extra batteries

For Collecting Mushroom

—   Container, basket or bucket +

—   Knife, brightly marked +

—   Waxed bags (optional)

—   Foam head paint brush

In Your Backpack

—   Good map of area +

—   Lunch +

—   Water +

—   Extra clothes +

—   Sunscreen

—   Insect repellent

—   Trowel & toilet paper +

—   Field guide and keys + (All the Rain Promises, and More… by David Arora)

—   Spore making equipment (white & black paper)

—   Notebook & pencil

—   Camera

—   Emergency blanket +

—   First aid kit +

—   Matches (waterproof) or lighter*and fire starter

—   Walking stick

—   Bring a permit for the respective National Forest, if needed.

               +  =  Essential equipment to take into the field.

Sparky’s recommendations:

Sparky says: bring at least all the + items above.

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

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Sparky’s Tip of the Week #6 – Forest & Mushroom Ethics

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Sparky’s Tip of the Week #6 – Forest & Mushroom Ethics

- Tips by Sparky

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

Caution: Some of the pictures in the following tip may upset you. Sparky gets freaked out, too!

Forest Ethics & Etiquette

  • If you bring it into the woods, bring it home. Please do not dump your garbage in the forest.


  • This including gun cartridge shells. Someone has to pick it up. Besides being unsightly, it is potential dangerous to other people and animals.

Garbage dumped in forest

  • If Mother Nature calls, bury it! including toilet paper so it decomposes and not stepped in or run into water supply.
  • Treat the forest with respect; it is our legacy to future generations.

Dumped tires

  • Treat other people you meet with respect. The forests have many uses including logging, hunting and many forms of recreation.


Mushroom Picking Ethics & Etiquette

  • Pick only what you can use.
  • Do not pick an area clean always leave some mushrooms behind.
  • If you meet someone else picking mushrooms in the forest, say hello but do not start picking mushrooms in their patch, it might be dangerous.
  • It is better to cut the stems than to pull up entire mushroom. There may be a new mushrooms forming below.
  • Picking mushroom will not kill them but may help spread its spore. Mushrooms are like fruit on a tree. Drop a spore and grow a new mushroom next year.
  • Mushrooms are the sign of a healthy ecosystem.

Ramaria (Coral Mushroom) fruiting in forest

  • Mushrooms are a valuable, renewable resource to be enjoyed and appreciated.


Photographing mushrooms

Sparky says: join Steve at www.tourswithsteve.com for a mushroom tour and learn about forest & mushroom ethics.

Click here for a free emailed brochure.

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Sparky’s Tip of the Week #3 – Two-way Radios

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- Tips by Sparky

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

Radios for the forest.

When going out into the forest with a group (more than one person) mushroom hunting, a radio is very helpful.  Being able to communicate easily saves your vocal cords from having to yell “Hey, I just found the Mother lode!!!” Instead, you can say “Code 4” which means ‘Hey, I just found the Mother lode!!!’. It is much easier. So what do you look for when you purchase a two-way radio?  Here are some questions to ask:

Does it have?

  1. Waterproofness
  2. Headset Jack
  3. Battery life
  4. Type of battery
  5. Combo w/GPS
  6. Combo w/weather channel
  7. Range (i.e. Watts)
  8. Type of channels GMRS or FRS
  9. Number of channels
  10. Belt clips
  11. Repeater function
  12. Weight

Sparky’s recommendations: Let see, you go out with your main squeeze hunting mushrooms and she is hunting in the next county so Sparky recommends you get a radio with 100-mile range. Let us get real here folks, you might get ¼ mile or so away from someone so why get something you can bounce signals off the moon.

A FRS radio has up to a stated 2 mile range (do not believe it, it is more like 1/2 mile). This is usually adequate. A radio with FRS channel does not require a special FCC license.

If however, you do not plan to stay together or you are into POWER, it is recommended to get a more powerful 2 to 5 watt radio with a stated range up to 36+ miles(perhaps 5 miles).  A GMRS radio with longer range requires a FCC license. Visit www.fcc.gov for more information on licensing (Form 605). Current cost for license is $85.

Here is the reality about radio’s. Terrain, weather and obstruction are going to have a bigger influence on reception than anything else does. Those manufacturer’s mileages are based upon talking with a clear line of sight with no interferences.  If you are in the woods, mountains, trees, rock and even your body are all going to interfere.

Waterproofness is nice but Sparky make me keep my radio inside my jacket on a lanyard. I have not had a problem.

I like rechargeable batteries because I am cheap and it is a good green alternative. Nevertheless, I always carry extra alkaline batteries as backup.

As for the other features, let you budget rule. Having a weather channel is fine if you are planning a multi-day venture. You should be checking the weather before you head out.  Remember a smart phone is often not effective in the forest, unless you are in a urban forest. Where Sparky goes there is usually no cell phone coverage. This is why a good 2-way radio is essential.

Expect to pay for a pair $30-$445  at any good outdoor store like REI, Cabellas, L. L. Bean

Sparky says: join Steve at www.tourswithsteve.com for a mushroom tour. Click here for a free emailed brochure. (Roger! over and out!)

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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 tourwithsteve.com and join one of his foraging tours into the wilds of Mt Hood.

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