Return to Okefenokee - 1st Day
Okefenokee trip, March 1978
In the spring of 1978 I took a college course called Swamp Ecology. The highlight of the class was an eleven day trip to Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia. It was an incredible experience, canoeing through that primeval place, and I vowed to return some day.
Twenty five years later I figured that more than enough time had passed since I last dipped a paddle in the brown waters of the Okefenokee. In the fall of 2002 I made reservations for an April trip, a little smaller in scope this time, with just a few days in the swamp itself. Rick Milas and Tracey Mitchell were coming with me.
We took my Saturn Vue and packed it full of camping gear and threw my canoe on top, and headed southeast on the afternoon of Easter Sunday. As is our custom, we drove through the night so as not to waste any daylight on travel, taking turns behind the wheel or trying to grab some shuteye. By eight the following morning we had reached Waycross, Georgia, and headed east from there, reaching Stephen Foster State Park on the western edge of the Okefenokee about 10 AM. Just outside the park we rescued an Eastern Mud Turtle off the road, a good way to start things off.
We unloaded the vehicle and pitched camp. We weren't heading into the swamp until the following day - overnight trips are scheduled and reserved in advance to avoid overlaps and ovecrowding. The Okefenokee is a fragile ecosystem and only a small number of human beings are allowed in the interior of the swamp on any given day.
We had some time to kill, so we hopped in the vehicle and drove around the vicinity, looking for places to herp. A fallen sign on the roadside yielded an adult Southern Black Racer, with an interesting pied coloration on the lower jaw. We poked around a dirt track leading off into a ferny pine plantation, and turned up a large Ground Skink and a Southern Toad.
The Okefenokee is surrounded by a lot of pine plantations, which are unfortunately kept neat and tidy, with little in the way of junk piles, abandoned houses or fallen trees. We did manage to find some property with an old house and shed, and after getting permission from the owner, gave it a going over. We found several Eastern Narrowmouth Toads, a Green Treefrog, several more Ground Skinks, Anoles and a Southern Fence Lizard. South of Jasper we found a small junkpile and in it, another Southern Black Racer.
The sky had clouded up during the afternoon and now a light rain began to fall as we headed back to the campground. I hoped the rain wouldn't continue into the next day and make for miserable canoeing. After supper was over and night fell, the rain stopped, and we headed out to the park road to see what might be out crawling or hopping across it. This activity is recorded in my Frog Walkin' journal entry.
Off to bed then - with all of the paddling ahead of us tomorrow, we needed a good night's sleep...
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