This review is for the Wild Mushroom Adventures: Sonoma Coast that took place on January 25, 2020.
My main concern, or perhaps main confusion, is the fact that Patrick has done this 200+ times and this is the quality that he provides and you at ForageSF continue to allow. I am not sure what kind of quality control or auditing of the class goes on - but I think you'd have to try hard to deliver less value for $90.
There are a multiple reasons I am rating this so low, but nothing that seems to be insurmountable to fix.
1) Structure - There was no structure to the event. We were sent off, with no information or direction, to go pick mushrooms and then meet back thirty minutes later. Upon returning, it was unclear what we were to do with the mushrooms, but there were samples placed on a log and I had to be informed by another participant that we were staging mushrooms there. Later on in the day, we were all given instructions to make a loop on the hike and head into the forest, off trail, when we felt the urge. That plan was changed halfway through - if you were lucky enough to be within earshot of Patrick - because the original route was much longer than anticipated. How does someone lead groups here every weekend and not have a sense of the length and time of the trails??
Beyond all this, there was no format for the day. No agenda, no itinerary, and no learning materials to inform the group. It would have been helpful to get some general instruction about maybe fungi biology, symbiosis, common partner plants to help guide your hunt, etc. Nothing like this happened. After years of leading these, how is there not a streamlined system or process for this event??
2) Instructor attitude - Patrick was knowledgeable on mushrooms, but damned if he didn't fight to give any useful information. Using tactics like bad jokes, intentionally misunderstanding the substance of a question, or denigrating people asking questions about obvious (to him) mushroom knowledge, he made it seem like it was an inconvenience that we were all there. What I learned most was how important he is in the mushroom community, how many mushroom experts he knows, and his opinions on the best way to cook certain mushrooms.
3) Format and Driving - The logistics of getting to Jenner to meet up, and then drive another 45 minutes to Salt Point just don't make any sense. Why not just check in at Salt Point? We ended up starting after 11, and walking back to the cars at 1:30. So the total time of instruction or guidance was probably 2 hours, most of that solo time in the forest looking for mushrooms while Patrick moseyed along on the trail.
I can't stop thinking about how little value was provided for the cost of the class. It's even more frustrating because there's been time to get it right. I can appreciate working out the kinks in a human dependent operation, but it should be really embarrassing for your organization to have this mature of a "product" be this poor on so many fronts. This experience has turned me off from any other experiences through ForageSF, and we were eyeing the seaweed class as a next fun trip...that is before we attended the mushroom hunt.