Saturday, April 19, 2014

2014-6 Kingsland/St Mary's Georgia


Campground:  Walkabout Camp & RV Park,  P.A. discount is valid for two weeks. 742 Old Still Rd, Woodbine GA, 31569: Local: (912) 729-4110, PA rate: $16.50 - $17.60, Normal Price: $33.00 - $35.20
All pull-thru sites.  Modern Swimming pool and clubhouse.

St Augustine, last day

On my last couple of days of enjoying the St Augustine area, I took in one more old attraction that has been around since 1893, the Alligator Farm, Zoological Park.  With 23 species of Crocodilians, some of the largest gators I’ve ever seen, including a couple albino gators.  A big surprise for me was the bird rookery.  The rookery is natural occurring, with gators wading below in large ponds and on shore sunning themselves.  Wooden walkways wind out over the gators and get the viewer close to the birds nesting in the large trees, some only feet away.  In a way the gators are protectors of the large tropical wading birds.  Protecting them from the normal snakes, raccoons and other critters that would normally go after the birds eggs and young hatched birds.  Hundreds of large birds nesting in the trees above, hoping their young can learn to fly the first time around without becoming gator bate.  Now if that isn’t enough for you, they also have what’s called the Crocodile Crossing.  A series of zip line and aerial courses one can traverse high overhead through 7 acres of live alligators, crocodiles birds and lemurs.  I would definitely consider the zip line, but some of the aerial course was way too challenging for someone of my “mature” age.  Ekk! Splash, plop…

This is one of the reasons it’s always a good idea to keep coming back to a popular place.  Giving the traveler the time to explore some of those places one wouldn’t normally go too the first time around.  Those hidden or older attractions that at first glance just look like tourist traps, but in fact contain some real interesting things to explore.  Sometimes, like the Alligator Farm, those places become favorites.

Roseate Spoonbill

Snowy Egret

bird rookery

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue heron

Distance traveled:  87 miles

Kingsland/St Mary’s Georgia

I was hoping to explore Cumberland Island a bit more on this leg of the trip, but with lots of rain in the area over the last couple of days, I’ve pretty much had to put that on the back burner.  I have been able to enjoy lots of good seafood dinners over the past couple of weeks and have been impressed with the large portion sizes each of the restaurants have provided.  I especially liked the shrimp and great sides.

I did go into the little town of St Mary’s, a nice seaside town where the boats take you out to Cumberland Island.  Since it was a crappy day, I decided I’d check out the Submarine Museum.  Cost $4.00.  Alas it was not even worth that little amount of money.  Two rooms filled with old photos, type written descriptions faded and yellowing.  Lots of old awards.  Restaurants along the water front are higher priced than inland.  One definitely pays for the view along the bay.

Rain, rain…and more rain.

Well the next day it has been overcast all day and I thought, this would be the perfect day to explore the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (Swamp) that is.  It’s about a 45 minute drive from where I’m staying.  As I headed west through rural Georgia, I noticed how low lying all the land is in the southern part of the state.  The water table is just about level with the land, so any rain creates lots of shallow lying water everywhere.  All of the creeks and rivers flowing out of the Okefenokee swamp are filled to overflowing.  Quite a contrast to the drought they had over the past couple years.

Entering the park there are large stands of pine trees on both sides of the paved road leading to the visitors center and tour boats.  Kayaks, canoes and small motor boats are also available for rent, including primitive camping on islands within the park.  After watching a 14 minute old and dated film on the Okefenokee, I headed out and joined a boat tour.  Had the best boat tour guide one could have.  Someone who loves the swamp and willing to share that love with us tourists.  Missing a few front teeth, his booming voice needed no microphone or speakers to convey his story of life in the swamp.  As we glided across the dark tea colored water our guide told tales of the 5 venomous snakes that live in the swamp, how the owls love to catch them for food as well as the baby gators this time of year.  The good fishing available in these pure filtered waters.  Explaining the rhythm of life in the swamp, what’s edible, some of the scary situations he’s found himself in and his respect for the Indian spirits, as the Indians once lived in the swamp over 4,000 years ago.  How the remote islands once had moon-shine stills on many of them, proving liquor up and down the east coast during prohibition.  How the swamp had been de-nuded of cypress trees during the early years of this country.  Much of that lumber going to make railroad ties for the ever expanding railroads of the era.  Okefenokee is one of the main sources of the water that fills Florida’s aquifer.  Without it much of Florida would have no drinking water.   Later I would drive the 8 mile paved trail through an island where the Chesser Homestead still stands.  All in all a pretty interesting day in a mysterious land or should I say water covered prairie, swamps, lakes and remote islands.

baby owl

My next stop:  Savannah Georgia.

more photos on Picasa

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