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Floating Over Swamp Monsters


Greetings from Folkston, Georgia,

We kayaked in the Okefenokee Swamp.  It was scary at first, I won't lie.  But I would do it again.


We are camped at Okefenokee Pastimes Campground which is directly across the road from the Eastern entrance to Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.





It was a real short drive to get here from our stay at Moon Shine Acres  RV Resort in Fort White, Florida.  

We stopped at an Anytime Fitness for a couple hours so I could do my PT and strength exercises.  Steve fixed us a nice salad in the trailer for lunch.

We got to our destination in time to pull our trikes out of the truck and ride down the Suwanee Canal road to the Okefenokee visitor's center.  



It was closed early due to staffing shortages, but the staffer/ranger let us in and said we could look around as she closes up.  I used up her closing up time asking where we could launch our kayaks and was there a trail for us to follow.

She was very nice and helpful and marked up the map we could take.  "It is beautiful," she said, "There are lots of flowers."

We then rode our trikes down swamp road to an overlook. The road sign told us the road would close at six.  We didn't have time to dawdle.

We saw a couple raccoons, deer, two snakes, and a red cockaded woodpecker.  The woodpeckers are endangered.  The trees they nest in are marked with a white paint ring around the trunk of the tree.  We saw a lot of white rings.  We learned later that this is the largest concentration of that woodpecker in ???  The population is large here considering the number of white rings.

At the end of the road was a 3/4 mile boardwalk and an observation tower.









On our first full day we set the alarm so we could be up and get the kayaks in at sunrise.  But I didn't hardly sleep so I was foggy and we got on the water about an hour late.  

I was hoping the animals would still be active.  We saw lots and heard lots of birds, frogs, and...

As we were paddling down this narrow stream keeping our eyes out for gators, we heard this ominous low rumbling.  First from the left, then from the right.  Sometimes it sounded like it was originating from just 10 feet away on the other side of some tall grasses.

It is gator mating season and they were calling out to a mate and signaling strength to their competitors. 

Yikes!  I said to myself as I paddled forward in front of Steve, "I should just feel the fear and do it anyway." Sometimes the path was so narrow our paddles touched the sides. Steve commented that the ranger talked about flowers and beauty but never mentioned giant gator mating season.

We saw a gator laying sideways in the stream.  How would we get by?  As I slowly paddled forward, the gator just sunk down, leaving little bubbles on the surface marking where it had been.  

I was paddling slowly over it when Steve told me to paddle faster, he was right behind me.  We were amazed and awed.  We ended up paddling over the top of three more gator (that we knew about) that day.  

And the ranger was right, it was beautiful and there were lots of flowers.



We saw a couple hawks, a hawks nest with babies.  We saw two fledgling Barred Owls.  




There is only one place to disembark on the trail.  A dock with a pit toilet.  There we both relieved ourselves and ate our lunch.





These carnivorous pitcher plants are a subspecies that only grows in the Okefenokee.  Giant hooded?  We learned this later when we took a guided boat tour.


We also learned that both the male and the female gator rumble.  The deeper rumble comes from the bigger gators.

This video I found on YouTube is better than any we tried to record.  We didn't actually see any gators rumble.

It got hot before we finished our 8-mile kayak paddle.  We got off the water at noon.

Now the visitor center was open but we were tired and thirsty.  We went back to camp to eat a frozen fruit smoothy.  I did laundry and Steve washed the front of the truck and went and got groceries.  

We went on a guided motor boat tour the next morning.  I learned a lot... but don't remember much of it.  

The Okefenokee Refuge is 630 square miles.  It is situated on an ancient basin that was ocean floor.  That the water is as acidic as orange juice with a pH of three.  The bottom is covered in peat which is years and years of decaying plant matter.  And sometimes a chunk rises to the top of the water and creates an island.  Eventually the island is joined by other floating islands.  Some are strong enough to support trees!  The word Okefenokee is native American for "Land of the trembling earth".

It is an amazing place and is working to become a World Heritage Site.


I also learned that the last human fatality due to an alligator attack in the Okefenokee was in 1937.  I felt safer and Steve and I started talking about returning to do an over-night kayak ride someday.

After our boat ride we went to the visitors center and got some children's books for Erin's (Steve's daughter) classroom.

We also got a bird book for us to keep in the camper.   It will come in handy.



After lunch we decided to drive to the northern entrance to the Swamp.

Omg!  It was so different t and I really don't recommend it unless you have small children.  It is like a very scaled down version of Busch Gardens... very scaled down.

It is a private company kind of park with a $16 per senior entrance fee.  There is no boat launch.  But a train ride if you want to pay another $32.  But they don't sell the tickets at the boat launch, you have to go to the gift shop.  AND, you can't buy tickets after 3:45 and we found this out at 3:46.

But we saw some interesting stuff.  Lots of pretty dragon flies.  And the cross section of a tree that was over 700 years old when it was cut.




Joe was excited to see some gators his size there.  And posed for a picture with the taxidermy of Old Roy, the former resident gator.







The town nearby was home to the creator of the Pogo cartoon.



On our way back to camp we stopped in Folkston and checked out a Railfan Park.  We were curious, I thought it would be an old rail yard with old retired cars and engines.  But no, it was a platform with chairs overlooking the double track in town.  It is a block away from a rail museum.  Steve noticed that there were speakers and we could hear the train radio.  Pretty cool!.  Across the tracks from us were some cute little cabins and a rail car turned into a rental.  





We supported the local economy by eating at a Mexican restaurant in town.  

Today I took the truck to Folkston to the Anytime Fitness.  I was there about 2.5 hours.  I did some cardio and then was doing my PT exercises when a woman walked in and said that yoga was starting at nine and I was welcome to join them.  So I did!   Donna was telling me how she doesn't think the swamp brings in revenue to Folkston.  I told her, I came to the area to see the swamp and that we ate at a restaurant last night and I planned on doing some shopping today.  

I then mentioned the Railfan Park and she said she thought that brought in more revenue to the town.  People come and stay in the cabins, visit the restaurants and shop.

She told me a little about Folkston, a small town with a high school with 400 students yet 80 of them are in band.  The band wins awards and their sports teams go to state and sometimes win state.

I felt very welcome and decided after class to mail them a copy of my book as a thankyou.

When I got back to the trailer I was making a salad.  Steve had biked over to the Wildlife Road again and to the overlook.  Near that is the Chesser Homestead Farm.  He called and said he met a volunteer there and she's full of information and a hoot.  She is a descendent of the Chesser family and a descendent of the guy that started the Star Trek media franchise, Gene Roddenberry.  She said that one time he came to a family reunion and brought Spock with him.  That caused quite a stir in the small town of Folkston!

Anyway, I decided to drive down and meet her... and since it was 93 degrees, give Steve a ride back to camp in the air conditioned truck.  

Her name is Shirley. She told me the grass below is Bear Grass.  It is stringy and strong and used as a rope by the Chesser family to hang meat when they were smoking it in the smoke house.


A wide birth around the home is kept clean of most grasses as a fire break.  She was using a hoe to scoop up clumps of grass. 

There was a pump next to a claw-foot bathtub.


Tomorrow we head to our next destination north east of here, a full day of driving. But if this heat keeps up it will be good to be by the coast.  

Tomorrow is also our 18 month anniversary as a couple.  That makes me smile.  We were both married 41 years when our spouses died.  Now we are starting the count over again. 

In the meantime, you stay well and thank you, thank you for the comments and the emails.  It means a lot to me.  Remember if you do leave a comment, give your name or initials. If you aren't signed into Google, you are anonymous to me.  You can comment anonymously if you want... 

OH!  And Jeremy (my son) is still looking for employment.  So if you hear of anything in the Madison, WI area, let me know.  And keep the positive thoughts and prayers coming.  Gracias!

Comments

  1. What a fun adventure. Fred and I visited the Okeekenofee Swamp back in the 1970s. Your photos show a lot of changes that make it more accessible and interesting to visit Thanks for all the neat pictures - and the descriptions of your adventures.

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    Replies
    1. You have done a lot of traveling. It seems everywhere we go, you have been there and enjoyed it. We hope to still be enjoying it in our 80's.

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  2. What a great read and adventure! Happy Anniversary! Continue to enjoy each day!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for trippin' with us, Beth. I think of you when I see a sun rise.

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  3. Adventures abound. I think I would like to visit the Okefenokee swamp. Thanks for sharing and keep on having fun. Kathi

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  4. Enjoyed your report. As usual, I'm totally amazed that after a day's activities you're able to sit down and write all that happened. How on earth do you remember it all? Hmm, or maybe you're speaking to record things on your phone as the day progresses?

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    Replies
    1. It's the pictures that jog my memory. Thanks for traveling with us, John.

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  5. So glad you and Steve are enjoying your travels. Gary in hospital they are still doing test. Safe travels! Linda

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  6. Connie Tice. What a great trip I so appreciate your new discoveries and the pictures. Congratulations on your anniversary and I’m so happy you’ve both found traveling buddies.

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  7. Glad you are having so much fun. I get starting the count over, we made our 10th this year!!! Doesn't seem possible. We got flowers planted around the house yesterday and my 3 tomato plants. Keep on trucking and biking! Seeester Sue!

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  8. Hi Susan….thank you so much for your great review of our little town. It was a pleasure to meet you at yoga. I found the book and thought one of my friends had left it for me. My sister in law has advanced dementia and I’m her legal and medical advocate. I have 24/7 caregivers for her. My brother died suddenly 2 years ago and her condition nosedived dramatically. It’s been a challenging time for me to watch her decline. I found your note in the book that night and realized I had met you at yoga. I shared all of this and your review in class on Tuesday. I’ll pass around the book and then we will donate it to our local library. Looking forward to following along on your adventures…
    Donna

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    Replies
    1. Donna, thank you so much for letting me know the book arrived and into the right hands!

      I thought someone in the circle of yoga friends and town fans would be in a situation of caring for someone with dementia. There are so many of us current, past, and future dementia caregivers.

      It is often a very long journey. I am glad you have others helping you. It is impossible in most cases to do it on your own and survive with your own health in tact. I am glad you are taking care of yourself.

      Bless you and your classmates, NAMASTE!

      Delete

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