Chaga. I just like saying the word.
Maine Huts and Trails along with Dr. Max Jacobs held a mushroom walk and talk. And we learned about Chaga. Max stated it has an ORAC value of over 62,000 (ORAC measures anti-oxidant value, Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). Blueberries come in at 2,400 per cup. and yes, we did have him repeat that number. The website where he and his brother sell chaga soap says 300 to 500 times as much anti-oxident power as blueberries. That was enough to incite our interest. Biking a few days after the walk we found this beautiful piece of chaga, and are drying it to make tea. Blueberries are pretty tasty, though, they’ll stay in my diet.
Chaga, Inonotus obliquus, is a parasite that grows most commonly on birches, and is hard, black and gnarly. Folk medicine traditions have it healing tumors, blocking cancer, enhancing immune function. The black outside contains 30% betulin, while the inside is rich in fungal lanostanes. So we will use the whole thing in our tea. The betulin is supposed to fight cancer.
We went on this walk seeking to learn new mushrooms, and in addition to the medicinal chaga, we are now on the look out for Black Trumpets. It was also an excuse to get into the woods, and explore another piece of Maine. The Maine Huts and Trails offer other walks and talks, as well as yoga and x-c skiing. They have an off-the-grid, up-the-trail compound. Self-composting toilets, solar and hydro-power, full time chef, great food, and immaculately clean. This was a spur of the moment trip, and we chose to stay Mountain Village Farm B+B in Kingfield, and though the huts were very inviting, our plush towels and home-cooked breakfast with eggs from the chickens outside the window was pretty good. So were the creamy oatmeal and thick wedges of grainy bread.
Little escapes from the capital of the world remind me that there are other places worth visiting. The unfamiliar creates that delightful sense of discovery. The Wire Bridge, crossing the Carrabassett River, is a row of planks suspended by wires in graceful arches, with shingled towers anchoring it at each side. Built in the 1800’s, I had never heard of it. We saw a drawing of it at a restaurant in Kingfield, and so checked it out the following morning. And did yoga suspended over the river! And now we know where Pluto went. (Underground near Norridgewock)