Fungi and Graduation Fun at Grand Caverns

Cohort VII was honored at a potluck-style picnic on Saturday, October 16, 2021, at a shelter in the park at Grand Caverns. Members of the Virginia Master Naturalists Headwaters Chapter demonstrated their culinary skills with an array of vegetarian and vegan soups, quiche, homemade breads, and delectable desserts. HMN Program Committee Chair Mary-Gatling Finks had even provided cloth napkins for a fancy, eco-friendly way to clean our hands! Peggy Plass, our fearless trainer, blew soap bubbles to celebrate, and several board members gave a few words of insight. Our Chapter Advisor Jason Hallacher reminded us that, with all the knowledge we’ve gained, it’s important to remember, “it’s not about the facts but about the people.” In other words, putting our relationships and respect for others ahead of our opinions and beliefs is the only way to make progress in conservation. 

Sharon Landis making her way through the impromptu “gauntlet” formed by other Chapter members. Photo by Steven David Johnson.

A highlight of the evening was when the current members formed a gauntlet and raised their arms to create an arch for all the new members to walk beneath. It was wonderful to connect in three dimensions after so much of our training experience had to be online via Zoom due to COVID-19 safety protocols. 

The members of Cohort VII are:

  • Jeanine Botkin
  • Trevor Chase
  • Angie Cromer
  • Tina Dove
  • Tom Engle
  • Art Fovargue
  • Anna Maria Johnson
  • Jay Landis
  • Sharon Landis
  • Diane Lepkowski
  • Karen Milne
  • Allison O’Brien
  • Zack Perdue
  • Maria Reynozo
  • Steve Talley

Prior to the potluck and graduation ceremony, Peggy led a Fungus and Mushroom Walk along a nearby path. Peggy provided a handout to all participants which illustrated 11 different forms that mushrooms can take so that everyone could categorize their findings even if it wasn’t feasible to make a species-specific identification for each type of mushroom or fungus we found. This demonstrated a method by which a trained naturalist can simplify the ID process to make it more accessible and less intimidating for general audiences. 

Master Naturalists identifying the Orange Mock Oyster mushrooms (Phyllotopsis nidulans) on the tree bark in front of us … at Grand Caverns. A first for our mushroom guru, Peggy!

And proof of why it helps to have binoculars when you’re hunting mushrooms! 😉

– Elaine Smith, Cohort IV

Photo by Elaine.

Photographer Steven David Johnson (spouse of new member Anna Maria Johnson) accompanied the walk and took some lovely shots which he has shared with us. Thank you, Steven! Thank you also to other participants who were willing to share photos for the newsletter and website. 

– Anna Maria Johnson, Cohort VII, October 2021

Photo at the top of this post shows Basic Training Committee Chair Peggy Plass addressing members of the graduating cohort. Photo by Elaine Smith, Cohort IV.

More of Steven David Johnson’s photos are directly below. Click on one to see it better and start a slide show.

More photos below! These are from Chapter members Carl Droms, Sandy Greene, Anna Maria Johnson, and Adrie Voors. Click on a photo to start a slide show and find titles.