At 5:00 a.m., thick morning haze slowly gives way to daylight. In an area of the Pioneer burn designated for commercial morel picking, charred trees dot the forest. The ground is a mix of black ash and new plant life.
Siong Lee of central California walks through the forest, eyes downcast. He is looking for something very specific: morel mushrooms.
Lee and his picking partner spread out from each other, but stay in touch over walkie talkies, speaking their native language of Hmong.
Minutes go by without a single mushroom. Then . . .