Note: I am not sure this will post since our Internet is very weak to non-existent. I am keeping my fingers crossed that it will go through…
Yesterday, we bundled up LeuC and drove just an hour north. Our next stop was the State of Georgia’s Stephen Foster State Park which is situated smack dab in the middle of the largest blackwater swamp in North America. To get here, we had to drive up a two-lane road that was marked as “dead end” as soon as you turned onto it. It went on for 16 miles. We are located where the little blue dot is shown below.
Once we were on this dead-end road we passed through a rolling security gate which marked the beginning of the Okefenokee National Refuge. The swamp is mainly enclosed within this national refuge which protects this remarkable preserve for future generations. It also protects the various species which reside here including 621 species of plants, 39 types of fish, 37 kinds of amphibian, 64 species of reptile, 234 types of bird, and 50 mammal species.
Wildlife species include wading birds such as herons, egrets, ibises, cranes, bitterns. Other animals include raccoons, river otters, bobcats, red foxes, boars, minks, white-tailed deer, gray foxes, striped skunks, toads, frogs, turtles, lizards, snakes, woodpeckers and songbirds. The most notorious animals that the Okefenokee Swamp is renown for are its Florida black bears and tons of alligators.
We quickly knew we were heading into the deep, dark, dangerous, forbidden nether regions of this dismal swamp when we spied a very long snake slivering across our path. It was black with bright green bands. We had never seen this type of snake before and had to move over to the other lane to miss running over it. Yep, we were now in their world, not ours!
Many swampy miles later, we drove onto a low sandy island which is the state park we would be staying at. It is an isolated haven of relative safety in the heart of the swamp. It is covered with tall yellow pines, a few hardwoods and ringing around it are numerous swamp cypress trees covered with Spanish moss.
The ranger station was closed and abandoned so we made our way to the campground and squeezed LeuC into a site that was long enough but was narrow due to the tall pine trees around it. It was the first site we could squeeze into. We did not want to go deeper into the campground because the road we were on was very narrow and curvy. We had to ease our way past some pine trees just to get to this site. There is hardly anyone camping here this time of the year so it looked to us that we had our pick of the sites.
Once we leveled LeuC and put out her slides, I returned to the ranger station to see if I could find the park ranger and check in. When I did find her, I learned that there were some other sites we could have had that are for large rigs such as LeuC but in a different part of the campground. I opted to stay put since we were now all set up and comfy.
When I returned to Mary Margaret and LeuC, we discovered that the Internet was ephemeral. At times we could barely get one bar of strength but most of the time there was no coverage. We had not given it a thought as we drove in but it really makes sense since we are ringed by the national refuge which would not allow cell towers to be built. We must be around 15 to 20 miles from the nearest tower. Plus, with our campsite site in the middle of a pine forest, we have no satellite coverage. It reminds us of being back on our sailboat, out in the middle of the ocean. Since we lived for 10 years without TV and iffy Internet coverage, it is not a really big deal to us.
Today, I went to the ranger station to see if I could buy some firewood. While there, I went for a walk along the boardwalk they have built which allows you to go about a ½ mile out into the swamp. I took a number of pictures and will try posting them once we have good Internet so you can get an idea of what I saw. During my walk, I came across two white-tailed deer munching on some ferns just 50 feet from me. Since they are protected, they were not scared and just gazed while I watched and took pictures. So cool!
As I made my way back to land and the ranger station, I passed by a small boat basin where you can rent little skiffs to go fishing. Smack in the middle of the boat basin was a 12 to 13-foot long alligator just floating on the surface, soaking up the sun. Whoa! He was a monster!
Tomorrow, Mary Margaret and I hope to take a boat tour of the Okefenokee Swamp. I will be sure to take our camera!