Denny Creek

Denny Creek is rightfully one of the most popular hiking areas in the Seattle area. A short, easy trail leads to Franklin Falls. Another short trail leads to the Denny Creek waterslides, an area of the creek where the rocks have worn away to a smooth, rolling decline. A slide down the waterslides in the cold, glacial creek water can be a bracing summer destination. The trail continues, past several more waterfalls and up to Lake Melakwa, then on to Upper Melakwa Lake and Melakwa Pass. Those last six miles and 2500' of altitude are anything but short or easy, though. All these photos are from the first couple of miles of trail. Most of them are from Denny Creek campground, during the fall and winter when its closed to camping. During the summer the campground is Denny Creek Amusement Park, absolutely stacked with families and kids and dogs. During the winter, though, you'll meet an occasional fellow mushroom hunter or someone walking their dog, but mostly you'll meet Douglas squirrels and a remarkable variety of mushrooms that seem to thrive in the much-trampled soil of the campground.

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A perfect, beautiful little button of Amanita muscaria, the famous Alice in Wonderland mushroom. There is probably no mushroom with more legend and lore surrounding it than this one. There is historical evidence that Alice in Wonderland was, indeed, written under its influence. It may well also be the origin of the flying reindeer stories, as it appears that reindeer will eat it, and then act rather silly for a while afterwards. Whatever else you make think of it, it is rather photogenic. This photo was taken on 10-23-03.

A. muscaria at Icicle

Other Amanita species at Deception Creek

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This shows the gills and veil of a wild Agaricus species, probably an Agaricus silvicola based on its relatively smooth white cap and yellow-staining veil. Also note the pinkish tint to the gills, typical of young Agaricus. I like this shot because it shows the veil breaking open, practically before your eyes. This photo was taken on 9-23-04.

Compare to domestic Agaricus grown in Bellevue, or A. augustus in Bellevue or in other areas of Western Washington

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This is a species variously known as the bitter Bolete. or the disappointment Bolete. It closely resembles what is arguably the best of the edible fungi, Boletus edulis or the King Bolete, but a strong blue-staining reaction might tip you off that you don't have what you think you have, and even the most cautious of nibbles will positively identify this mushroom as one of he bitter boletes. I keyed it at the time but did not write down which species it was, so it might have been Boleteus rubripes (which usually has a red stalk), or Tylopilus felleus, or Boletus calopus, or Boletus marshii, or something else. It does fit the description of B. marshii, which Arora describes as, Like its discoverer: short, squat, and bitter. These were found on 10-10-04.

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As noted above, some of the boletes have a distinctive blue staining reaction. This is often an indicator that they're not very tasty, but can be fun for art projects. This is an example of wishful thinking – I've drawn an image of a King Bolete in the pores of this blue-stainer (probably a Suillus species, one of the genera in the family of boletes). Again, the specific species is not noted with this photo, although I took it on 9-15-04.

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This pretty little mushroom is best known as Rozites caperata, or the Gypsy mushroom, although these days it is going by Cortinarus caperatus. This is the only time I found these guys, and they were fruiting in incredible abundance. They are a popular edible, although I found them a bit boring and not much different from the easily obtainable white button mushroom. With the sunlight catching the margin just so, though, it is undeniably beautiful. They are not an exceptionally easy mushroom to identify, but the key feature is a wrinkled appearance to the cap surface. You can see some of this near the margin. The stalk is striate (looks like it has vertical lines running down it), and it has a prominent veil. Other than that it looks a lot like other members of the large genus Cortinarius, which rivals Mycena for the title of least favorite genus with culinary mushroom hunters.

This mushroom, and enough like it to make dinner, were found on 9-29-04.

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The Hericium genus is one of the most beautiful in all the fungal kingdom. The species differ subtly from one another, but all look like little white waterfalls cascading from old logs. Like the polypores, Hericium causes heart rot in dead and dying trees. Trees are on a different time scale than we are, and the transition between life and death may take a hundred years or more. The sight of a Hericium means the tree is dying, but it may remain standing, even producing green leaves, for many years yet to come. This photo was taken on 9-29-04.

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This, I believe, is the same Hericium on 10-10-04. It might be a different one on the same log. This is more of a top down view where the other picture is more of a side view. This mushroom may be Hericium coralloides, but is more likely to be Hericium abietis which grows on pine and fir rather than hard woods. Visually the two are very similar, and both are edible. Hericiums in general have a taste faintly of crab, and I am fond of making mushroom stuffed mushrooms with Hericiums sauteed in butter (follow a crab-stuffed mushroom recipe and substitute shredded Hericium for the crab). There were many other wonderful edibles at Denny the day that I originally found this guy, and by the time this photo was taken it was already starting to yellow. The yellowed parts have a slightly bitter flavor, and are better left in the woods. Finding a non-yellowed Hericium   in the woods, or in the grocery store, can be a bit of a trick. Fortunately, you can buy kits and grow Hericium erinaceus or Pom Pom Blanc mushrooms at home.

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I like the variety of life that is sprouting from this long-dead stump. There's the obvious growth of liverwort, and the yellow/brown/red mushrooms sprouting from it, but also note the blue-white stalks of club fungus poking out everywhere. There's some fierce competition going on on this stump, between at least two kingdoms and who knows how many genera.

The mushrooms are probaby sulphur tufts (Hypholoma fasciculare) based on their highly variable color, but might be a kind of Pholiota. Up close, you could tell by looking at the gills – sulphur tufts have a bright chartreuse cast to the gills that gives them a nearly neon glow. Sulphur tufts are generally considered mildly poisonous, although there is rumored to be a nearly identical edible variety properly classified as Naematoloma fasciculare, but no one really seems to care very much. This photo was taken on 10-10-04.

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One of the most entertaining genera is the Lactarius, or milk caps. They are named thus because all of the members of the genus will exude a watery fluid when cut or broken – the fluid is often white and milky in appearance, hence the name. However, sometimes the milk is orange or purple or even clear... or in this case, bright red. It is lots of fun to break a mushroom open and see the white flesh start to ooze a color that was almost entirely absent a moment before. They also tend to stain entertaining shades of green and blue at the same time, as you can see around the gills in this picture.

The caps of this species, the inventively named Lactarius rubrilactus, are pale orange and superficially resemble a chanterelle. Another more common Lactarius, the inappropriately named Lactarious deliciosus, grows often in the same areas as chanterelles and is most commonly seen kicked over by would-be chanterelle hunters who have not yet learned to tell them apart at a distance. The Lactarius, though, almost always have concentric rings of darker and paler orange on the tops of the cap, and are rounded and stout – something you won't see in a chanterelle.

Lactarious deliciosus is rumored to be edible, but about as tasty as a pile of old leaves. The Lactarius in general, however, are commonly eaten in Russia, where they are pickled by packing them between layers of rock salt. Apparently this process destroys whatever it is that usually causes gastric upset when Lactarius are ingested. As I have always had better mushrooms to eat fresh and better things to pickle, I have never tried a Lactarius prepared either way. This photo was taken on 10-23-03.

A Lactarius at Icicle

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There's something about the ability to take really good close up pictures that makes you love Mycena. And, of course, everyone loves lichens, right? This tree, just a few feet from the chill, rocky waters of Denny Creek, was positively crawling with different species of lichens and Mycena. As noted when we visited the fungi of Bellevue, Mycena is one of the easiest groups to identify to genus and one of the most difficult to identify to species. There are probably 50 or 100 different species that all look about like this one – tiny, brown, delicate, with a striate cap and fragile hollow stem. I really love the contrast between the brilliant green of the lichens, the deep green of the moss on the tree trunk, and the doeskin brown of the mushrooms. This photo, and the next few, were taken on 10-23-03, when I spent 'till nearly dark circling this tree with my camera, my mind on small things.

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The trick to photographing things as small as Mycena is to keep the camera steady. At that time I didn't have a tripod, so I used my bucket, spawning this unusual angle.

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You can clearly see that this mushroom is a different species from those in the previous photos. Clearly. Really. Its stalk is bright yellow, and the cap has a yellowish cast as well. This one is rare among the Mycena in actually being distinctive enough to be keyed out by mere humans (as opposed to professional mycologists) and turns out to be Mycena epipterygia var. epipterygioides. There are several species of lichen in the background (the flat leafy type, the long filaments, and the fluffy ones are all different kinds) as well as droplets of reddish sap, presumably from the tree that is hosting this party. I wish the picture were in just slightly better focus, but it is one of my favorites anyway.

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I like this picture because it shows both the beautiful red cap of this Mycena, and its pink-white gills, both in reasonable focus, and both against the lovely green backdrop of a fern. We also have a convenient pile of fir needles for scale. Like the little red Mycena from Bellevue, this one might be any of M. acicula, or M. adonis, or M. haematopus, or M. monticola, or, more likely, some other red-capped Mycena that doesn't happen to be listed in my key. This photo was taken on 2-10-03.

Mycenas in Bellevue

Mycenas at Deception Creek

Mycenas near Teanaway

Mycenas on the Twin Falls and Second Beach trails

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This one could, actually, be a really tiny Hygrocybe or waxy cap mushroom, but its really too tough to call with mushrooms this size. It could also be yet another colorful Mycena. The size of the crumbles of dirt in this photo give you a clue as to the level of magnification. This photo was taken on 8-12-03.

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Denny Creek Part II

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