Newt Fondling Begins Now

We left our intrepid backpackers deep in the heart of Sproul State Forest. It turned out to be a bit colder than I expected - the overnight low was around 37 degrees - and before bed, I put on almost every layer I had brought along, including my long underwear.

I spent a comfortable night inside my tent, which seemed very luxurious indeed. I did hear some scrooching around next door, in the middle of the night, but my husband reported that his makeshift tent support system had worked out just fine. And in the morning, he didn't have much "taking down" to do. He simply untied the main string he'd hitched his tent to. Voila, easy up, easy down!

We spent a lazy morning by our campsite and I finished the book I'd brought along in the quiet of the woods. We had big plans for the day that included getting home in time to catch the Bookmobile at one of its Monday stops, as my husband had a book coming that he'd requested quite some time ago. So we would try, once again, to leave the woods and thread the needle to make it back to civilization, and get to the Bookmobile on time.

That would all come later in the day, though, and in the meantime, we decided to pack our gear and walk up the hill a bit to visit a little pond we know. This is the same pond where we saw a fisher; the same place that every spring is full of amphibian eggs.

The little pond is difficult to find, and I think I know why. Not unlike Brigadoon, the pond apparently moves around as it sees fit, and disappears from view (and reappears) whenever it wants to. We put our packs down and my husband walked around a bit and finally found it. We estimate that this time, it moved about a hundred yards to the LEFT of where it was last time we visited. Sneaky little thing: where will it end up next time?

I've shared pictures of the little pond before: how it looks in February, covered in ice; how it looks in springtime once it's thawed; how it looked the last time we were there. On this day, the ice was all gone and there were amphibian eggs in the water. Even better, the place was chock full of NEWTS!!!! Hallelujah!

The newts were very much engaged in the spring activities newts love best, which is to say politely that newt-love was in the air. They were very distracted and easy to catch. You know how I am. I try to resist fondling the wildlife, but in the midst of such an explosion of newts, I just couldn't keep my grubby paws to myself!

So the photo above shows me gently fondling a newt. I checked the time stamps on the pictures and it turns out the newt was subjected to my attentions for exactly 18 seconds. That's how long it took the newt to turn around, walk up my hand, and leap back into the water. It was an awesome encounter! (No, as you might have guessed, this wasn't my first newt rodeo.)

As wonderful as things were by the little pond, eventually it was time to leave, and so we packed our gear back on our backs and walked out. From there, we zipped down the road, heading for the Bookmobile, in hopes of catching it before it completed its final stop of the day.

I am happy to report that we made it! My husband parked his car in the parking lot of a nearby wetland and walked across the railroad tracks to the Bookmobile. Meanwhile, I stood around taking pictures of the tree swallows that were flying around the nesting boxes. You may see a photo of a pair of lovely blue tree swallows in the extras; I don't think I know of a shade of bird-blue that is prettier or shinier than theirs.

And then my husband returned, his arms loaded down with books and . . . what? several bags of bagels. I am sure he was not making it up, and there was no place else he could have gotten them. He reported there had been two bins of free stuff on the Bookmobile: one of bagels, and one of paperbacks. So he helped himself to both! Weird. I think we're going to have to start calling it the Bagel-Mobile.

And then we returned home: to unpack our gear, to take a much-needed hot shower, to get a bite to eat, for we were ravenous. And of course, to say hello to That Tabbycat, who'd been eagerly awaiting our return.

We are happy to report that the two missing items - my hiking boots and  my husband's tent poles - were discovered safely waiting for us at home in the garage. So what was lost had been found. Hooray, hooray, once more, we made it safely There and Back Again.  :-)

The soundtrack song to accompany this shameless photo of newt fondling is a Joan Jett tune: Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah).

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