Fly Agarics in Cambria
As a lifetime resident of San Luis Obispo County, the lessons I have learned from the local hiking trails and natural wonders are invaluable. It goes without saying that these spots contain breathtaking natural beauty. However, these spots have also provided space for adventure, relaxation, rest, and exploration for both local residents and travelers hailing from all over the world. During my recent shift at the Spooner Ranch House, visitors from just down the road, small business owners from Chicago, and a pair of researchers all the way from South Africa came to visit Montaña de Oro. This series will cover some of the most impactful local spaces I’ve explored and what they’ve all taught me.
Cambria, CA – Life is full of surprises, the more you keep going, the more you’ll see.
One of my most recent visits to Cambria was on New Year’s Eve. Rain was coming down in weighty sheets and soaking through my Levi’s. It was me and my partner’s two-year anniversary, so to celebrate, we went back to one of the spots we’d gone on our first date. Normally a storm like that would’ve sent me back to bed without a second thought, to curl back up deep beneath the four or so blankets I use on winter nights. However, the roads seemed safe, and it had been raining for a few days prior, which meant that mushrooms would hopefully be springing up soon. I’ve been known to do crazier things in search of a beautiful nature experience, so that morning, we headed up to Cambria to explore and search. Last time we went, we saw a few Fly Agarics, which was incredible. Fly Agarics (Amanita muscaria) are debatably the most iconic mushroom. Its red cap, elegant white gills, and playful spots can be seen all across pop culture from older illustrations of fairies to the latest Super Mario game.
Expecting around five or six mushrooms like we had seen last time, nothing could have prepared us for what we saw. Greeted by Jack O’Lanterns, Pinwheels, and Slippery Jacks, we encountered more mushrooms than I had ever seen in my life. Popping up out of the ground, they timidly embraced the rain like true Californians. Tiny buttons, clusters, and enormous fungal umbrellas sprawled across the pine wooded meadow. We couldn’t stop pointing, and gasping, and laughing in the company of our new fungal friends. According to iNaturalist, there are at least 180 species of fungi, molds, and lichen in this area! Incredible.
When we continued down the trail, I spotted an immaculate Fly Agaric. Its cap was the size of a tea saucer, and unlike a lot of the fungi, an animal had not yet nibbled at its sides. As I crouched down to get a better look at these fantastic specimens, my shins and legs continued to soak in the rainwater. I began to grow chilled to the bone. I was content with our discoveries and ready to head home, but seeing the excitement on my partner’s face made me want to keep going. I’m so glad we did, because only a little way further, we came across a ring of massive Fly Agarics. The largest one’s cap was about the size of a dinner plate and its stalk was the size of a baby’s arm. I was completely stunned by its majesty. Had I not kept going, I would never have seen this beautiful wonder of nature. Since then, I always try to spend a little bit longer than I usually would out in nature. You never know what you’ll find!
- Any of the mushrooms you see us holding were already on the ground and had either been knocked down, picked, or fallen naturally prior to our visit.
- If you are considering visiting this spot, out of respect for the locals and the wildlife please do not pick the mushrooms, stay on the trail, and be respectful of your surroundings.