Thursday, April 11, 2013

Another great adventure

Yesterday, I picked up Pam and Stan, a refuge vehicle, and got some help hitching up a boat behind the truck.  We were off for a 25 mile drive to Kingfisher Landing to do some canoe trail maintenance.


       It was a gorgeous sunny day, and we put in about 28 miles on the water accomplishing our chores.

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Jackie, a local volunteer, was our boat captain, and I must admit that he did most of the work installing the signs we had with us.  We were pretty much just along to enjoy the ride.  And enjoy it we did!


There were scattered cypress trees, wet prairies, and Jackie took us to see many of the small lakes located in this area of the swamp.  In the picture above, you can see a peat blowup in the lower center.  That’s not mud, it’s peat.  Some say the buried peat in the swamp is 15-20 feet deep.  Gases form in the decaying matter, and small ‘blowups’ occur.  If there are enough of them, they become a battery, and grasses and eventually trees begin to grow on this ‘trembling earth’.

Jackie was a very interesting guide for us, and shared his vast knowledge about the swamp.  His family has lived in or near the swamp for eight generations.  He is also one of those unsung heroes of the Vietnam War, in my opinion.  He was drafted into the marines, served in Vietnam, and suffered great physical harm after stepping on a land mine.  It’s amazing that he even lived through that experience!  He is presently the President of the Okefenokee Wildlife League (friend’s group of the refuge), and makes his living wrestling and capturing problem alligators for private individuals, golf courses, and such.  Like I said, a very interesting man.

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Of course, Flat Joey accompanied us on this adventure.  Fellow volunteer, Barb, helped me fashion an official Okefenokee life vest for him which he wore all day.  First graders need to understand the importance of wearing a Mae West if they are on the water.  Since I was the photographer, FJ sat on his great aunt Pam’s lap while we traveled through the swamp.


After traveling the red trail, we headed back to the green trail to install more mile marker signs.  There is a shelter on the green trail at Bluff Lake.  That’s where we headed for lunch and a much needed porta-potty break.


FJ chowed down on some peanuts, while the rest of us enjoyed our sandwiches.  He’s a light eater don’t cha know.  Open-mouthed smile

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This was the view from our picnic area.  I do have to report that I made this trip without my cane, and was able to (almost) hop out of the boat first to tie us up to the dock!  Yahoo!  What a good feeling that was.  Maybe some time in the future I will be able to return to Okefenokee and reserve one of these shelters for an overnight trip.  I’d love to experience the sounds and sky show from this wilderness one night.

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On our way back to the landing, Jackie was able to show us the blooming pitcher plants.  In this section of the swamp, the pitcher plants are an amazingly large size.  Even the stalks with the blooms are 2-3 feet tall.  The blooming is just beginning, and soon this area will literally be covered with a blanket of yellow.

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Once back on land, we visited Jackie’s nearby home.  He had been out Tuesday night capturing a problem alligator from a private land owner.  It was a good ten footer.  He was trussed up with tape keeping his jaws closed.  It was kind of sad to see.  Jackie was keeping him on a rope in his pond until he could be transported.  That means this alligator is not long for this world.  That alligator rolled and rolled fighting against being pulled up from the bottom of the pond.  I suppose removing it is necessary, but I wish there was a place it could be moved to so it could live out its life naturally. 

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Jackie is a hunter, and the inside of his house is festooned with evidence of his prowess, including this black bear.  He is not a sport trophy hunter, but uses the meat to supplement his larder.  It’s not something I would do, but I respect his right to do so.

By the time we hauled the boat back to the east entrance, parked it, and unloaded everything, the three of us were pooped.  It was a great day on the water, and I think Pam and Stan truly enjoyed being volunteers for eight hours.  Another one of those days for the memory banks.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy