The Start of DiningWild, as remembered by Ralph: South Mountain Reservation, America’s oldest county park, is a 2100 acre oasis of nature in Essex County, New Jersey (of all places!), about 10 miles West of New York City. The ‘Rez’ sits in the midst of fully-developed suburbia, and is treasured by thousands of people who live nearby, including Dan and me.
One splendid September day in 2010, I was hiking with my dog in the Rez, something I’ve done hundreds of times. But on this day, I was interested to see three people scratching around in the weeds, and hoped they wouldn't mind telling what they were up to. Dan explained he was leading a couple of friends from Brooklyn on a hunt for edible wild mushrooms! Now this was good stuff ... the old-timers in my family used to gather wild mushrooms, but I had never learned to do it myself.
Dan and his pals were extremely friendly, and did not seem to mind the intrusion. We didn't find any mushrooms that were fit to eat that day, but we did find some interesting things. At one point Dan suggested trying again next week, as mushrooms should be coming on. I suggested the week after next, explaining I’d be in Maine the following week. When Dan asked what I’d be doing in Maine, I replied somewhat obliquely that I’d be looking for moose. I didn't want to be mysterious, but at the same time, I didn't want to just come out and say I was going moose hunting because some people are offended or uncomfortable with the idea of hunting, and I was concerned my new companions might be put off. Quite the contrary, Dan explained he’d been wanting for a long time to hunt his own meat, but he didn't know anyone who could help him get started.
So, I helped Dan get started hunting whitetail deer. Dan helped me get acquainted with some wild plants I’d never collected before. Only a couple of months after that first meeting, I brought up the idea of developing DiningWild. For three years it was just something we talked about occasionally, off and on ... but we always took the idea pretty seriously, and finally, in late 2013, we decided to make it happen. At about this same time, Charlie was winding down his government service, and I realized he would be an ideal partner.
We really hope we can share some of the DiningWild experience with you, and we appreciate your interest.
Thanks and All the Best --- Ralph (& Dan & Charlie)