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“We’ve got a big ol’ shingled hedgehog over here!” shouted our guide, Tara Butson, from behind a cluster of trees. Our group raced over to her, with bags and knives in hand, eager to investigate our first find.
Sarcodon imbricatus, commonly known as the shingled hedgehog or scaly hedgehog, is an edible mushroom that resembles, well, what it sounds like. It was one of many types of fungi we would find during our foraging excursion in the Lizard Head Wilderness — located just outside the mountain town of Telluride, Colo. — with Butson, co-owner of local outfitter San Juan Outdoor Adventures.
The half-day Mountains & Morels package from The Hotel Telluride (available annually in August) brings clients on a private alpine mycology trip with Butson in one of the Rocky Mountains’ top locales for wild mushroom hunting.
Butson, who has been foraging in and around the area for more than 12 years, demonstrated how to properly harvest the scaly hedgehog. Don’t pull it out all the way, she explained to us, but rather, cut the mushroom along the stem and leave the roots in the ground; this allows fungi to grow back every year.
Lindsey Greer, our other San Juan guide, noted how to deduce whether a mushroom is edible or poisonous: Look for those with ridges, spines or tubes; if it has gills, it’s inedible.
After bagging the ’shroom, we spread out, continuing our hike into the forest, where we would eventually find turkey tail, artist’s fungus, short-stemmed russula and — a choice discovery — king bolete mushrooms (also known as porcinis). Along the way, we also harvested some wild strawberries and wild garlic.
Because a lengthy snow season delayed mushroom harvesting this year, we didn’t nose out chanterelles as we had hoped — the mushrooms are prized for their earthy flavor and peach/apricot-like aroma — but we did amass a respectable pile of boletes, which chefs love for their meaty texture and mild, somewhat nutty taste.
After sufficiently ogling our fungi finds, everyone in the group shared knowing glances: We had just experienced the ultimate mushroom trip.
Note: The Mountains & Morels package includes a private three-course dinner with the harvested mushrooms and a wine pairing at The Hotel Telluride, as well as a three-night stay in an Elite View room, daily breakfast, transportation and more.
The DetailsThe Hotel Telluridewww.thehoteltelluride.com
San Juan Outdoor Adventureswww.tellurideadventures.com