Paul, Rosie, and the frog pond: Adventure in the PA Wilds
“So, today’s lesson is about ponds, Paul,” I said as I turned on the laptop. “Let’s see what kind of animals live in ponds.”
“Frogs, and fish, and bugs,” Paul guessed.
My son has been in virtual school for his entire first grade year. This is, obviously, because we’re a year into the COVID pandemic. Paul, at age six, is handling this about as well as you’d figure a child would handle twelve months of a nationwide crisis. He’s been very good about staying home and wearing his mask, but lately, he’s beginning to show some anxiety. We’ve had a few nightmares and crying spells.
“You know,” I said,” Bald Eagle State Park has a really nice frog pond. We took you there when you were three, but I don’t think you remember. Would you like to go tomorrow if it’s nice out?”
“Yeah!” he said. “Can we bring Rosie?”
Rosie is a four-month-old black lab puppy and our partial solution to Paul’s anxiety. We got her a month ago, and she’s been Paul’s constant companion and best friend. Paul is still feeling afraid and hurt, but having Rosie around helps considerably.
“Of course we can bring Rosie,” I said.
The next day was a Sunday, a pleasant day, and my family got into the Prius and drove down to Bald Eagle State Park—Rosie included.
Bald Eagle State Park is in Centre County, along the I-80 Frontier. It’s got a nice lake created by the Sayers Dam, a lot of excellent forest and camping areas, and some kid-friendly hiking trails. If you’re looking for an enjoyable day with the family, it’s an excellent choice.
“Wow, what’s with the water?” my wife asked as we drove in.
“I’m not sure,” I said.
There was a lot less of it than usual. The water level of the lake had gone down drastically since the last time I’d seen it, as part of an annual flood prevention project. There’s a place where they put the lake over the road, so under ordinary circumstances, you can see the road going straight down underwater and coming up on the other side. I’d never seen it all the way across before.
It was like something in an apocalypse movie. We got out and walked down along the ruin of the road, looking at the dried mud and exposed rocks. Paul kept stopping to question it.
“Would I be underwater right here?” he asked, stopping on the rocks. “Are you telling me that Rosie and me would be underwater if we stand here?”
“That’s about right,” I told him. “We’ll bring you back this summer, when it’s at the normal level, and you can see.”
Then we went up to the frog pond. I love the frog pond at Bald Eagle. Just a short walk from the parking area is a large pond, and it’s full of life. As we approached, we could hear the birds, bugs, and frogs making noise along the edge.
“You hearing this, Paul?” I asked him. “How many frogs do you think that is?”
“That’s just a tape,” he assured me.
“No, that’s real frogs,” I said. “If you walk along the edge, you might see one.”
I took Rosie’s leash—any Labrador will immediately try to jump in the water if you’re not careful—and we walked along. We managed to see frogs, water spiders, and a couple of salamanders. All of which Rosie would cheerfully have eaten, if I hadn’t hung onto the leash pretty tight.
We spent about an hour out there, which cheered Paul up considerably. And he learned a bit about pond life, too, supplementing what he’d learned online. If you have to go through a year-long pandemic, you’re lucky if you live in a place like the Pennsylvania Wilds, with these outdoor opportunities.
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