This spring’s morel finds on the Slide fire seem to have tapered off. Temperatures in the approximately 7000-foot terrain in this burn are likely now too high to sustain any further growth. Anna Kawski found the last good batch I know of on May 26th, and has created a scene that is for sure going on my Christmas card this winter.
However, thanks to the unusual rains in May 2015, as well as cooler temperatures in the 8500+ foot elevations, the San Juan fire has been producing plenty of morels in the past couple of weeks. Reports and photos of people finding hundreds of fire morels per day are rolling in to this page, as well as the affiliated Facebook group.
On Tuesday, June 2nd, I took a one-day trip to the San Juan burn. While some formerly productive areas are beginning to dry out, and others that are accessible to the main roads have been well picked over, there were good quantities remaining for people willing to put in the effort. Our party of 4 retrieved close to 35 pounds of fire morels, many of which were quite large and heavy, and the vast majority of which appeared to be freshly sprouted within the past 4 or 5 days.
My own share was over 12 pounds, and I was only in second place for the day amongst our crew. I would judge that we had to work about 3 times harder for the same quantity of morels as we saw in the huge flush last October, which still is not too bad at all.
Soil temps were around 55-57 degrees, which is close to optimal for morel fruiting. As noted on many prior visits, it is usually the case that the highest elevations harbor the most mushrooms. The best hunting is still on northwards-facing, mossy slopes under scorched but still-living Douglas firs. However, we also saw a decent number of mushrooms fruiting on flat ground and/or under Ponderosa pines. Many of these were small, fresh buttons only 2 or 3 days old that were barely visible through the needles and duff on the forest floor. Anything smaller than our thumbs was left behind, and are likely now to be in harvestable size and condition.
A light rain is falling on the burn as these words are written, and the area is forecast to receive 0.75-1.00 inches of rain from now until Saturday due to a tropical storm that is heading northwards from Mexico. This alone would be highly unusual for June, but there is also a potential for even more rain in the middle of next week from the remains of a second tropical storm.
The notion of picking morels in Arizona in mid-June may seem outlandish, but after last fall’s incredible out-of-season morel flush, who is to say what a normal season is anymore? The moisture this spring also bodes well for an early and productive start to the summer monsoon season’s fungal fruitings.
I’ve provided more detailed information to the Arizona Mushroom Club in case they call a group foray for this weekend. However, I’m told this appears unlikely at this point, given the prediction for upcoming rainfall that will seriously impact travel, as well as the recent drying trend and the rather thorough picking that accessible areas of the site have received this week.
On the other hand, if precipitation is as generous as predicted and temperatures stay moderate, we could be looking at one more good flush, and a likely AMC club outing the following weekend (June 13-14.) If a club foray is indeed declared next week, I will be asking our readers to kindly refrain from picking morels within 200 yards of the main roads until after the group outing has completed. Several scouts will be in the area, and you will be booted from our membership if you violate this embargo and are recognized.
Until such time, good luck! This coming Sunday ought to be decent if you have a vehicle that can get through the mud, and I might make it up there again myself. I’d appreciate seeing photos of your successful morel hunts, as well as images of any other noteworthy fungal species you see on your outings. I will also post some more detailed guidance for your hunts on our members’ private message board.