You would be forgiven if you should choose to hide indoors when the weather outside of your home's front door turns downright chilly. Come to think of it, why would you opt to venture outside when that comfy living room couch is so inviting?
Consider this: The winter season's pipe-busting temperature sounds the death knell for pesky creatures such as ticks and chiggers. That opens an opportunity for you to venture a little off-trail when you go on a forest hike. This is the time of the year to go in search of a very strange-looking mushroom.
Most mushrooms are here one day and gone the next. I am going to tell you about a mushroom that is a permanent feature of the landscape. It grows on the side of living trees and is to be found at a level at about the height of your kneecap. It grows exclusively on black locust trees, so if you're skilled at winter tree identification, so much the better.
My favorite name for this mushroom is horse hoof conk. Not surprisingly, it looks very much like an equine foot. Very few people even know this fungus exists. Once you find it, you will almost assuredly want to bring your family and friends back to that site on a return visit or two. It's a neat-looking fungus. It is a fungus that will bring a smile to your face. That is an experience you'll want to share with others.
Neil Garrison was the longtime naturalist at a central Oklahoma nature center. His email is email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Nature & You: Chilly weather is an opportune time to venture outdoors