Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Big gator beside the canal next to the road

On St. Patrick’s Day we left Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center in White Springs, Florida and drove about 50 miles to another park named after the famous composer. At the end of the road 17 miles from the nearest highway, Stephen C. Foster State Park in Fargo, Georgia is located in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge .

This is one of our favorite Georgia state parks and one we have returned to over and over through the years. There is just something I love about being surrounded by nature miles away from civilization.

The Okefenokee Swamp is one of North America’s most unspoiled natural wilderness areas. According to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge web page, “the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge has 353,981 acres of National Wilderness Area within the refuge boundaries.  In addition, the refuge is a Wetland of International Importance (RAMSAR Convention – 1971) because it is one of the world’s largest intact freshwater ecosystems.”

Indians who once lived in the area called it Okefenokee which roughly translated means “Land of Trembling Water.” The headwaters of the Suwanee River is located in the Okefenokee Swamp.

Going out in a boat is a great way to see the swamp but there is also plenty to see from land. All the photos in this post were taken as we walked around the campground, marina and on the Trembling Earth Nature Trail which starts at the marina. One section of the trail is a boardwalk through the swamp. This huge gator was sunning on a log beside the boardwalk.

Giant gator beside the boardwalk trail
Giant gator beside the boardwalk trail

The only man made waterway in the park is this canal which leads to the open water of the Okefenokee Swamp.

Canal leading into the Okefenokee Swamp
Canal leading into the Okefenokee Swamp

The canal runs beside the road and alligators are frequently seen sunning themselves on the bank or chilling in the water.

Alligator among the lily pads
Alligator among the lily pads

One of the other campers told me about baby alligators beside the road so off we went in search of baby gators.

Baby gator in the canal beside the road. Do you see the one in the water?
Baby gator in the canal beside the road. Do you see the one in the water?
Baby Gator on Lilly Pad
Baby Gator on Lilly Pad

Besides alligators, many other animals make their home in the Okefenokee.

White Tail Deer at dusk
White Tail Deer at dusk
Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey
Ibis in the swamp
Ibis in the swamp
Egret in the swamp
Egret in the swamp
Butterfly beside the trail
Butterfly beside the trail
Turtle swimming in the marina
Turtle swimming in the marina

Coming up in my next post – a ranger guided boat tour into the Okefenokee.

Smooth as Tennessee Whiskey

There is a line from the George Jones song “Tennessee Whiskey” that has been going through my head ever since we crossed the Tennessee State Line. It goes “You’re as smooth as Tennessee Whiskey”. There. Now it’s in your head, too.

Our first stop of our  fall trip was Barton Springs Campground, a TVA park in Normandy, Tennessee. We love waterfront camping so of course when I found this campground I made reservations for a site right on the water. The lake is down now during the off season but comes right in front of the campsite in spring and summer. This is a federal campground so you can use your Senior Pass to get a discount on your camping fee.

Sitting outside watching the lake was a great way to end the day after a 300 mile driving day which included going through Atlanta and Chattanooga. A doe and a fawn were across the lake grazing. A great blue heron stood on a point out in the lake. A couple launched their canoe and went for a paddle. And we were able to watch a pretty sunset.

Monday morning saw thunderstorms coming through the area. After breakfast we waited a little while for the rain to let up and then hopped in the truck to visit the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Jack Daniel was 13 years old when he bought his first still for $25. He developed the formula for his famous whiskey and the whiskey is still produced using the same formula and method. All the water used comes from an underground spring on the property, the barrels are still made by hand out of white oak, and the charcoal used for filtering the whiskey is made there from Sugar Maple wood. Jack was only 5 foot 2 and never married.

Our guide Janine told us the story of how Jack died. One morning Jack came to work early and tried to open the safe in his office. He was too impatient to wait for his nephew to arrive to open it so he kicked the safe and broke is big toe. He was too embarrassed to go to a doctor right away and when he finally saw one he had developed an infection which led to gangrene. He died as a result of this. It just goes to show you should never go to work early!

He left everything to his nephew shortly before prohibition shut all the distilleries down. His nephew opened a hardware store in town and made enough money to pay the property taxes every year. The distillery opened back up when prohibition was repealed.

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After our full day of sightseeing Blondie took a swim in the lake and we ended the day with a Single Barrel Jack on the rocks.

Before we left the next day I took Blondie for one last walk along the lake and enjoyed watching a Great Blue Heron and 2 Egrets. A great ending to our enjoyable stay at Barton Springs.

Staycation

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of staycation is “a vacation spent at home or nearby.”

There are so many fun things to see and do near where we live that we decided to stay home this summer instead of wandering in the RV. Here are just a few things we’ve enjoyed so far this summer.

Going for a boat ride
Going for a boat ride
Georgia Salt Marsh
Georgia Salt Marsh
Uninhabited Georgia Barrier Island
Uninhabited Georgia Barrier Island
Exploring a deserted sandbar
Exploring a deserted sandbar

Remembering our 2013 Travels

Happy New Year!! 2013 was a great year for wandering!

This year we checked off one of the biggest items on our bucket list: from May to September we made the trip of a lifetime to Alaska and back in our RV. In the fall we visited a beautiful COE park in West Point, Georgia. I’ve already posted about those trips in previous posts on this blog so here are a few photos from our January 2013 journey to south Georgia and North Florida.

We started 2013 with a short trip to three different parks. The first was Little Ocmulgee State Park in Helena, Georgia.

Our main destination was a week in the United States Forest Service campground in Salt Springs, Florida.

Our final stop was at one of our favorite parks, Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs, Florida.

So where do think we will be off to in 2014? Stay tuned for more.