Into the Okefenokee Swamp

Big Cypress trees in the Okefenokee
Cypress trees in the Okefenokee
Cypress trees in the Okefenokee

We enjoyed walking around the marina and going on the nature trail at Stephen C. Foster State Park in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge but we wanted to be in a boat to really experience the swamp. On one of our visits a few years ago we rented a canoe to paddle into the swamp and another time we rented a boat to venture even farther into the swamp. On our most recent trip in early spring we decided to take a ranger guided boat tour.

As we glided through the man made canal our guide pointed out the baby alligators and their mother Sophie who was keeping a close watch on her babies. Her mate Zeke was no where to be found.

Sophie the Mama Gator
” Sophie the Mama Gator

As the boat exited the canal we entered the big water of Billy’s Lake where we were about six miles from the headwaters of the Suwanee River. The water here gets up to six feet deep, much deeper than the average depth of two feet.

It was a beautiful day to be on the water and we saw a few other people out on the water.

It was a beautiful day for kayaking
It was a beautiful day for kayaking
A kayaker goes around the bend deeper into the swamp
A kayaker goes around the bend deeper into the swamp
Which way do we go?
Which way do we go?

Our guide took us through the narrow waterway toward Minnie’s Lake. In some places the water was barely wide enough for the 24 foot Carolina Skiff. As we ventured farther into the swamp it was as if we had stepped back in time to a prehistoric age. We were miles from civilization in this incredibly wild place.

Boats had to navigate around this cypress tree
Boats had to navigate around this cypress tree

It is estimated that the alligator population in the swamp is about 20,000. We saw quite a few as we went along. It was mating season and I wondered if this gator was trying to attract a mate.

Huge alligator showing us his teeth
Huge alligator showing us his teeth

Another gator was behind a huge cypress tree.

Do you see the alligator behind the Cypress tree?
Do you see the alligator behind the Cypress tree?

And there were young ones sunning on a log.

Young gators enjoying the sunshine

There are many species of wildlife besides alligators. While we didn’t see any raccoons, opossums, turtles, or bears, we did see a few birds out searching for food.

Egret in the Okefenokee
Egret in the Okefenokee
Snowy Egret in the Okefenokee
Snowy Egret in the Okefenokee

After our incredible few days in the Okefenokee it was time to return back to civilization and the real world.

Good Eats, Hot Sauce, and rain in Cajun Country

After a rough ride traveling west in Louisiana on the worst section of I-10 in the United States we arrived at Poche’s Fish N Camp in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana for a couple of days. The campsites are arranged around a large fishing pond lined with Cypres trees. Most of the sites have a paved pad, full hookups, and WiFi. There are several ponds for fishing, a clubhouse, swimming pool, and laundry. The staff was great. Many thanks to them for recommending Fun in the Sun RV Repair to repair our heater and many thanks to the repairman who came out in the rain the same day we called him and got it fixed.

It rained off and on the whole time we were there so we couldn’t do too much exploring in the area. I had to do my bird watching at the campground. A Snowy Egret walked along the pond right behind our campsite in the afternoons and Cormorants and ducks were in the water every day. A Great Blue Heron even made an appearance.

The rain couldn’t stop us from enjoying some amazing Cajun feasts! Crawfish etoufee, rice dressing (dirty rice), slaw, fried catfish, fried shrimp, chicken and sausage gumbo, Boudin, Andouille sausage and more! We ate several delicious meals at Poche’s Market and Restaurant. Their market has a large selection of sausages, meats and seasonings so I filled the freezer with Andouille sausage and Boudin to take with us and now my pantry has some of their seasoning mix and File powder.

A visit to the Tabasco Factory on Avery Island was a must see on this trip. Henry is a hot sauce aficionado and Tabasco is a staple on our table along with the salt and pepper. We visited the factory 30 years ago when our kids were young and we both have memories of walking into the aging room with the aroma of the sauce so strong that most of the other people in the tour got out of there as fast as they could. Not Henry! He loved it! Unfortunately, they no longer take the tours through that room.

The sauce is aged in barrels that were first used to age Jack Daniels Whiskey. We watched a short video and then watched original Tabasco sauce being bottled and labeled before browsing in the museum. We had our first taste of Boudin sausage (yummy and spicy) from a food truck and spent a few dollars in the gift shop before heading back to Breaux Bridge. A stop at Walmart for some necessities and we were back at camp in time to watch the rain come down the rest of the day.