The last bit of winter orange light evaporated from the western sky as I slipped the dive headlamp over my wetsuit hood. The light perched on top of my mask in a perfect spot to see who might be out on this cold winters night. The water looked clear from the surface, and during the day it would be, but the headlamp light reflects back from each of the tiniest of particles in the water and the beam shines through dilute milk to light up the bottom.
There’s not much to see initially. The view is very different due to the different lighting. Stands of rock weed look like deep sea black corals in the spotlight of a submersible. A single fish sticks its head from behind a rock. Some kind of minnow, a kind I haven’t seen here during the day. I explore the deeper crevasses hoping to see some more fish life, hoping to learn the night time Ecology, but only see more deep sea coral looking rockweed, and a single snail. I was just here yesterday in daylight and found an incredible abundance and diversity of fish, but there isn’t much out tonight. I head back downstream.
The cold started to set in and there wasn’t much to keep me in the water, but I decided to spend a little more time exploring this pool, searching. Winter night time snorkeling takes more preparation than a more normal trip and I wanted to maximize my time in the water. I’m glad I stayed. There on the bottom, wedged nose first under the upstream lip of a cobble, was a frog. Her banded hind legs were drawn up tight under her sides. For a minute I thought she might be dead. What was a frog doing out in barely above freezing water? Did she over winter here? Seemed like a pretty forceful flow for a frog to overwinter. Maybe the tradeoff was the oxygen rich water. The frogs nictitating membranes covered her eyes, and I wasn’t convinced she was alive. I really didn’t want to disturb the frog, but my curiosity won and I gently poked her hind quarters. She tucked tighter into the rock. The frog was definitely alive, and chose to spend at least this part of winter here, huddled on the bottom of this rapid. I watched the frog for a while, and tried to get a good shot without disturbing the amphibian any more than I already did. I got out of the water into the cold dark night. It was definitely worth the extra gearing up to experience the night time winter Principio. Even if it was colder than a frogs ass.