Morelfest offers camping, hiking and mushroom hunting

Morelfest offers camping, hiking and mushroom hunting

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orel mushrooms have a dedicated following of fans eager to coax the little, gnarled delicacies out of the woods in the spring. The Buckeye Trail Association Morelfest, scheduled for Friday, April 29 through Sunday, May 1, is the ideal weekend festival for morel fans and their entire family. Morelfest will be hosted at the BTA Beall Farmstead at Tappan Lake. Morelfest is a key event for Buckeye Trail Association, a key sponsor and host.

“We started the first Morelfest in 2017,” festival founder and organizer Brandon Bates said. He, along with fellow morel hunters Jason Stutz and Juston Stutz, started the event after a morel hunt in Michigan that, while bringing in a serious haul of mushrooms, was dissatisfying nonetheless.

“We found so many morels, sacks and sacks of them, and as we returned from our hunt, we learned we would have to turn them in to a community pot. I told them they weren’t getting any of my mushrooms, and we came back and began planning our own Morelfest,” Bates said.

All morel hunters at BTA Morelfest will get to keep every treasured mushroom they find, Bates said. “Everyone can cook their morels at their own campsite if they like, and they’re all theirs.”

Friday at Morelfest will begin in the early afternoon. “That’s the day for people to arrive, get settled in and prepare for the search the next morning,” Bates said.

The $15 cost for the weekend includes a camping site for Friday and Saturday nights.

Morelfest is open to anyone who would like to attend, and hunters need not be a member of Buckeye Trail Association. “It really is a great family weekend. We have a lot of children coming with parents this year and have about 100 reservations so far,” Bates said.

This represents a boost from 2021, with about 60 participants. Morelfest was canceled in 2020.

Event sponsor Deersville General Store will provide a freewill offering breakfast on Saturday morning, and The Tuscarawas River Band will perform on Saturday at 7 p.m. for the fourth year at the festival.

“After breakfast Saturday,” Bates said, “we will break into groups to go hunt for morels. We will help educate people about the mushrooms, the trees they’ll be looking for and the trails. We are very careful to practice good land stewardship when we’re there and bring trash bags on our hunts to pick up anything that doesn’t belong on the trails. We are very much about leaving no trace of ourselves behind.”

Newcomers to morel searches may find the task a little daunting at first. “They are elusive,” Bates said. “They hide under leaves and twigs, and you never know where you’ll find them. Every hunter has their favorite method or best places to look.”

Bates likes to seek out fallen and decaying logs as a good starting point. “This time of year will be early for black morels,” he said. “But white and yellow mushrooms emerge earlier, so we should find a good crop. You never know where they’ll come up. They pretty much come up out of the ground wherever they want to.”

Guides will assist in identifying morels, wildlife and other mushrooms during the hunts.

Other Morelfest sponsors include Boslers Honeybees and Accessories, Amethyst Touch Holistic Health, Red Bud Suds, Michelle Anne Fincham, Ohio Morel Hunters of Tuscarawas County, Penso’s Firewood and Muskingum Lakes Chapter of Buckeye Trails.

Preregistration for Morelfest is required. A registration link can be found at www.buckeyetrail.org.

Directions to the Beall Farmstead near Deersville: Take I-77 to U.S. 250 East, just south of New Philadelphia. Follow U.S. 250 past Tappan Dam, almost to the end of the lake. There is a causeway with a sign that reads “Tappan Lake Park.” Turn right. This road also would take you to Deersville. Approximately 3.1 miles from the U.S. 250 turnoff is Beall Road on the right. Follow this dead-end road. Be sure to take the left leg, not the right curve, and go a total of 1.3 miles to where it ends at the BTA Barn down a long gravel driveway.


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