Mile High Shroomin at Telluride Mushroom Festival

“We…Love…MUSHROOMS!” is the chant you would hear in streets if you were at the 2014 Telluride Mushroom Festival. Telluride, Colorado is a place that considers itself a bastion of outlaw, hippie culture. It’s a town that wants to preserve the era of ’60s free love and open drug use. The Telluride Mushroom Festival, therefore, is a perfect fit. I didn’t know exactly what to expect from the festival; I just knew I would definitely want to trip balls in the picturesque setting.

I sat through hours of panels on taxonomy, medicinal uses of mushrooms, studies of the effects of psilocybin on folks’ mental health, and mycoremediation. There was a great panel on mushroom sex. Also, did you know that if women touch a certain type of stinkhorn they can achieve orgasm?!

I got my hands on a couple of magic-mushroom chocolates right before a very bizarre panel on psychedelic experiences, in which the presenter claimed his goal was to travel the multiverse by taking gargantuan doses of mushrooms at a time (20-30g doses).

I attended the famous mushroom parade, tripping balls and dressed in a homemade mushroom hat that I made with kids at the local school in a little seminar on mushroom arts-and-crafts. A dizzying array of friendly denizens in colorful mushroom costumes accompanied a pick-up truck with a giant mushroom in its carriage. Drummers beat their instruments maniacally and ‘shroomed-dressed folks danced. I decided after the parade to find a more isolated spot in town as my thoughts were becoming fluid and indecipherable. I found a basketball court at the bottom end of the canyon and shot around for a bit. Every time the ball swished through the hoop my heart swelled and holding the basketball made my hands and arms tingle. My field-goal percentage was piss-poor however.

I ran into a traveling homeless pack of urchins who call themselves, “The Dirty Kids” who live on a yellow school bus. Their living situation, a bunch of filthy beds in a hash-ridden hollowed out bus depressed me, and made me appreciate my family. There was a brief confusing stint at a restaurant where I creeped the waitress out with my highness (I asked to charge my phone, then paradoxically asked for the check as I stared at my revolting piece of meat), I returned to the main theater. Rebecca Fyffe, the executive director of the fest, said that one of the goals this year was to turn the festival into a “TED talk for mushrooms.” I asked Rebecca if she believed there was a perceived rift between the hard science at the festival and the culture of pseudoscience and psychedelia. At this juncture, the conversation became contentious and Rebecca told me that I was fabricating a story and was not a good journalist. She was annoyed when I mentioned that I was tripping during the interview, and argued that there was nothing implicit in the mushroom festival encouraging people to do drugs. “I would hate to think that High Times isn’t trying to push forward the psychedelic renaissance.” Whatever that means. Being told I am bad at my job while high on mushrooms is definitely an experience I will not forget.

When I asked one enthusiastic patron why they loved mushrooms so much, they responded, “Well, everyone’s got to fetishize something.” Gary Lancoff, a famed author of poison mushroom books and the National Audubon Society guide the mushrooms, closed the festival with a speech: “I am not here to proselytize you taking mushrooms…well yes I am.” And frankly, there isn’t a more entertaining group of people to trip around.

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