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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Post-Shroomfest12 Wrapup

Photo courtesy of Greg Sanchez (CMS past president)

In spite of the drought in most of the region, this year’s Telluride Mushroom Festival 2012, sponsored by the Telluride Institute, saw plentiful fungi of all kinds, as the heavily loaded identification tables in Elks Park demonstrated this past weekend.


One of my favorite edibles is looked on askance by many – Hawk’s Wing (Sarcodon imbricatus, formerly Hydnum imbricatum). As Wikipedia notes: “It is reported as edible but of poor quality in the United States by some sources, but as deliciously edible by others.Being in the latter camp, I felt wonderfully vindicated when a dish made of its toothy flesh won the Chefs Cook-off this year at the Wilkinson Library.
Sarcodon imbricatus on Lizard Head

We learned from flamboyant University of Wisconsin mycologist Tom Volk (both arms covered in rainbow-hued mycelial tattoos and sporting wildly dyed forelocks) that unbaked bread dough, taken in quantity, could make one drunk, thanks to its yeast content – yeast being a eukaryotic microorganism classified in the Kindom [sic] Fungi, with 1500 currently described species. We also got a hands-on lesson in manipulating yeast to make kombucha and mead from Ken Litchfield of Merritt College in Oakland, California.
Tom Volk

Ethnobotanist Kat Harrison traced the introduction of entheogenic shrooms into Western culture and then compared techniques of use from traditional Mazatec shamans in southern Mexico where she’s conducted years of enthnobotanic research to our own initiatory attempts to incorporate sacred visions into a post-industrial American society unscientifically fearful of anything psychedelic. A panel discussion of hallucinogenic mushrooms as medicine emphasized the growing body of scientific knowledge proving their value, from relieving cluster headaches to providing life-changing experiences of balanced wholeness with the universe.
Kat Harrison

Professional jazz singer Ruthie Ristich of Boston showed a film and gave a talk that acquainted us with the legendary East Coast mushroom guru Sam Ristich, her father, who charmed and tutored legions of mushroom seekers, including our own resident mycologist Gary Lincoff.

Chef Lisa Dahl serving hors d'ouevres


And Lincoff led a special Ophir foray up the Waterfall Canyon trail that culminated in a gourmet mushroom feast, prepared by amazing chef Lisa Dahl of Sedona’s Cucina Rustica, at Bob Kingsley’s spectacular OPUS Hut on the San Juan County side of Ophir Pass. It was my first time ever over Ophir Pass, made all the more thrilling by our driver’s announcement that he was running out of gas on the long climb up the San Miguel side. A friendly jeeper saved the day and gave us enough petrol to make it down safely.


John Major Jenkins

Maya scholar John Major Jenkins explained to us the origins of the Mayan Calendar long count in Izapa, Mexico – how it was tied to startling astronomic observations of the Sun’s conjunction with the center of the Milky Way galaxy and how it was clearly perceived by the Maya as a time of transformation, not a Christian apocalypse.


Myco-historian David Rose expounded on Mushrooms in Science Fiction, Daniel Winkler on Mushrooms in Tibet, and Fungi magazine editor/publisher Britt Bunyard on Mycorrhizatopia – Fungi as the Puppet Masters of the Universe.



Lecturers including a couple of teenagers – Devon Enke of La Veta on Oil-eating Mushrooms and Norwood’s Sklyer Hollinbeck sharing his paper on Myco-Remediation at the Missionary Ridge Fire near Durango. Maya Elson and her cohorts alerted us oldster fungophiles to a new developing group of Radical Mycologists who are marrying social activism to mycology and holding “convergences” around the country.



Attorney Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado sought support for Amendment 64, the Regulate-Cannabis-Like-Alcohol Constitutional Amendment that will be up for consideration in Colorado’s November election. It’s a measure that makes good scientific and social sense, and I’m publicly a supporter along with Rep. Jared Polis and former Rep. Tom Tancredo (now there’s an unusual conjunction).

Anne Enke speaks at Sunday panel while Teresa Frank and Jo Norris look on

Jo Norris of Arizona’s Rim Institute gave a special workshop on Connecting to the Feminine in Shamanism, and the festival ended with a panel discussion by Norris, Marie Luna, Teresa Frank and Annie Enke on the relationship of plant and fungal allies to world consciousness.

But that’s only the things I got to see and hear. There were dozens of other lectures and workshops that I missed, as simultaneous events took place around town in the Palm Theatre, the Nugget Theatre, the Wilkinson Library, the Swede-Finn Hall, Elks Park, a County meeting room, various foray locations and even Smuggler Joe’s brewpub – where several tasty myco-medicinal brews were concocted especially for the festival.

Perhaps most memorable for me, I had the privilege and delight of leading the annual Shroomfest parade down Colorado Avenue on my birthday – a great way to turn 67. And after such a thought-provoking and ground-breaking festival, the Telluride Institute is already planning for an even better event next summer.

Riding the Amanitamobile (Photo by Sara Friedberg)

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