Growing up, I remember my mom’s tales of spring time in New Hampshire – roads slick with the smashed bodies of spring peepers; drivers navigating turns as if black ice covered the road. For some reason, these tales made me want to hear and see spring peepers. These tales also instilled a love of all cold blooded animals (the ones with four legs at least).
In third grade, I found a male box turtle that I named Boxer. Not knowing how to care for box turtles, I decided the best plan of action was to call the Philadelphia Zoo and ask their reptile experts. The zoo’s employees were quite helpful and for the next four years I kept three box turtles: Boxer, Shelly and Mr. Dinosaur.
The turtles hibernated in the leaf pits, swam in a foil tray of water and ate bugs and ground beef. Eventually they escaped their enclosures to return to the woods directly behind my house. At about this time in my life, I began noticing the opposite sex and my interest in cold blooded companions waned but never disappeared.
Never did I want to risk the life of a delicate creature such as a frog, toad or tadpole until my wedding day. I was mowing my parent’s lawn in the morning and I found a three legged toad. Unsure what accident befell this small fellow, I decided an appropriate name was Moe. He lived with my wife and I in a terrarium for six years.
As an adult, I feel I now spend more time in the woods than I did as a child. Weekly my daughter and I go to the farmer’s market and then on a woodland expedition/adventure (expedition if it’s raining, adventure if sunny). We venture many places around our town: Bear Meadows, Little Flat Top Mountain, and The Kombucha Water Place (the spring on Three Bridges Trail) to name a few. One day in April, she and I ventured to Bear Meadows.
Bear Meadows is a fen wetland surrounded by mountains. I enjoy hiking and trail running around the wetland. Low- and high-bush blueberries grow along the trail and through the fen. The rocky trail stays wet for long periods of time resulting in some pretty epic muddy spots. The most beautiful view in all of Pennsylvania is standing on the bridge at Bear Meadows facing the fen while the sun is setting over Little Flat Top mountain.
On this particular April day, the noise from the spring peepers was physically-hurting-your-ears loud. The video above does not do justice to the cacophony. As we walked by the vernal pond, the peepers closest to us would quiet until we passed.
Two weeks later, we were again on an adventure, only this time to the large pond in the Scotia Game Lands. She and I have seen a family of geese, heard woodcocks, and caught salamanders at this pond. However, on this day, our normal salamander spot had been taken over by hundreds of tadpoles.
Seeing or hearing frogs and toads always makes me smile, bringing me back to my childhood and reading all the Frog and Toad stories. For some reason, the image of Toad covered in melting ice cream with two horns of waffle cone is etched in my memory. My daughter now enjoys the stories, not yet reading them to herself but pointing out the letters she knows – P, W, O, M, T, S.
Reading these stories to my daughter allows me to relive my childhood, only to rediscover how special my childhood really was.