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First swim in the Pacific in… 10? 15 years?

A distant woman standing in the surf at Baker Beach

My first swim in the Pacific in probably 10–15 years, photo by Sam.

On the Fourth of July, we walked 10 miles from the Sutro Heights Stairs on Balboa Street through Land’s End, past the enormous houses near China Beach, paused at Baker Beach, dipped down to Marshall’s Beach, walked under the Golden Gate, along Crissy Field and through the park at Fort Mason, then took a rest at the Maritime Museum ampitheater before heading back.

I thought I did so well with sunscreen but oh my, the backs of my knees…

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Ramps and Dryad’s Saddle

We took a walk in Middleton Woods this weekend and it was just covered in ramps and bluebells. I collected enough wild garlic for 5–6 meals, and then towards the end of the walk we came across a bunch of enormous mushrooms on a log with caps almost as big as my face. It’s interesting, we came across very few mushrooms elsewhere. Perhaps it’s been too dry?

Though I was prettttyyyyy confident they were Dryad’s Saddle mushrooms, I wasn’t 100% sure… I had a look online to see if it can be mistaken for anything else and it seemed not. I also ran it past some friends that tend to know about these sorts of things and got a thumbs up.

Here’s the forest and the haul. Lemon for scale!

Dryad’s Saddle mushrooms on a log in Middleton Woods

Wild garlic and Dryad’s Saddle mushrooms with a lemon for scale

The ramps are super easy to cook, pretty much like spinach. Just sauté them in a little oil or butter with a pinch of salt and maybe some lemon juice.

Dryad’s Saddle mushrooms are also known as Pheasant Back mushrooms due to the pattern on the cap that looks like a pheasant’s feathers. They can be tough when they’re older so should only be eaten when young. When you give the stem a gentle squeeze there should be a bit of give, very similar to a store-bought mushroom. If they’re any firmer than that, they’re probably be too tough to be pleasant or worth it. Apparently the older specimens can be good to make broth, but I haven’t tried this. It can be hard to tell young from old since big does not necessarily mean old, this article on foragerchef.com has some tips on spotting young Dryad’s Saddles.

The Dryad’s Saddle takes a bit of prep, but not much honestly. I laid the mushroom cap-down on a cutting board and used the edge of a spoon to scrape off the pores on the underside of the mushroom. Very satisfying, they come away really easily. Next, I flipped it over and peeled off the top layer, the “feathers” of the Pheasant’s Back. This can apparently get a bit tough when cooked. At that point I was just left with a very large, creamy interior.

You can cook it a lot of different ways, check out this article and the previously linked Forager Chef article for tons of suggestions. They have a mild scent of cucumber or watermelon, so Kieran’s suggestion of cooking them in a soup with coconut milk and turmeric sounds really great.

I ended up slicing them thin and evenly, then baking them with olive oil and a little salt. This turned them in to mushroom chips, they were almost bacon-y and very crisp! Dryad’s Saddle supposedly can get a little dry and tough when cooked this way, but I didn’t have that problem at all. Probably just has to do with the age of the mushroom. I don’t recommend attempting to stir fry Dryad’s Saddle unless you have a very decently sized wok. Mine released a lot of liquid when I attempted which made for some serious splatter, hence transferring it to the oven.

Look forward to getting back in the woods in a few days.

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Feet on the ground, head in the sky

A stone stile covered in moss in Addingham, West Yorkshire

I’ve been going on a few walks from the front door, no more than one a day as prescribed to maintain sanity. It’s confusing though…

The guidance says, “You can also go for a walk or exercise outdoors if you stay more than 2 metres from others”, so a walk on a quiet public footpath should be OK. Problem is that you can’t predict how many people might be on a path before you get out there, and there are a lot of stiles and latches you have to touch to get over or through fences.

But it’s not like Main Street is any better. You have to step in to the middle of the road in order to maintain distance since the pavements are so narrow, and there are 4–5 times as many people walking there at any one time than out on the countryside paths.

It’s tough to know what to do, particularly with the police doing things like shaming people via drone cameras. I get it, we absolutely have to avoid throngs of people descending on beaches and beauty spots. But, ugh. Staying 100% inside feels actively unhealthy. Just never feel like I’m doing the right thing.

A bridge over a stream in Addingham, West Yorkshire

I’m carrying hand sanitiser and use it after each time I have to touch some apparatus. I’m planning to carry antimicrobial wipes from now on to open / close gates and get through stiles. Maybe it’ll help others too? Who knows. I’ll also spend some time coming up with more bodyweight exercise routines that I can do from “home” or a random park. Definitely one of those times you long for a garden.

The photos above are from a walk along Marchup Beck (see walk 8, the shorter version) with Sam and the photos below are from walk towards Addingham Moorside (see walk 6, the shortest version) with Gemma in London. It was a walk-and-talk over the phone, 10/10 would recommend. I got *hopelessly* lost once or twice, but it’s pretty straightforward to get back as long as you know where the middle of town is and keep the moor at your back. The walk included some stretches of the Dales Highway and the Millenium Way, I probably just needed to pay better attention to the signs.

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Sharp and Rough

Sharp Haw and Rough Haw in West Yorkshire

Since we don’t have a permanent home at the moment (more on that), we’re living in Addingham for a month. This is Sharp Haw and Rough Haw at the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales. The fields on either side of the path were occupied by male lapwings trying to outdo each other, and I think there was a snipe standing on top of a huge pile of manure.

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Sandsend → Whitby

Walking from Sandsend to Whitby

This new year, we stayed in a cottage in Sandsend with a bunch of close friends. On the 30th, we walked to Whitby along the beach while the tide was out. Top-notch dog watching. It was gorgeous, sunny and around 50F/10C. We all had to take our coats off. Shame it wasn’t so warm on the 1st, we ended up chickening out of a new year’s dip in the sea.

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