Road Trip Part II!!

IMG_4793Hello from peachy Georgia!  Man-o-man did we have a blast in the swamp on Friday!  Wow!  Now, you know that I love all creatures, great and small, but I’m particularly fond of birds.  

We saw some of the coolest birds.  We saw a barred owl and owlets who were all fuzzy and so cool.  We saw red-shouldered hawks – a bunch of them!  We saw a cormorant-like bird called an Anhinga…

I had no idea Jeanne was such a birder.  The things you learn when you go sightseeing with someone!  We did see some things other than birds, though I admit the birds were glorious.  

I do love them, they’re so fun to watch, and to see them fly.  We did see some Folkston and Okefenokee 013fabulous babies too – this is a barred-owl owelet.  They’re still fuzzy with down, but starting to grow in their real flight feathers.  There were two of them but I figured I wouldn’t totally take over the blog with the birds today.  We also saw some fabulous scenery

Here’s a shot of Chesser Prairie.  As you can see from the photo,  this isn’t a prairie in the sense of the word as I knew it first – flat, grassy land.  In the swamp, a prairie is an open area covered with shallow water.  

from Nancy canalNotice how reflective the water is.  I  never stop being amazed by it.  The Okefenokee is a blackwater peat bog, not really a swamp, and that black water is like an obsidian mirror.  There were a lot of people on the water, most in canoes or kayaks, so the water was not as smooth or as perfectly reflective as it sometimes is.

This is our guide, Chip, from Okefenokee Adventures.  He has a vast store of knowledge about the swamp, which led to our learning something a little strange about alligators.  Chip Campbell in the boat

Because it was such a warm, sunny day, there were a number of alligators out.  We saw these two hanging out  on a battery (a floating island of peat that blows up from below the water and has grasses or flowers take root on it).

The strange part is that what you see here is alligator courtship behavior.  Seriously.  They just hang together until they decide to have a go at making baby alligators.  We were about 15 feet away, which was plenty close for us.

 It was so weird to see them, just hanging out there, watching one another.  They really didn’t pay any attention to us.  As Chip told us, they’re predators.  They don’t leave unless we get into their personal space.  Nancy mentioned that 15 feet – our distance from them – Chip said that if Folkston and Okefenokee 044we’d gotten much closer, they’d have hissed at us first.  Then, perhaps, they would have left.  They can disappear into that black water so noiselessly and smoothly that they hardly make a ripple.  Gave me the shivers a bit, actually, when one of the other big gators we saw just melted into the water and disappeared.

After watching the ‘gators and seeing all the birds, we had a fabulous lunch in the Okefenokee Adventures cafe, proving that we too are carnivores.  Ha!  We drove back to the hotel and talked to all of y’all for a bit then headed to St. Marys, Georgia.  Oak Grove

St. Mary’s Georgia is one of the oldest settlements in Georgia.  It was orginally explored by the Spanish as they established their base in the New World in what is now St. Augustine, FL, then moved up the coast.  That would be in the late 1500’s folks! Wow!  So we traipsed around the St. Mary’s Old Common Burial Ground, also known as Oak Grove Cemetery.

Nancy and I were quite amused at the Cemetery Rules.  I don’t think you can read it, but one of the rules says “No Living Being Shall Be Within the Cemetery Walls After Dark” – SNORK!!  Love that.  Another says, “No Grave Digging Without Permission.”  Ha!

There were gorgeous oaks festooned with magnificent Spanish moss, and stones dating back several hundred years.  I think the oldest we saw was from the 1700’s.  We saw several Revolutionary War soldiers, as well as Confederate Soldier’s graves.  We saw huge family IMG_4831plots, and one grave behind an iron fence with a lone gravestone.  This lone gravestone told the story of a lady, frail in health, who was such a kind soul that when her BFF sent a call for aid, she betook her frail self to New Jersey, and nursed said friend back to health.  Whereupon, she “…fell into a swoon, and with a shuddering breath passed from this life with grace and ease.”

I don’t know about y’all, but it was so odd to see this whole tale spelled out in such great detail on a tombstone!photo

 As it got dark, and since we wanted to follow the abovementioned rules, we departed the cemetery as the sky grew dusky.  Off we hied ourselves to eat seafood!  Anna C, I took this shot for you….I’d like to say that I ate ALLLLLLLL those oysters, but alas, I did not.  The restaurant was out of oysters!  (If this pile is any indication, some of the Navy guys from the nearby submarine base must have been eating them all!)

What I take away from cemetery visits is a sense of how people looked at death in times gone by.  There were husbands and wives buried side by side, sometimes with a small child’s grave nearby. I also get a sense of continuity.  That was especially true in the St. Lady's Hat Pins smallerMarys cemetery because the old graves we saw were mixed in with newer, more modern ones.  Some of the markers had been worn into illegibility by time and weather.  It’s kind of sad that there’s no one left in those family lines to see them replaced.  In some plots, small, handwritten placards in holders had names and dates of births and deaths, apparently replacing illegible gravestones. 

We’ll finish our trip report on Tuesday with photos from Brunswick and Savannah and any final thoughts we may have.  Meanwhile, if you’d been with us today, what would you have wanted to see more of, and why?  

We’ll leave you with this photo of swamp flowers called ladies’ hat pins.  We thought they lived up to their name.

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  • Jane says:

    Hello Jeanne and Nancy,
    Did they have any stuffed owls for sale? I would have wanted to take the swamp tour and see what creatures other than alligators are lurking in the water.

    • Jane, I think there might be golden roosters lurking down there!

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Jane, he’s coming to visit YOU!! Bwahahah! Rooster antics in teh big apple. grins.

      As a matter of fact they DID have stuffed owls. So cute. I bought my boys a stuffed bobcat. Total cuteness.

    • Jane, I didn’t see stuffed owls, but I wasn’t looking at stuffed animals. They might have them.

      On my trip with the dh in February–soooo very cold!–we saw an otter in the water. On our way into and out of Stephen C. Foster State Park, on the swamp’s west side, we saw quite a few deer. I’ve never seen other animals, but I’m sure getting into the more remote areas, via canoe, would change that.

  • Helen says:

    Hi Jeanne and Nancy

    Oh I am loving this tour and that tour on the swamp would have been great even with the alligators and the owls are so sweet and as for the rules of the cemetary so good I could read them glad you left before dark 🙂

    Sucha lovely trip and I am so glad you are sharing with us and as for the oysters Anna C can have them 🙂

    Have Fun

    • Oysters, nom, nom, nom!

      • Jeanne Adams says:

        Can you imagine how many oysters that pile represents? Looks like quite a party!!

        (Love me some oysters! I’ll second your nom, nom, nom!)

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Helen, it’s a blast! I had such a laugh over the cemetery rules. :> Glad the picture showed up so clearly.

    • Thanks, Helen! The owlets were so fluffy, which was a big surprise. When we passed the hawk, it just perched in the top of its tree and ignored us. Lots of birds would’ve flown away when the boat got close, but the hawk wasn’t any more concerned about us than the alligators were.

      Yeah, we wanted to get out of the cemetery before dark in case zombies popped up when the sun went dwn.

  • Hi girls! I see they haven’t cleaned up the rubbish from the last time I was down there! 🙂 Oysters have become an endangered species in Georgia! Loving the news of all your travels and those photos are great. Love the one of the two of you with the stuffed alligator! And wow, that cemetery if VERY cool!

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Anna, it’s a beautiful spot on the planet, that’s for sure. And paaaaaarty with those oysters, baby!

      I loved the stuffed alligator pic. Joy, the lovely co-owner of Okefenokee Adventures, took the picture for us. She initially thought we wanted to go down to the boat dock and have a pic with the REAL gators. Uhhhh…not so much! This fellow was much greener, much cuter, and a lot safer!

    • Anna, the oysters were behind the National Park Service headquarters for Cumberland Island. They also had a pallet full of bundled oyster shells.

      Yes, the cemetery was very cool. There were fairly new graves mixed in amid the old ones. There also looked to be a newer section on the far side. Some of the stones noted that the people they honored had been born elsewhere–Germany, County Cork in Ireland, Engand.

  • Shannon says:

    I remember when I was in western Florida, they told me that they used oyster shells in the pavement which could make it slippery in the rain.

    As for the swamp, I have to admit, I would have liked being on a canoe, even if it disturbed the plain.

    My question about the swamp is the relationship man and swamp have. Are there communities on the edge of the swamp? How big are they? Is the swamp a source of fish or other foodstuff? Is this where the kids play, especially in canoes and motorboats? (Yes, I am a tourguide’s nightmare; they’re still glad I only had a one day pass, not the three day bargain at Williamsburg.)

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Oh, Shannon, the tour guide, Chip was SO awesome about all our questions! Nancy’s been before, but since her Mage series is set in and around this area she’s got lots of qustions, and mine were enless. Have you seen a bobca? (frequently) A panther? (once) Bears? (often) Sandhill Crane pairs? (frequenhtly) And then there were questions about habitat, eating and migration patterns, shell-to-alligator survival rate and so on. And that was just a teeny percentage of my questions!

      As to yours, there aren’t many developments or much housing around the swamp. It’s older – post war bungalows, little, sturdy brick cape cods, some trailer parks. There were kids on the tours (not ours), but the elementary school in the town of Folkston is small, small, small. Chip said a lot of young people do grow up and leave for jobs. He said some come back to the swamp.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Oh, missed a question! There was a lot of canoe and kayak traffic on the canals. A lot of people going in to camp. (Just an aside, I would never camp in the swamp. Just sayin’)

    • Shannon, I would go in a canoe if I had any canoe skills. The canoes and kayaks don’t disturb the water nearly as much as the big excursion boat does.

      There used to be people living in the swamp. One of the homesteads is preserved on Chesser Island. The last families left in the 1949s or 1950s. As Jeanne says, there are isolated homes around the swamp but no big communities. The town of Folkston is the closest, 8-10 miles from the east entrance to the wildlife refuge. Waycross is kind of at the north end, and Fargo is on the west. Those are the largest, with Waycross the biggest of the three.

      Kids don’t go play there alone, but as Jeanne noted, we saw families in canoes.

  • EC Spurlock says:

    You sound like you are having a blast! I would have liked to see the swamp; the one time I went there was right after a rainstorm; we got out of the car, were instantly blanketed in mosquitos, got back in the car and left.

    I love old cemetaries, and growing up in New England we had many that predated the Revolution. I loved that many people were thought so remarkable by their famlies and friends that they wrote detailed epitaphs commemorating their memorable achievements. There was one woman in a local cemetary who lived to be a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother and was a great pillar of the community. Her epitaph was so long it continued down the entire length of the stone and straight into the ground!

    • EC, it has been a blast so far. I totally get it about the mosquitoes. I carried bug spray in my backpack, but we only sed it once so far. What I should’ve used was subscreen, so I slathered that on today. It was a gospd thing, too, since we walked around in sunshine and intermittent cloudiness in Brunswick.

      The dh and I visited a cemetery in Lexington, MA, once that was really cool. Many of the gravestones dated to the Revolutionary War era. I’ve never sern an epitaph such as the one you described, though. That’s amazing!

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Hey EC! I love the cemeteries in MA. My DH’s family (Adams…yes, that Adams…) is in MA and so I’ve wandered through quite a lot of them. And a friend of mine, her grandparents both have those ledgerstone graves which bear long lists of their achievments. It’s totally cool. As a genealogist, I LOVE that stuff!!

      The swamp was remarkably bug free this time. I think partly b/c it’s early in the season but also, there was a steady breeze. We were lucky!!

  • Cassondra says:

    Aw, man, what great pictures!

    I’m a little pouty that I did not get to go. I wanna meet chip and take one of his adventures, and ask him all kinds of questions.

  • Anna Sugden says:

    Hey Jeanne and Nancy – sounds like a fabulous trip. Am v envious! Wish I could be there with you both!

    We loved such trips when we lived in the US and did one through the Everglades and one in the bayous of Louisiana. Looks like we need to make a trip to the Okefenokee!

    Love visiting cemeteries – that one sounds fabulous. So much history in one place. We went to a fab one outside Savannah on one of our trips. As Nancy knows, the one in the village where Doc Cambridge grew up is lovely and full of interesting stories.

    Hmm looks like I’ll be fighting the other Anna for oysters! 😉

    • Thanks, Anna! It has been a great trip so far. I’ve never seen the Everglades but now would like to.

      Yes, that was a fabulous cemetery in Doc Cambridge’s hometown. Very atmospheric. I suspect tomorrow may find us in the very cemetery you visited.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      *boing, boing boing* Bouncing in my seat in anticipation of cemetery hunting here in Savannah! Looking forwad to seeing the squares and fountains and graveyards. Bwahahaha!

      I would so love to see some of the cemeteries in England and Scotland. I have seen some on line and sometimes they give so much more info on the stones than we do here. :>

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Some lovely pictures, Jeanne and Nancy! What an exciting journey you’re on. I’m waiting for the alligator to turn on you though, even though I know he’s not real!

    • Jo, thanks! That’s the only kind of alligator I want to get close to. I still cannot believe people feed them.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      That one’s for kisses, Jo, the real ones…yeah, like Nancy, I want to stay a goodly distance from them! ha!

      Brunswick was a lovely coastal town and we really enjoyed our day there. We’re going out now to get a taste of Savannah for the daylight we have left. :>

  • Okay, I’d love seeing the different birds…the alligators?…not so much!

    Oysters and fresh seafood with a nice cold glass of real sweet tea would be my idea of a nice way to spend some of the time. And I’d be right with Jeanne looking at lots of tombstones. Some of the epitaphs I’ve found have been interesting.

    You guys have a good few more days down there.

    • Suz, thanks! The birds were amazing.

      I like old epitaphs, too, and am hoping we see some.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Hey Suz! You’d love the swamp trip. So many good places to hide the body…..bwahahahah!

      The St. Mary’s graveyard was cool, and I’m really looking forward to seeing some of the fabulous Savannah ones!

  • We’re in our hotel in Savannah now, eyeing the gray sky and hoping it won’t rain until we’re in for the night.

    The sun was in and out while we were in Brunswick, but we saw a pretty waterfront park, a nice downtown area with a small but terrific bookstore, and some gorgeous old houses. Also an oak tree that has been there since at keast 1781. It’s huge and heavily festooned with Spanish moss.

    It’s nice that so many people have posted that they wish they were along with us. It would be fun to do this in a group. We should all do that sometime.

  • Fascinating stuff, Nancy and Jeanne! I’ve taken more of an interest in birds since I’ve been friends with a lady whose husband is a keen birdwatcher. She has absorbed a lot of information over the years. But I think my greatest interest would be in the graveyards. Love the rules of the graveyard! Doesn’t it conjure up images of all the dead walking, maybe having a kind of eerie cocktail party after dark? Loved your post. Thanks for taking time out of your trip to talk to us all.

    • Christina, thanks! Yes, the rule about “living beings” not being in the cemetery after dark did evoke visions of zombie cockail parties!

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Cocktail parties! Snork! That would be fun!

      I have many more graveyard pictures m’dearie, and will share some on Tuesday! Mwahahahah!

      Still haven’t managed to have oysters here. I’m going to keep trying…

  • Aww! What a blast you two must be having! I’m enjoying your report so much and the pictures are fabulous! I could’ve used more pics of the alligators up close and personal. Mwahahaha!! Not really. They kind of creep me out, too.

    But I do like the looks of Chip. I’ll bet he can be a real hoot. 🙂

    I would’ve loved more photos of the cemetery headstones and crypts and such, and birds. And oysters. Yum!

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Kate we ARE having a blast!! Nancy already knows so much about this area, and that’s big fun. We’re now getting a good prowl in around Savannah. We got a “first look walk” tonight, I think I’ll have to post at least one more bird picture on Tuesday too. Ha!! So much fun!

    • Kate, sorry I messed up the nesting! Your response is #15 below.

  • Caren Crane says:

    How cool! I’m jealous of your road trip. I think if I were on your trip I would definitely want to do some kayaking in the swamp. I’ve kayaked with alligators plenty on HIlton Head Island1

    I would have loved more owl pictures. Baby owls are adorable! And the barred owl has the best call ever. 😀

    I could have spent all day in the cemetery. I adore cemeteries! My mom and I tromped all around family cemeteries when we went to Butler, TN last spring. I need to take her back there soon!

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Oh, Caren, you should! And record everything she says about family. Its hard to remember it after their gone, alas.

      Loved the graveyard, with its funny rules. We’ll be grave hunting tomorrow some, and looking at the Factor St Warehouses and River Street Warehouses. Very cool stuff.

    • Caren, would love to try canoeing in the swamp. Not sure I’d be comfortable in something as low as a kayak, but I admire your paddling skills.

      The baby owls truly were adorable.

      Today we learned a Civil War battle was fought across the river from a pretty little waterfront oark in Brunswick. Somewhere over there are the ruins of a fort and the graves of the fallen Confederates.

  • catslady says:

    Oh, I just would want to see it all! I’m learning a lot from your tour – thanks so much!!

  • Thanks, Kate! Chip tells great stories but is also really good at making factual data interesting.

    The Colonial cemetery here has lots of old graves in it. General Nathaniel Greene was buried there but was reinterred in Johnson Square, where there’s a rather impressive obelisk, in the early 1900s. Sherman’s army camped in that cemetery and knocked over a lot of the headstones. Rather than try to put them where they belonged and risk errors, the city (or whoever was in charge) lined them all up against one wall.

    It’s pretty cool.

  • I am so enjoying this trip with you two ! The photos are wonderful! I am a birder from way back (started when I was nine years old in England) so I know I would have loved to have seen the owls, hawk, and Anhinga.

    I’ve actually handled alligators, helping to move them from a zoo habitat into a truck to be released into a forest swamp here in Alabama. They have amazing strength in their tails, but are not vocal unless they are disturbed. They move so quietly to be such bulky animals with such short legs.

    The scenery in those photos is just glorious and I am glad to know there aren’t large conclaves of humans living nearby.

    The cemetery sounds fascinating. I do love an old cemetery. You learn so much about people when you see how and where they are laid to rest.

    Hope you have wonderful weather for your trip tomorrow and I can’t wait for the report!

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Louisa, I’ve been a birder since I first saw a snowy owl when I was about 8. It was a year like this one where they ventured much, much farther South than they usually do. From then on, I was watching the skies. :> We saw blue herons, egrets, a rare bittern, an older yearling adutl barred owl (didn’t hear him call though, Caren!), woodpeckers, a yellow rumped warbler which chip said the locals called a “Butterbutt” Snork!!

      You’re so right about the cemeteries. And wait till you see the pictures of some of the trees we took in Brunswick! OMGosh – GORGEOUS!!!

    • Sorry I messed up the nesting! Your response is directly below.

  • Louisa, thank you! As many places as you’ve lived, I bet you’ve seen a huge variety of birds.

    The Okefenokee is about 700 square miles, more than 400,000 acres, of wilderness. Parts of it are impenetrable except by air. The settlement around it is so sparse that you look up at night to a sky that seems totally filled with stars.

    You do learn a lot about people and how they lived from old tombstones.

    Thanks for the weather wishes. I’m afraid we may need them!

  • We had a great evening. Checked out Molly MacPherson’s Scottish pub, which EC Spurlock suggested, walked around that area and strolled down to River Street, which was very crowded. Then we came back here. The weather wasn’t hot or rainy but was very muggy. So we’ll see what tomrrow brings.

    Molly MacPherson’s had bagpipe music playing. We had great Guiness battered onion rings. I had chicken pie and Strongbow English Cidet. Yummy!

    Will let Duchesse discuss her own food. 🙂

    • Cider! Not cideT! *sigh*

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      I shared those Guiness battered onion rings – sent a pic of them to my DH and made him jealous! – and had sheperds pie. OMGosh, yummy. It too had a Guiness ingredient, but that just made it richer and yummier. Oh, and they had these thick, dense yummy potato bread rolls….thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Wanted those for dessert, but was too stuffed on the shepherd’s pie to ask for more! hahah!