Small Town News


Finding witch's butter on Twanoh Creek Trail

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

- Advertisement -


A guy walks into a bar carrying a strange yellow mushroom.

The mushroom is an orange jelly fungus, one of several the author found recently on the trail at Twanoh State Park.

Known as witch's butter, a fairy tale name that always widens the eyes of children, true witch's butter is actually tremella lutescens, a close cousin of the orange jelly, though paler yellow and wavier, less globular, in shape.

The name witch's butter works fine for both species. They both resemble psychedelic slime. You can imagine a witch's hand buttering her toast with these mushrooms, or tossing them into her bubbling cauldron while casting a spell.

Last week I saw some on the hillside at the beginning of the Twanoh Creek Trail. Witch's butter is a winter mushroom and especially visible against snow. The little yellow "brains" grow on dead wood and can line a fallen tree branch like corn on the cob, or more typically, spaced like reeds on a flute.

The mushrooms are safe and edible, though basically tasteless. They will dissolve in a hot frying pan, so are best enjoyed raw. Chewed raw, their texture is somewhere between Jell-0 and gristle, and always cold on the tongue.

Remember eating your first raw oyster? The courage it took? Swallowing witch's butter might be further along that same scale — and admittedly without any tasty reward, either.

TWANOH TRAIL At Twanoh State Park, pick up the Twanoh Creek Trail on the campground side of State Route 106 — after being sure your windshield displays your Discover Pass.

You'll see a trail map at the trailhead, where you'll learn it's a 2.5-mile loop gaining 400 feet in elevation.

The first half-mile follows the creek, with views of the campground as you start up the valley. Several spots along the creek have faint trails to allow for closer visits; tiny clearings with a log or rock to sit on that, indeed, make for little outdoor meditation rooms.

The woods are surprisingly dense here, with enough tall second growth to enshroud the trail in shadow. This close to the east hillside, the winter sun doesn't climb over the ridge top, but rather slides to the south, so throughout the morning it stays "deep woods dark" along the creek bottom.

After a quarter-mile, the loop trail branches to the right. That's a more difficult climb, so I stayed with the main trail as it followed the creek, though gradually rising away from the gurgling water. At the very first sharp switchback, I looked down to see more witch's butter on the smooth, round face of a sawed log.

From here, it is a steady but easy climb to where the trail tops out and enters a huckleberry haven. These are some of the thickest and tallest acres of huckleberry I've ever encountered.

The forest has been thinned here. The same sunlight that tagged my face so welcome and warm has undoubtedly urged the huckleberries to reach such heights. The trail nearly tunneled through the thicket, snow weighing down the branches so much that I found myself protecting my eyes with my hands as I pushed through.

By contrast, the trail suddenly becomes a wide, grassy groomed route nearly the width of a service road. This section goes on for nearly two-thirds of a mile. I saw sled tracks that swung wildly in the snow; I guessed that some parent was towing a child or two and trying to make the most of very slight banks and dips.

After passing a covered pavilion on your right, you'll come to where the trail loops back down to the creek.

It's a good trail, full of variety and surprise. A healthy adult ought to do it in under an hour; plenty of benches will aid anyone needing rest.


Every year Americans spend billions on a single high tide of candy called Halloween. But Mason County residents can associate the end of October not only with candy, but with the many awe-inspiring salmon runs along Hood Canal.

Next year, let the candy ads remind you to take the kids to Twanoh State Park, to Dewatto, Theler, the Lilliwaup Hatchery, Finch Creek in Hoodsport.

Instead of candy, watch salmon with their wild, anxious splashing.

Instead of candy, go looking for witch's butter. Eating it is always optional, of course.

Mark Woytowich is a writer, photographer and video producer who lives in Potlatch. He can be reached at

Copyright 2016 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: January 14, 2016

More from Shelton-Mason County Journal