Looking for Okeetee

One of the Okeetee sand roads.

We found it, all right.

Some parts of Okeetee are low and wet.

A 'true Okeetee scripta scripta'

The herping is good in the Carolinas.  We've made a number of trips, and the herpetofauna finds have always been rich and diverse.  It's only a 12-13 hour drive for us, and we hope to make more trips in the future.

Our first trip there was a week-long affair, and a bit over-ambitious as far as territory covered was concerned.  One of the places we wanted to visit was the Okeetee Hunt Club, that piece of property made famous in Kauffeld's The Keeper and the Kept.  His account of bagging large Eastern Diamondbacks was thrilling material for me to read as a young boy, and so this was a place I had long wanted to see. We knew herping was no longer allowed there, owing to the vast number of herpers who had made the pilgrimage to the place over the years, and who had worn out their welcome.  Still, we wanted to at least see the place.

The trouble was, we didn't know exactly where it was, nor did we know anyone who had been there.  We knew it was in Jasper County somewhere. Oh well, maybe we could figure it out once we got down there.

We spent several days herping around Tillman, and ran into a game warden who was a decent enough fellow.  He knew where Okeetee was and gave us directions.  The hunt club had a number of roads running through it, which we would be able to drive.  However, he cautioned us, fines would ensue if we left the road either on foot or in the vehicle.  We could collect or detain any herp found on the road, but under no circumstances could we go any further afield.  No problem - we just wanted to visit the place!  The visit with the game warden reaffirmed my conviction that it's best to seek out the local law when you arrive at a place, and let them know what you're up to.  It makes for fewer questions on the roadside, and makes the officers more comfortable with what you're doing there.

It turned out that Okeetee was just a few miles from where we had been herping the past few days.  At last we were driving the sand roads of Okeetee!  The dominant tree seemed to be the Slash Pine, with the occasional Scrub Oak.  The undergrowth was composed of wiregrass and brambles, with patches of ferns here and there - it wouldn't be easy to walk through, if we had been allowed to.  The soil was very sandy, and the roadbed was covered with the fine white sand as well.  Being maintained over the years with road graders and bulldozers meant left the road lower than the surrounding land, with a foot-high embankment on both sides in most places.

As the sun went down, we drove around a 'triangle' of three roads, each leg being about three miles long.  Would we see anything by just driving along?

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