After seeing the Okefenokee swamp on a dreary, rainy day, going back on Sunday in the bright sunshine was actually quite different. Oh there’s still the same wildlife, but everything just seems a little less foreboding, and having other folks out canoeing and enjoying the refuge area changes the atmosphere tremendously.
We chose to take the 90 minute guided tour as opposed to rowing ourselves around, from Okefenokee Adventures. They have all kinds of ways for you to explore the swamp, from renting canoes or kayaks to multiple day tours on the swamp! Our guide’s family had lived in the area for 7 generations and he knew all about the wildlife and the plant life, which would take an entire lifetime to become aware of, honestly, there are so many different species of animal and plants in the swamp!
Naturally, we came across a few gators during the trip.
What I love about that photo is that you can see just how black the water is. Look at the gators body, at the point where it goes from being out of the water, to under the water. You can’t see a thing! This is why they say for every gator or snake you see, there are 10 you don’t. You cannot see anything that is under the water here.
Of course, the hawks are really just as impressive when you get to really watch them do their thing out here too.
All in all, the tour was fun, educational and a great way to wrap up our time in Okefenokee before heading home!
Aside from a run-in with a snake, this state park, which is located very close to Waycross, GA, and basically across the street from the northern entrance to the Okefenokee Swamp (which is NOT the wildlife refuge, but the commercial part of the park, which has it’s own attractions, albeit of a different nature), was a lovely way to wrap up our Saturday.
First we hit the nature trail, which started out in among the long pines.
It then continued along some swampy areas, and Mirror Pond.
I’m guessing you can tell where the name Mirror Pond came from, no? 😉
After that hike, and the long day we had already had, not to mention the bug bites, (Oh good lord the bug bites! Even with bug repellant on I got chewed up pretty good in the swamp.), it was nice to just stop and watch the late afternoon sun over the lake.
The sunny late afternoon was a nice change from the rain earlier in the day and a precursor to what we were going to get on our return to Okefenokee for our boat ride. More on that in a future post!
The Procam app is currently available for free from the App Store. With the release of ProCam2, they are running the original version for free, and the new version at half-price for a limited time.
I downloaded the free version over the weekend and it seems like a handy tool that adds some much needed functionality to the standard camera software on the iPhone 5s.
Let’s face it. A free app that makes the camera on your iPhone more flexible is always a good thing.
After slogging through the rain all morning at Okefenokee, we were ready for lunch. Angela had read about a nearby town, Folkston, that had been on CBS This Morning and other programs because of it’s fame among rail fans around the country. Seems that all of the rail traffic going into and out of Florida has to go around all that swamp land, and it does so by being funneled through Folkston. Up to 75 trains a day pass through this little town, which must make it a noisy place, but they have embraced this reality and turned it into a community gathering place, complete with a watching platform, ceiling fans, wifi, picnic tables and a speaker that picks up the rail radio signals.
It was a little chilly by the time we finished our lunch, but we hung around for the next train to come through. With all it’s noise and clamor, the train gets everyone’s attention, but then again, that’s why you’re at the Folkston Funnel to begin with.
It was the kind of gathering place where I could see spending time in my retirement years. Going down to the platform, maybe with my radio to listen to a ball game, and watching trains go by.
They got out of the car to get a better view of the alligator, but the man unknowingly had stepped on a water moccasin that was on the side of the road.
In Okefenokee, they were quick to point out that for every gator you see, there are 10 you don’t see. I started thinking about how, if you remain completely focused on the one you see, trying to get the best photo of it, those 10 you don’t see might present a bit of a problem, let alone the snakes. The snake in the photo above was actually just underfoot as we walked along a trail. I heard it rustling in the debris before I ever saw it, and I suspect it was actually in the path, scurrying to get away from us when I heard it.
Today, when I saw this story, that was what came to mind. Capturing a photo of wildlife can be pretty exciting, but when you’re out there in their habitat, you probably want to pay attention to what’s going on around you too. You never know what else you might not see.
Then again, this advice goes double when traveling as well. Tourists with cameras who are trying to get the perfect photo are easy targets for criminals as well, because they aren’t paying attention to the other people around them. I’ve seen lots of people at tourist sites being careless with their stuff while getting a photo.
Be careful out there!
The rain that we encountered on Friday afternoon and evening, was predicted to stay for most of Saturday as well, but since it appeared that there might be some breaks between the bands of thunderstorms, we headed to Okefenokee anyway.
I’m glad we did. As our tour guide on Sunday would tell us, this is a National Wildlife Refuge, not to be mistaken with a park. What that means is that it is here for the wildlife, it is their environment and you are just visiting. Now, he told us that as a way to temper down expectations, because he couldn’t guarantee that we’d see anything, though we did.
But, prior to that, by virtue of being in the refuge during rainstorms, we got a really good idea of just how inhospitable and wild the swamp could be. Makes me wonder why anyone decided “yup, this is where we are going to live”, but then again, I am a city kid. This does not scream “let’s go live there” to me.
Then again, the rain meant we really had much of the area to ourselves, and gave us plenty of opportunities to see wildlife and the beauty of the swamp as well. In fact, as we were walking on that very boardwalk you see above, we could hear the alligators in the distance, making their rumbling vibrations in the water to warn off smaller gators. Then, as we took a pit stop during some heavy rainfall in a covered area, we heard it again, much, much closer.
We also were able to get out of the rain for a bit at the Chesser Homestead, and learn more about the people who made this area home. For instance, we learned that the “yard” of the homestead was kept without any growth for a very good reason. Not only did it look neater, but it made it easier to see creepy crawlies and snakes that might be nearby.
We also got very lucky, as we were driving by, we saw a heron on the side of the road, with it’s lunch, and an alligator keeping a very close eye on him hoping for his own lunch, maybe?
Of course, it didn’t rain the entire morning, we did get some views of the landscape and the wildlife without the rain before packing it in and heading to Folkston for lunch. With all the morning rain, we decided to come back in the morning, when it promised to be warm and sunny. More on those stops on future posts.
With a three day weekend upon us, and after my work having kept me away from home for a couple of weeks straight, the wife and I decided to go on a little adventure. We wanted to grab the camera gear and head down to the Okefenokee Swamp and see what sort of photo adventures we could find. With it being a good six hour drive though, we also made plans to make a detour so we could spend a little bit of Friday afternoon on St. Simons Island.
Fort Frederica has some historical importance, as it was the site of a battle between the English and Spanish, that guaranteed Georgia to stay in English hands. It had been a pretty debatable area before that. Now, there are a handful of ruins of the old fort available, but it is also just a lovely landscape, because of the ruins, and of course, the Spanish moss. (Ironic, no?)
Fortunately, the rain held off until after we had visited the Fort, and a local church yard and John Wesley Memorial Garden. It started down while we were on the beach, but it was just about time to get in the car and continue on to Waycross, which would be home base for the rest of the weekend.
You can see the rest of the photos from this stop over on Flickr!