"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing"
- Helen Keller

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Swamp

Todays blog is in two parts, first my little narrative on where we’ve been and then a Captain’s log from John.

Soft shell turtle
Where have we been? The swamp! We stayed at Stephen C. Foster StatePark, Fargo GA. This park is in the the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge or the Okefenokee swamp. What an interesting place. We took a boat tour on the second day we were there. Ranger Mike is a good ’ole Georgia Boy all the way was our tour guide. This is the first time I have seen alligators in the wild and we saw a lot of alligators. There are two that make the boat harbor their own and as we left the harbor it really just becomes alligator city.  Besides the alligators there are all the cypress trees just dripping with Spanish moss, and there were flocks of White Ibis, blue heron and the Wood Stork. It is an amazing place. I really feel it is a place everyone should visit at some time in their life. It is so different than anywhere we have been so far.  On Thursday we read that they were having a sunset paddle into the swamp for just $10 each and that included either a canoe or kayak--sign us up! When we arrived for the paddle there were 12 college students and their professors that signed up as well. We let them have the kayaks and we took one of the canoes. They are all in an Ecology class and were studying the swamp. Its actually fun to be around kids this age, reminded me of my teaching days before this RV life. It was a beautiful night on the swamp and though it was cloudy so no great sunset, it also was calm and incredibly beautiful.  I will let the photos in todays blog do the talking on the beauty we found here in the Okefenokee swamp.
Flocks of Ibis

Little Blue Heron

Wood Stork

300 year old cypress tree

We have moved on to Seminole Lake State Park in SW Georgia and its a pretty laid back place. Only 1 other camper in the park other than the two work campers. Next week we will land in our winter home in Fort Walton Beach, Florida for 3 months. Our friends Jeff and Cheryl are already there and give it rave reviews. We are looking forward to having Thanksgiving with them and also seeing my nephew, Alex, who is stationed at Hurlbert Field just 8 miles from the park. Next up the Captain’s log.......

Captain's Log: Life in the swamp

On our trip through Georgia we ended up a little south of Savanna in the Georgia state park at Skidaway Island. One of the attractions of this park is its proximity to Savanna but another is as a showcase for the surrounding marsh and wildlife. I didn't stay up late enough for the wildlife, but the marsh was neat. The park hosted a fund raiser while we were there and I learned a couple of things: they have some good local brews and marshes occur when fresh water meets salt water. The salinity of the marsh varies with the tide and many areas are either dry or flooded depending on the tide. Some people think areas like this may have been the origin of all life on the planet, but I didn't learn that at the fund raiser, I read it in Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything.

Another thing I learned is a marsh is not a swamp, but I didn't learn that until we moved to Stephen Foster, another of Georgia's fine state parks located in the middle of the Okefenokee swamp. If that swamp sounds familiar, you may be old because the Okefenokee was the swamp the comic strip Pogo took place in ("We have met the enemy, and they are us").  If you have no idea who Pogo is, good for you. The thing everyone knows about swamps is: that's where alligators live (if that's a surprise, go read Pogo) . I saw my first alligator waiting to go on a boat tour to see the alligators. It was pretty exciting, but I found out on the tour they're as common as squirrels around here. Anyway, swamps are fresh water wetlands with trees. And alligators. If conditions are right, a wetland will accumulate decayed vegetation in floating mats called peat until the stuff is dense enough to support cypress trees and then it's a swamp. The peat can be firm enough to support plants but still move when you walk on it, like a water bed (okefenokee means "trembling earth"). In addition to the alligators, an amazing number of creatures live in the swamp, or visit here on their way to somewhere else, like us.

Happy Trails....................

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Beautiful Savannah

One of the beautiful fountains in the town squares

Round House at the museum
Before visiting we heard many good things about Savannah and I think we agree with them all. This is a beautiful city with an amazing Historic District. When we drove into town we were looking for the Visitors Center because we read they had public parking. Well, we made a wrong turn so we pulled in to the Georgia Railroad Museum to turn around but then noticed they had a great parking lot, especially for this honkin’ big truck and the gate said they were open 9am to 5 pm. Best of all no charge for the parking. We also are big suckers for train museums so we checked this one out before we went across the street to the visitors center. The train museum charged $10 a piece but with parking included and the tickets good for 3 days we bought the tickets. The museum is the old train yard complete with a round house and a turntable. The table actually works and we got to see it in action our second trip in. They have a short train ride on the weekends and we had hoped to do that on Friday but we didn’t make it back in time. We did get to see the train come in and get moved on the table. If you like train museums, I feel this one is worth the price.
Train on the turn table

The sign in the flowers is where Forest waited for the bus
One of the best things about the city is how walkable the historic district is. We did take a trolley tour the first day which I think was good to fill us in on the history and give us the lay of the land but after that we walked both days and it was just beautiful. We have been so lucky with the weather this year and this week has been basically sunny with
Can't you just see that feather floating down
highs in the low 70s and lows at night in the hight 40s. Great temps for walking the city streets. The city is built on a grid with little town squares every few blocks. The traffic around the squares is all one way and reminds me of a traffic circle. Friday we just walked from one town square to another and saw most of them but not all. They are little parks with monuments or fountains and all nicely done. Chippewa square is where Forrest Gump sat and waited for the bus and told his story. The bench is gone but the locals can tell you where it is. Not far from there is the church steeple where you see the feather fall from in the opening scene of the movie. The diner where Jenny worked is right around the corner. That is one of my all time favorite movies so it was fun to be there.
The road along the river

We also checked out the walk along the Savannah River. It has cool old cobblestone streets and a view of the Port of Savannah. We got to see a couple big yachts and a huge cargo ship go by.  We ate at the Moon River brewery on Wednesday and at Wild Wings (not Buffalo Wild Wings, just Wild Wings) in the City Market area. Both days it was nice enough to eat outside. Yea!!! There are lots of little shops and restaurants everywhere you look. They even had a yarn shop called Wild Fibre and I was able to get the needles I needed for a project I am ready to start. 

There is much more to do in Savannah than we had time to do. I think you could spend a month here and still have more to do. Guess that means we will have to come back again.

City Market area

Tomorrow we will check out Hilton Head and on Monday we will move to another Georgia State park: Stephen C. Foster SP. This one is in the Okefenokee swamp and I have read many great reviews of the park. It will be a slower week and time to kick back and enjoy the swamp. I hear they have lots of alligators. I’ve never seen an alligator in the wild so that will be a new experience.

Happy Trails..........................

New friends and Skidaway Island

One last beautiful sunset over Strom Thurmond lake

Pam, John and Vic
We left Petersburg Campground last Monday but not before we made some new friends. On Saturday morning there was a knock on the door and one of our blog readers had come to let us know they were also in the park. Pam and Vic (the Big EZ Travels) were just over on the next loop. I have also read her blog but lately I’ve done more knitting than reading so I didn’t realize they were there. We talk for awhile and later had a great campfire and happy hour. It’s always fun and remarkably easy to sit and chat with other full timers and when they are fellow bloggers you kind of feel like you know them already. We were both headed out on Monday and ran into each other at the dump station Monday morning so got to say farewell. They were going to Hilton Head SC and we were on to Savannah about an hour south of there. I got an email from Pam saying how much they are enjoying Hilton Head so tomorrow we are going to check it out and ride bikes around the island with them. So glad we have met two more fun people on this crazy journey. 
Our site at Skidaway Island SP

We arrived Monday at Skidaway Island State Park just past the southern edge of Savannah.  This park is very interesting, with some huge pull throughs with FHU but for just a week we opted for the water and electric sites. Most of these site are the “pull-over” version of a pull through and as you wind around the loop you need to go slow as there are lots of trees and it can be pretty tight. My only real complaint is it’s hard to see where the drives are going into these sites but we found one that looked like an easy in and out and got settled. We are just across from one of the bath houses that has a small laundry (1 washer & 2 dryers) which is a real plus as we definitely needed to do laundry. The site we are in also has cable TV, as do most (but not all) the sites here. The longer we have been here the more I like this park. It is filled with Live Oaks just dripping with Spanish mosss. There are 3 nice trails all great for walking and one that works for biking as long as you don’t have those skinny tires. 
The Salt Marches of Skidaway Island

Sandpiper Trail

On Thursday we attended a fund raiser for the park called Brews & Bites. This one had the Moon River Brewery and a BBQ place providing food. Normally we would find this kind of thing a little pricy but we like to support the parks so decided to go. It was lots of fun. We got to meet several of the rangers and others involved in the development of the park. We also got to meet one of the brewers and of course talk beer for awhile. I’ll post later about our trips into Savannah but one thing we did was eat and have a beer at this brewery. You know us and microbreweries, we hate to miss any. There is another one that has started in the city but isn’t open for tasting or tours yet unless, of course you are our friends Jeff and Sheryl who visited the week before us and got a special private tour. You’ll have to check out their blog (Brights Wheel House) to read about it.

The first day here we biked the Big Ferry Trail. As I said earlier it’s definitely doable and not that hard but you are going over tree roots etc. so a bigger tire bike is what you want. We have hybrid bikes so it was ok but definitely a little bumpy. Then the last few days we have walked that trail and also the Sandpiper Trail and the Avian trail. This is a big spot for birding even though we did not see many birds. I think the time of day and actually the time of year affects that but they were still beautiful walks. This island is part of the salt marshes so though surrounded by water and truly an island it’s not the type that has a beach or where you can see the Atlantic ocean.  We were going to go to Tybee Island to see the ocean but now we are going to Hilton Head instead. I wanted to get on the Atlantic ocean so we could say that we have been to both oceans and the gulf all in the same year!

This park is also just about 20 minutes to the historic district of Savannah and I have much to say about that but I am going to make that a second post. I will probably write it tonight but post it tomorrow before we leave for Hilton Head.  I can definitely say we are still enjoying Georgia. So for now...

Happy Trails.................