The biggest fruitings of king boletes I’ve ever seen haven’t been in the Pacific Northwest. No, the Rockies own that distinction, in particular the high montane reaches of northern Colorado. We visit this region every year to see family. I can think of three separate occasions when I’ve hit the porcini jackpot dead-on. The first was a solo backpacking-fishing trip on the Colorado-Wyoming border that gave me my first inkling of what the Rockies could do from a mycophagist standpoint; the second an all-day singletrack mountain bike through high meadows not far from a gap in the Gore Range where the Colorado River punches out of Middle Park; and the third this week southeast of Steamboat Springs.
I don’t visit the Rockies enough to have firm beliefs about the mushroom hunting possibilities here, but this is what I’ve gathered so far. August is generally the month to check your porcini spots. If it’s not a drought year and normal patterns of afternoon showers prevail, start looking a few days after the rains start. Go high. Get above the lodgepole pine forests into more mixed coniferous forests, especially spruce. Here’s a shot of a “king with a view” just below an 11,000-foot pass in the Zirkel Wilderness.
The taste, though mushroomy and choice, might not be quite as nutty as Cascade fall porcini. Which brings me to my main question: Why the lack of a commercial culture surrounding this mushroom in the Rockies? Is the territory too remote? A lack of demand? Is this subspecies of king considered inferior to other varieties and therefore not sought after? I’ve never seen another pot hunter around here, never a buy station, never encountered that bane of the Northwest mushroomer: the cut stem. Maybe we’re far enough from Denver here to escape the competition.