It was 6 A.M. somewhere in New York. Taro was driving, and the new sun was already stabbing my eyes through the trees. The winding mountain road comforted me even as my stomach growled; my best friend and I were going to the Catskills, and I felt relaxed and alive. “You want to try some?” Taro asked, holding out a spoonful of chia seed oatmeal.
“Thanks.” I took the spoon and put the dense, cream-colored fluff in my mouth, raised my eyebrows at its curious gelatinous texture and just as I was deciding how I felt about it—
“I love chia seeds. They satisfy my desire to eat frog eggs,” Taro said in a sincere voice. I stared at them.
“What?” Seconds ago, the oatmeal had been strange but neutral on my tongue; now it morphed into something rather upsetting. I gulped it down, quenching a rising shudder and a gag.
“Yes,” they said. “Whenever I see frog eggs I want to eat them. Don’t you?”
I didn’t know if I had ever seen frog eggs in person, but I did know what to say. “No.” And as far as unborn amphibians went, I thought that was the end of it for the day.
Hours later, however, we were strolling through evergreens on a moss-lined muddy path about half a mile from the summit of Hunter Mountain when Taro stopped and bent to examine the trail. I stopped too, didn’t see much. My best friend is an ecology nerd, and we’d been identifying plants and birds and talking to small animals all morning. So I waited for this one.
“These frog eggs are drying up,” they said. “I need to get them to water!”
I squinted, and sure enough there were several translucent, squishy-looking sacs that glistened, all lumped together like rocks and filled with small green orbs, cradled in mud that was crusting into dirt under the hot sun. Although it was supposed to rain later, the eggs weren’t safe where anyone could step on them. Some of the globes looked more opaque than others, and according to Taro, these were probably already dead. Their words twisted my heart a little.
Before I knew it, they were peeling a sac off the ground and I was following suit, fearing the gel-like substance would come undone in my hands but it didn’t. I cupped it and followed Taro to a little pond just off the trail, where we gently plopped the eggs, then went back for the rest. Afterwards, the residue dried on my skin so I didn’t take a pond picture, and all day I just wanted to wash my hands but the stuff smelled like dirt, smelled kinda good if I’m being honest.
I don’t have much else to say except that’s why everyone should hike with a nerd like Taro sometime, and also that’s how I had two encounters with amphibian eggs in one day—slightly more than I wished, perhaps. I mean, would I transport the things again? Heck yeah. But on that day, hold the chia seed oatmeal.
Thanks so much for reading! If you want to learn more about the local lives of frogs and toads, check out this Taro-approved resource: https://www.paherps.com/herps/frogs-toads/
Taro with a friend
Frog eggs pic, taken by Taro