Mushroom picker gets stuck in the sticks overnight

LS Wesley Chao

LS Wesley Chao spent an unplanned night in the woods near Shawnigan Lake after a mushroom picking trip went awry.

When LS Wesley Chao drove up to Shawinigan Lake a month ago seeking the elusive and highly sought after pine mushroom, he didn’t expect to stay overnight.

But inattention would leave him no choice but to brave the night in the wilderness.

“The pine mushroom only grows in abundance in a few places on the island, and one of those places in Shawinigan Lake,” says LS Chao, a Weapons/Engineering Technician aboard HMCS Calgary. “I love pine mushrooms, so I thought I’d head up and see what I could find.”

So he piled into car with friends and took to the hills around the lake where pine mushrooms are known to grow. The day expanded to a fairly profitable mushroom hunt, with LS Chao collecting upwards of 10 pounds of the tasty and expensive fungi.

“I was having a great time. I was so engaged in the picking I started wandering higher and higher up the hill,” he says. “According to my compass I was going west, so I figured I had a pretty good idea of where I was.”

The day wore on and the sun went down as LS Chao continued his hunt. Once it started getting dark he began to head in the direction of his car, or where he thought he had parked his car.

“I should have gone northwest, but instead went west. I found a small path through the trees I thought would take me back, but it didn’t,” he says. “My two friends knew their way around so they made it back first; I was calling out to them but they were too far away.”

With his compass, his mushrooms, and the night quickly deepening around him, he made the decision to set up camp.

“It was too dark to see and I couldn’t find a path, so I set up a place to sleep where I wouldn’t get any more lost than I already was,” he says. “I used the orienteering and survival skills I learned in the military, so I had a chance of surviving the night.”

LS Chao created a small lean to with branches and sticks, and dug a hole in the dirt underneath it to form a makeshift bed.

“I covered myself in dirt and leaves to keep warm, almost like an animal,” he says, laughing. “I had plenty of mushrooms to eat and collected some rainwater, so it didn’t turn out too bad.”

When the sun rose, LS Chao was quick to find his way to a logging road in the woods. While trekking back to a main roadway he met a rescue vehicle.

“They told me they’d been looking for me all night,” he says. “It was very relieving to run into them so quickly. It worked out pretty well.”

His impromptu camping trip isn’t enough to dissuade LS Chao from his hobby, but he says next time he’ll be better equipped.

“I should have brought a GPS, or at least warmer clothes,” he says. “For any mushroom pickers heading into the woods I would suggest preparing for the worst, because you never know what’s going to happen.”

-Shawn O’Hara, Staff Writer

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