Tag Archives: Truffles

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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Media features

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Tours with Steve have been featured in two recent media outlets:

June 2013 edition of Northwest Boomer & Senior News by Maggie White and photography by L. E. Baskow

June 21, 2013 Editions of KATU 2 Reel People, the mushroom hunter. http://www.katu.com/news/local/Reel-People-You-should-be-excited-to-see-mushrooms-212622581.html

Take a moment to view this interesting video about mushroom hunting in the Mount Hood National Forest. Thanks to Michael Warner!

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Sparky’s Tip of the Week #7 – Outdoor Clothes

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Sparky’s Tip of the Week #7 – Outdoor Clothes

Tips by Sparky

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. And now some more timely Tips from Sparky.

This is tough subject for Sparky to discuss because he is not much of fashion icon. He only has one coat and he has had it since birth. Consequently, he has asked me to share some of my thoughts. I will start from the bottom up.

Shoes: Shoes maybe the most important item in terms of comfort and safety. Often when in the forest in the autumn on Mt Hood it is raining or as we like to say ‘dumping on us with liquid sunshine’. Be that as it may, you need knobby or lug sole that do not slip for safety. Waterproofness is a real bonus to comfort. Ankle support is beneficial climbing over blown down trees and uneven ground.

Rubber boots

Rubber boots can keep you dry but they offer little or no support.

Rain gear: Do you want day in the woods to be a short miserable trip or an all day blast walking in the rain finding many golden treasures. Even if it is not raining, the foliage is often wet because it just stopped raining. If don’t have rain gear, you will soon be soaked to the bone.


Rain gear

Gloves: I could write a book about this topic. I must have twenty different kinds of gloves for different jobs and occasions. I have cotton, leather, rubber, coated cotton, rubber-dipped cotton, gardening, dress, winter, GORE-TEX ®, nitrite gloves, fingerless, wool, and more.


Work gloves

Hats: This is another favorite subject and everyone has an opinion. I used hats with wide brims all the way around and a chinstrap if in heavy brush. I use wool in the winter, cotton in spring & summer.


Wool hat and scarf

Pants: In dry weather, denim cotton is fine but in wet weather, you are miserable and subject to hypothermia. Wool pants are good but heavy. We live in a blessed time with many new synthetic fabrics that resist water and wear as well as being lightweight.

Shirts: Stay away from cotton except in the warmer weather. Synthetic fabrics are better and dry faster.

Underwear: Do not forget this important piece of personal equipment. Again stay away from cotton. It is comfortable to wear in the warm summer weather but not in the fall and winter when you will be exerting yourself and sweating. Having wet clothes next to you skin tends to cool your body. Not a good idea when it is cold and wet outside.


Sparky’s recommendations: Dogs have it made in the shade. When they get wet, they just shake the water off….on me. Stay away from cotton fabrics as much as possible, including underwear. There is wonderful wicking and quick drying clothes fabrics available today. Invest in your comfort and safety.

Boots: get leather boots with lug soles and waterproof the heck out of them. It works!

Outdoor boots

Rain Gear: GORE-TEX ® is great stuff and lightweight. GORE-TEX ® waterproofing needs to be renewed occasionally.

Official Gore-Tex® Label

Gloves: get cheap nitrite gloves at the pharmacy because it will protect your fingers and keep them warm plus get fingerless wool gloves to put over the nitrite gloves to keep your hands warm. Wool even when wet will keep your hands warm. Using the combination keeps your hands warm, protected and dry but allows good tactile dexterity to touch and feel.

Hats: Whatever works for you works for me. I use an old Pendleton felt wool hat with wide brim in wet weather. It keeps my head warm and dry. In the warmer, dryer weather, I found this hat at the Army surplus store. It is a camouflage hat with brim to keep the sun off my neck for $3.50.

My Winter Hat

Cameo Hat






Pants: After years of looking for the perfect pants, I found in L.L.Bean catalog the upland briar pants. They have a GORE-TEX

version that is perfect for fall and winter excursions into the forest.

Shirts:  Use synthetic fabric; my preference is for Patagonia brand clothes. Much of what I have, I purchased I have used continuously for over 23 years and it still look almost new. Amazing clothes!

Underwear: Find wicking synthetic fabric underwear. It is available today in short and longjohn versions. It can be found in your better quality outdoors stores, like REI and Patagonia

Sparky Says: Use synthetic fabrics as much as possible to wick away moisture from your skin. Wool is a second best. With cotton fabrics, you will not often notice the wetness until you have to stop. When wet a chill followed by hypothermia. This can happen very quickly. Proper clothes are very important for personal safety. One mistake could be fatal.

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 #4 – GPS Receivers

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           Tips by Sparky

Tips by Sparky

Sparky’s Tip of the Week #4 – GPS Receivers

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

GPS Receivers

GPS Receivers are high tech equipment commonly used in car, boats, cell phones and hand held units. The value of the GPS Receivers is to give real time location within 10 feet 95% of the time using a network of 24 orbiting satellite. In urban area, GPS units are usually very functional.

You can choose from many different models of GPS Receivers. They can be loaded with either road maps or topographical maps or both. If you are going off-trail, topographical maps are recommended.

Here is some common features on GPS Receivers

  1. Tracking waypoints & routes
  2. Built in memory
  3. Camera & video
  4. Water resistance
  5. Barometric altimeter
  6. Wireless communication
  7. Tracker/Satellite messaging units
  8. Adding additional maps

When choosing a GPS Receivers you must consider what your main purpose is; off-trail or road or both.

Sparky’s recommendations: If you have been reading Sparky’s recommendations, you know by now to stay away for all the bells & whistles. Get a unit that will do exactly what you want to do. That is to get you from point A to B and back again. Make sure it is loaded with road & topographical maps of where you want to go. Units are generally not preloaded with topographical maps. If you are a road hunter, you may not need topographical maps.

The best thing about GPS Receivers is you still need a map and compass. Yup! That’s right. If you batteries fail or you are unable to get a signal because of tree cover, sunspot interference or you are at the bottom of a canyon, what good are GPS Receivers? You are probably going to have to take a class to learn how to best use your GPS Receivers units.

Bottom line is if you like playing with new technology, get one of these units. If you want to find your way around the wood and make it back home, stick with the reliable analog baseplate compass. Take a map & compass class; it will be much more useful.  For more info on compasses, see Sparky’s Tip of the Week #1.

Additional note: Many smart phones include GPS apps but these do not offer the same mapping and route planning capabilities as entry-level GPS Receivers.

Expect to pay $89 to $600 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.

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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 www.rei.com.




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 www.tourswithsteve.com 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 ToursWithSteve.com teaches basic compass navigation before heading out into the forest. Click here to get a brochure e-mailed to you.


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Weekly Mushroom Report as of Jan 30, 2012

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Weekly Mushroom Report as of Jan 30, 2012

This is a new feature to the blog. It will be a periodic update of mushrooms available to harvest. Reporting will only cover areas in and around the Mt Hood National Forest and adjacent private lands unless otherwise noted.

No, we will not be giving directions to specific areas.

This report is based upon my own finding and in conversation with other foragers in the trade. It is not meant to be an exhaustive lists but rather to give you an idea what is available. We hope you enjoy this new feature and we welcome your comments and additions.
Here is a list of mushrooms and truffles. Species are listed with common name first and then botanical name:
1. Oregon Brown Truffle –Leucangium brunneum
2. Oregon Black Truffle –Leucangium carthusianum
3. Oregon White Truffle –Tuber oregonense
4. Yellow foot—Cantharellus tubaeformis
5. Hedgehog Mushrooms –Hydnum repandum

Tours with Steve

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Albertina’s Restaurant Chefs’ Dinner featuring Oregon Truffles

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On Thursday January 12, 2012, Albertina’s Restaurant in Portland hosted a Chefs’ Dinner featuring Oregon Truffles. Yours truly provided the Oregon Black Truffle (Leucangium carthusianum) for this event.

It was an outstanding five course dinner paired with some amazing wines from Lejon Wine Cellars.

This was a leisurely event interspace with delicious food, paired wines to each dish and great conversations. The food course were as follows:
Chilled Lobster Salad—with endive truffle marmalade with Lujon Cellars Willamette Valley Pinot Gris ‘09

with endive truffle marmalade


Ham Three Ways—Tuna prosciutto, Iberian ham and smoked duck ham with Lujon Cellars Columbia Valley Red Blend ‘09

Tuna prosciutto, Iberian ham and smoked duck ham

Pear Vanilla Granita—to clean the palette (yummy)

Truffle Crusted Halibut—with red and golden beets and purple carrots paired with Lujon Cellars Spofford Station Vineyard Syrah ‘08

with red and golden beets and purple carrots paired

Elk Osso Bucco—with mushroom duxelle ravioli, shaved truffle cheese and fresh shaved black truffle paired with Lujon Cellars Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon ‘08

with mushroom duxelle ravioli, shaved truffle cheese and fresh shaved black truffle

Salt and Straw Truffle Ice Cream—salted caramel powder and sesame crisp for dessert. (sorry no picture, it looked and smelled so good I neglected to take a picture)

Chefs included:
Alex Diomis—executive chef at Albertina’s Restaurant www.AlbertinaKerr.org
Brian Landry—executive chef at Bamboo Sushi, Portland
Kit Zhu—Prairie Creek Farm and executive chef
Kim and Tyler Malek—Salt and Straw ice cream show featuring cold creations
Wines provided by John Derthick of Lujon Wine Cellars, visit www.lujonwinecellars.com
At the conclusion of dinner, Steve gave a short talk about truffle hunting, ethical and sustainable collecting practice and answered questions.

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Hunting for Wild Mushrooms on Mt. Hood

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I have been thinking about doing a MT. Hood mushroom adventure tour for some time now.  It finally rained the past weekend and that is good news. The weather has been so nice of late….for sun bathing, boating, hiking, camping, and picking blueberries—but not very good for mushroom hunting. The forest is prime for huckleberries picking right now, especially above 4,000 ft elevation. It has been one of the best seasons in recent years. I saw hillsides covered in huckleberries last weekend.
I always seem to get itchy this time of the year to go hunting, hunting for mushrooms. I actually found my first autumn fungi on August 31 this year.  I found two edibles, Chanterelle and Sulfur Shelf or Chicken of the Woods mushrooms. The Sulfur Shelf is only good when very young and tender. This was. I had never tried cooking and eating it before. It was good. I made up a new wild mushroom recipe to cook it, which I will post later. Of course, I found several other species of mushroom but none of them was edible. The autumn mushrooms are starting later this year because of the late starting spring and summer. It seems everything is 2-3 weeks late this year. I expect this to be a good mushroom season once it gets started.
Here are some ideas for you if you ever wanted to know more about those elusive funguses growing in the forest, come join our small group tours for a fun tour and fungus finds.

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