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My Whirlwind Weekend with Wild ‘Shrooms

It feels like I’ve been searching for a hobby my whole life. I’ve got so much passion to give but seemingly nowhere to put it. When I found out I was moving back to my dorm in Santa Cruz, I knew the world would be at my fingertips, and there was no way I wouldn’t be able to find something to fill my time with. And then it happened: I was scrolling through TikTok and came across the wonderful world of wild mushroom foraging. I was absolutely engulfed in it… for about two days. This is the story of my whirlwind weekend with wild ‘shrooms.


One thing you’ll immediately notice if you dive into “Mushroom Tok” is that there seems to be a fascination with patting the mushrooms you come across. Some people claim that this is to help the mushroom release its spores, some say it’s just for fun and has no real benefit. Nonetheless, I set out on a quest to walk through the campus’ redwoods and pat as many mushrooms as I could find. There was tons of variety, my favorite looking like pineapple rings, and the rush I got from spending time in the forest was exhilarating. That night, I spent hours watching videos on how to identify wild mushrooms, and by the next morning, I had set out to go deeper into the forest to bring some home and try to identify them.


I came back to my dorm with about 12 different mushrooms in total, and I used my newfound knowledge to try and identify what species each one was. Attention to detail is important in mycology, the study of mushrooms. Things like whether they have gills or pores, how the gills might be attached to the stalk (if at all), the color of the stalk, where the protective veil is attached, what kind of tree the mushroom was growing near, and the color of the spore print just to name a few. I began to dissect the mushrooms at my desk, leaving the biggest, most exciting one for last. When I cut into the stalk, it seemed to be hollow and filled with what looked like chopped garlic. I thought to myself, “interesting. None of the videos I watched mentioned this.” That’s when disaster struck.


I dug around in this mystery substance and there, looking me in the eye, were several maggots. They were white and slimy and wriggling around as I had just destroyed their home. Now, I’m not usually one to be scared off by a bug -- in fact I find some to be super cute -- but these bad boys were in my room, and that was simply too much to handle. I looked over at the rest of the mushrooms I had set up for spore prints and couldn’t help but think there were maggots hiding in them as well. I was faced with the most difficult decision of this entire short yet paramount journey. I packed all of the mushrooms back into the brown paper bag I collected them in, walked back into the forest, and left them there to rot. They were my babies a second ago -- my newest, deepest passion -- but they were bringing unwanted guests into my space, and for that I couldn’t forgive them. My love for mushrooms was destroyed.


Now I’m left in the same spot I was in only days ago: hobbyless and in search of my newest infatuation, hoping one day I’ll find the hobby I was always meant to have. For now, I think I’ll stick to leaving things I find in the forest out of my bedroom.

Hi there! I'm Bri, I'm a linguistics major at UCSC who loves pop culture, true crime, and my sweet baby cat, Marlo.
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