• Kathy Schrenk

Note: If this post looks familiar, that's because I originally published it in the fall. I decided it bears repeating:

When I was investigating hikes to go in my guidebook, I drove past a lot of Confederate flags out in the boonies of Missouri. Mind you, most of these hikes are less than hour from St. Louis. You don't have to get far from the city to find these scary symbols. It's no wonder we often hear statistics about low participation in outdoor pursuits by people of color. And this is just one of many reasons why PoC's might participate at a lower rate than white people. I've been trying to educate myself on this topic as much as I can. Here are some of the resources I've discovered.

* These organizations work to build equity in outdoor pursuits. Follow them on social media, like and follow their posts to boost their message the outdoors is for everyone (there are, of course, many more, this is just a sample that I've discovered and learned from):

Outdoor Afro

Latino Outdoors

Trail Posse

Diversify Outdoors

Girl Trek

*This article about the "anxiety of hiking while black" was very informative to me.

*The Adventure Gap, an engaging book about a Denali expedition comprised entirely of people of color that also gives historical context for the racial imbalance in the outdoors and suggestions for how to make change.

*An incredible resource for learning whose land you're on -- it displays a map with overlays of the historic territories of indigenous peoples on multiple continents.

Again, this is just a sampling. There are so many more books, articles, and organizations addressing this topic. Educate yourself. The more people are aware of the "adventure gap," the better chance we have of making change.

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  • Kathy Schrenk

I've been fascinated by mushrooms since seeing warning placards about the deadly mushrooms that grew along the trails we frequented while living in California. I was convinced I'd never eat a wild harvested mushroom. As we will see, I still haven't, but I feel confident that I could identify at least one kind of wild mushroom.

Before we go any further, here is my standard warning about found mushrooms -- do not eat unless you are 100 percent sure you know what you have! People have died --recently -- from eating the wrong mushroom.

Morels are the holy grail of mushrooms for mycology enthusiasts. They only emerge during a short window in the spring and can be incredibly hard to find. Even Maxine Stone, who literally wrote the book on Missouri Mushrooms, says she doesn't find them every year.

There are lots of goodies besides morels though. Last fall I went on an outing with the friendly folks at the Missouri Mycological Society. We found lots and lots of mushrooms, some of which were edible. All were beautiful and fascinating.

Chanterelles and Chicken of the Woods are perhaps the most sought-after fall mushrooms. The ones pictured below were found by the Mycological Society folks in October at Hazlet State Park in Illinois.

Chicken of the Woods

Apparently the Chicken of the Woods taste like chicken. The woman who found them literally jumped for joy at the sight.


I chose not to eat any of the mushrooms I found with the mycological folks. Not that I don't trust them, but when the woman handed over some of the chicken-y mushrooms, she said, "some people get a stomach ache from these, so just eat a few first."

Morels are a different story. If you find them, they are extremely easy to identify. They don't really look that much like "false morels." And if the morel is hollow, it's definitely a morel.

We happened upon one lonely morel at Mastodon State Historic Site in March--early for morels. In late April my husband and I went to Emmenegger Park in Kirkwood to hunt. We found nothing but a tick biting on my back a few hours later.

A lovely outing that was, sadly, morel-free.

Check out my article in Terrain Magazine for more about my foray with the mushroom experts and tips on morel hunting.

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  • Kathy Schrenk

Hiking news:

Most St. Louis County Parks have reopened. It seems that all the parks that are popular for hiking have reopened. The exception to that is Lone Elk, which is open, but only for drive-through to view the elk and bison. Many of the trails are one-way to help people keep a safe distance.

State parks are open for hiking but mostly closed for camping. Check the website for specifics.

This entry's social distancing hike is Labarque Creek Conservation Area. This has long been one of my favorite hiking spots, but I hadn't been there in years, because it's so close to Don Robinson State Park, which is possibly my favorite Missouri State Park. LaBarque is great in the summer because there's a really excellent area for splashing in the creek and standing in waterfalls just a mile from the trailhead.

It's beautiful any time of year thanks to its sandstone formations, forests, boulders, and overlooks. The loop trail is almost exactly three miles. It's got a beautiful variety of environments and vistas and is just so peaceful and lovely. And just a short drive from Interstate 44.

Generally the conservation areas are less well-known then the state parks and so they tend to be less crowded. I haven't been to a state park since we went to Mastadon at the end of March on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon with crowds and crowds of other people who weren't distancing. If you do hike at a state park, make sure it's early in the morning or on a day with less than ideal weather. It's amazing the difference in crowding when there's just a bit of rain falling, or even if it's just threatened in the forecast. I love a hike with a bit of rain, especially if you can duck in and out of the rain drops under a thick canopy of trees.

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