Every year about this time my wife looks at me and says "We NEED to go camping!" A moment later she is on the computer looking up campsites and booking reservations for our favorite campground. Our annual spring camping trip has become a tradition and for us its a sure sign that winter is officially behind us and we are looking forward to summer.
This past weekend we packed the kids in the car, loaded up all the pre-arranged camping gear and took off to the beach. Our destination: a special campground we have visited every year for ten years. It is a place where my wife and I have camped before the kids. A place where both kids have cut their teeth as babies. A place that when we think of camping is the first place we look at. In short it is a place we consider our own. Even if every other site is booked solid for two months, it a place we feel at home.
This year despite our many attempts to snag a prime tent site next to the sand dunes, we ended up getting a spot near the back. We typically avoid these spots because at certain times of the year the mosquitoes can literary carry you off into the jungle, tie you up, and rob you of every ounce of blood you own. Luckily for us the mosquitoes stayed mostly to themselves and as it turns out the beach side sites took most of the pounding that the weather handed out throughout the weekend. For us it was a different scenery than we were typically use to and the kids loved it.
A few years ago I read a great book written by William Henry Hudson titled Green Mansion
s. The 1904 masterpiece follows a rich Spanish man as he flees after a revolution and disappears into the jungle to find a mystical world. Surrounded by the mysterious palm frond and pine forest one gets the feeling they are living in the midst of the very same setting as the book.
Backed up against a swamp with waters black from decayed foliage and bordered large by large palms, we were lulled to sleep by frogs and a gentle breeze through the trees. Night two however was a completely different story. We had known that a storm front was on the way and one quick look at the forecast and the radar and we knew we where in for a rough night. Battening down the hatches the night before, we settled down like Noah before the flood.
After a night of constant rain and sorting out wet sleeping bags and soaked clothing, we were glad we could have a day free of rain. In order to get out of the girls way and give them a few hours to relax, my brother-inlaw and I decided to take the kids on a nature hike.
Off we set on a beautiful 3 mile trek through the forest looking for birds, deer, and any other curious thing that crossed our path.
These mushrooms looked briliant on a background of black soil but when you got down to their level and took a bugs eye view the true beauty of them really showed up.
This was just one of the many frogs that visited us throughout the weekend. The night of rain really got them hopping and more than once we heard them as they blindly hopped into the side of our tent.
As if to top it off when we got back to camp and after a light lunch we were lucky enough to have a deer wonder from the black waters and into our camp. More than likely this deer has gotten use to handouts and with what looked like a baby on the way she was probably hopping we would oblige her. I had to explain to the kids that hand feeding wild creatures is never a good idea for us humans and even more so for them. We were content to observe her quiet movements as she munched on the swamp grasses before heading back into the forest.
In the end it was another great trip. The weather didn't permit much time on the beach and even if my two hours braving the wind and the surf casting a line failed to net ant fish we all had a great time. All that is left now is the unpleasant task of unpacking and drying out all our equipment. Today the kids return to school, My wife and I head off to work, but we all have the memories of yet another successful spring camping trip to our special place.
That's not just any old toad, that's an Eastern Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus holbrookii)! They're not often seen except after heavy rains between April and July which trigger their explosive breeding congregations. Some years don't see them emerge to breed because the conditions aren't to their liking. In my 20+ years of chasing amphibians and reptiles in the South, I've never been lucky enough to stumble onto Spadefoots. Very cool find... wish I could have been there to see it.
Loved this post. Nicely done Joel.
Wonderful post. I feel like I was there. Also amused by Jay's comment above. My brother is a herpetologist. They get excited about toads and such. But I think it's cool you saw a Spadefoot!
Thank you for letting us into great weekend.
Great family stuff.
That deer like people.
Hey Joel. Fun weekend. I recall from years of wandering the Everglades that the deer were not very big. The several I saw in that time were about the size of a German Shepard.
Wonderful photos! Looks as if a good time was had.
Joel, you're like Clear Cure Goo. Is there anything you can't do? Beautiful photos...I love frogs.
JAY - That's great news. I'm always interested in reading about the species we find. The kids will be excited to learn about it as well.
Kevin & Jay - thanks for comments. It was a great trip and the discovery of the rare frogs is just icing on the cake.
Anonymous - thanks.
BrkTrt & Mark - the deer had very little fear of people that's for sure. As for the size, Mark you are right on. They certainly are not anything like a Midwestern corn fed deer. These guys are swamp deer and around 125lbs is about as big as they get.
Bill - it sure was.
Howard - I can't tie a deer hair bass bug to save my life. Stacking that hair is impossible!! Other than that...... No. I can do anything. :-)
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