Toads in Time
by Darcy Kamps
On occasion, there are events, places, or experiences that stick in our mind. They become a benchmark of sorts, helping us organize our memories. Frequently there is nothing extraordinary about these events except that for some reason, they were exceptional to us. Although Toads in Time wasn't the actual name of this cache, it benchmarked a great life lesson learned together while geocaching.
That year, I had wanted to do something alone, something special with each of our sons during their spring vacation, and since we weren't in the Bahamas for Spring Break, our next best option would be geocaching. Here in Wisconsin, we meet spring like we meet most seasons: armed with both sandals and parkas, ready for either equally likely weather possibility. Luckily, it was unseasonably warm, and my youngest and I hopped in the car comfortable in our blue jeans and t-shirts, hope and excitement mingling with the spring air in anticipation of finding hidden treasure.
I had picked a cache less than ten miles from our home for two reasons. First, I didn't want William to lose interest before we arrived at our destination (a good idea for young cachers--and those who have a proclivity toward carsickness). Second, my curiosity was piqued when I saw the description of this cache site. It was so close to our home. We had driven by it dozens of times. We had sat at soccer games for hours on end less than half a mile away. Could this idyllic little spot be right under my nose and I never knew it? (There's a geocaching lesson if ever there was one! But that's another story...)
There was a sign near the road indicating the park--part of a watershed in our area. We meandered half a mile down the sloping gravel drive and parked the van. I brought up the cache on our trusty GPS (a Garmin eTrex) and handed it over to William. There are so few times when the youngest member of the family gets to be the leader. He accepted the responsibility with a seriousness common to him, but uncommon for one so young. He knew how to follow the arrow to the cache and did a great job directing us--until we found the toads.
We started down the wide mown pathway leading away from the parking lot. Willow trees gently draped the path, leaving an aura of mystery. I instantly feel transported to another time--this unpretentious rambling piece of the Midwest looks as though time and technology have completely passed it by.
The first thing I notice (okay, I admit it helped that the cache had a very specific description) is that within 50 yards of leaving our car, we're standing in the middle of several spring-fed ponds. In fact, as I pause for William to tie his shoe (a perpetual activity for small boys too proud for Velcro), it's actually possible to hear the trickle-bubble of fresh-water springs. Willows, bubbling springs, spring in the air--and what's that? Oh my goodness, a symphony--no, a cacophony--of toads! We actually hear them--dozens, maybe hundreds of them--before we see them. The cache is instantly usurped by these small creatures.
Distracted, William and I wander around enjoying the area for quite awhile, and when we do decide to get a'huntin', he is no longer interested. This is fine with me. We are close to the cache when he finds a sitting rock--just his size--in the middle of a shallow area of water. He kicks off his shoes and rolls up his pants, playfully splashing in the cold spring water while I hunt the cache near a tree the size of my mini-van.
As I extract the cache from this ancient tree, I look over at my son and realize that the picture in my mind at this very moment is the real cache. A wide ray of sun shines down on this treasure as he splashes. It bathes him in timeless golden light. Toads are playing with him--as he plays with them--each seeing how close they can get to the other before they get caught.
I'm overwhelmed that we have this moment. It is caught in time--benchmarked in my memory, and brought to us by the sport of geocaching. That's why we cache: because the joy really is in the journey.
When she's not pursuing additional education in Ultrasound Technology, Darcy
Kamps spends her time juggling hats and putting out fires. She drives a
mini-van but has never been in the PTA, loves to cook but hates to clean up,
and loves to plant but frequently forgets to harvest. She hopes to graduate
before her children.
Originally published on November 15, 2007.