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The Gearboat Chronicles

Fun with toads

The mural at the boathouse has Toad and his pals from the Wind in the Willows crew and I was reminded on our last Hells Canyon trip that the Winding Waters crew has something of a history with toads on the river.



Here’s Morgan. He found a toad on our last trip, hopping through camp at Tryon Creek. He seems pretty happy about it.


Touching toads doesn’t really give you warts, right?

Back when I started working for Winding Waters, we pulled into the boat ramp at Pine Bar on the Salmon River and I climbed up on top of the trailer to hand down our bags that had been riding on top of the rafts.

I heard Morgan call my name and turned to see him tossing a flat object in my direction. It was a toad. Or had been. This toad had apparently been in an altercation with the tire of a vehicle, and not fared well. It had been preserved well in the summer heat and was more or less mummified.

As Morgan has wide-ranging interests in the natural world, I assumed he was throwing this dead toad at me in the interest of sharing a scientific specimen.

I was worried he hadn’t had enough time to appreciate a sun-dried taxidermy specimen, and since I was just then getting ready to unload his bag, I thought he might appreciate having the toad around later for further study.

So, to be a good employee, I carefully wrapped the prize inside Morgan’s pillow so it wouldn’t be damaged in transit and he could easily find it later.

My plan was a success, because he did find it later, though he rolled out his sleeping bag and pillow in the dark and was not aware of my gift until laying down and feeling something scratchy on his cheek. He said it came as something of a surprise.

Morgan is such a great friend that he thought I might like to have the toad back, and we passed it back and forth like that for a while until almost coming to blows because we both thought the other should have it.

We found a record-sized crayfish on the last trip, which was so impressive it was a sure thing Morgan would want to see it.


There it is, in the photo above. That blue background is Morgan’s sleeping pad. He was busy doing camp stuff when we found the crawdad, so it seemed best to put it somewhere he would be sure to find it.

I guess he liked it, because later I picked up my shade hat and found a present Morgan had left me, also a specimen from the natural world. This was a complete snake shed, from a harmless racer, that Morgan had thoughtfully coiled under my hat for me to find. Here it is draped around my hat so you can appreciate the scale.


People sometimes ask what we do in camp for fun and I tell them bocce ball or horseshoes or ducky jousting or something, because not everyone shares our interest in studying biology like this. It’s very entertaining,  you just have to remember to check your pillow before turning in for the night.