Seeing spots

Posted by crosenbl on April 2, 2009 

    What a night, I remember it well.

    It was 10 years ago, on a misty evening. My wife and I were living near Spruce Creek when a friend stopped by with an amazing tale. He had seen giant purple salamanders along the country road near our house. With yellow spots! On the pavement! No kidding!

   Uh-huh.

   Our skepticism came naturally, since it did happen to be April Fool's Day. And yet, we were curious. After he left, urging us to check out the monster amphibians, we grabbed flashlights and went to take a look, prepared to confirm our gullibility.

    He wasn't kidding.

   They dotted the road and shoulders, purple and spotted as advertised and about nine inches long, looking like dime store toys. Some, unfortunately, lay flattened, but others were crawling from a wooded hillside to the marshy banks of Warriors Mark Run. We helped as many as we could cross before walking back in the fog.

   The next night, we returned but our exotic neighbors had disappeared into their shadowy lives, their spring romancing done. We never saw them again.

    Now that I have two young sons who love nature, I hoped for a reunion. We couldn't go on a recent vernal pools tour in the Scotia barrens, so I organized a nocturnal expedition to the one-time salamander alley. No promises, I said to the boys, but maybe we'll hit the right night.

    We drove slowly up the road to the spot, so as not to squish anybody. It was all terribly exciting, parking in the dark but leaving the headlights on to ward off bears, shining beams on leaves and grass, listening to spring peepers and rushing water. But no salamanders. Then a light rain began to fall, our cue to leave disappointed.

   The trip wasn't a total washout, though. On the way back, we spied a skunk waddling along the highway. That was worth doubling back for another peek. It wasn't a polka-dotted fairytale refugee, that's for sure, but it made for a satisfying end to our little adventure. 

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