Monthly Archives: November 2015

“Into the Okefenokee” – Part III

As noted in Part II, “water lilies” are lovely to look at but a pain to paddle through…   

 

This is the final installment of Operation Pogo – “Into the Okefenokee.”

1444146412784For an overview, see Canoe Map.  I started from Refuge Headquarters, southwest of Folkston.  At Mile Marker 2 there’s a “Porta-potty.”

Another note:  This is the “short version.”  For the long version – in the manner of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida – see the notes below.

And one more “by the way:” You’ll probably want to read the first two installments first.

Part II ended with me thinking this, as I paddled through the swamp in the dark:  “That Monet guy can take his stinkin’ water lilies and ‘stick ‘em where the sun don’t shine.'”

But we digress!!!

1445698042386I found myself paddling through the swamp late Friday night because my timing was off.  It was off because I thought my “tagalong combo” – at right – might get me charged twice.  So I tried to be sneaky, and ended up paddling in the dark…

To make another long story short, my two days’ paddling-MPH turned out to be a lot slower.  (A mile in 36 minutes, not 18 minutes.)  So Friday afternoon I turned back early…

I was able to get back after closing.  And get my rubber raft from the car, blow it up and pack it, then set off “into the sunset.”

oke 066

(On the Suwanee Canal, to get a photograph of a beautiful sunset.)

I didn’t get to the shelter until 8:30 or so, well after sunset.  Which brings up again that the “canoe only” trail from Suwanee Canal to Cedar Hammock is loaded with water lilies…

That’s when I discovered a nasty thing about water lilies.  They’re hard enough to paddle through during the day, when you can see what you’re doing…

oke 055(The image at right is a picture I took of the canoe-only water trail to the Cedar Hammock shelter, during the day…)

I found out when you paddle through water lilies in a kayak – in the dark and in a hurry – your paddle tends to grab a great wad of swamp weed.  Then the paddle tosses the soggy lily-entrails – wet and cold – all about your head and shoulders.

But there were moments of beauty.

I had been after an adventure all my life, a pure dispassionate adventure, such as befell early and heroic voyagers … not knowing north from south, as strange to my surroundings as the first man upon the earth…  (E.A.)

oke 057That’s Robert Louis Stevenson by the way, so I’m not the only one with such thoughts…  (See 12 miles offshore.)

I eventually did make the Cedar Hammock shelter.  (Seen at left in the daylight.)  But I didn’t bring my tent because there was no place on the platform to put in stakes.  And because I was in a hurry to pack.  And the forecast was for no rain.   And because I thought it’d be nice to camp “under the stars.”  I didn’t bring any bug spray because there hadn’t been any mosquitoes any of the times I’d been at or around there before.

Fortunately I ended up getting some sleep that night.  Mostly by covering myself completely with the sleeping bag.  And even though a week later I was still scratching mosquito bites, mostly on my ankles.  (Which was strange because they’d been covered by socks.)

All the while I took some small pride in being in a place other people weren’t, and where few “normal” people dared tread.  (As the saying goes, Why Be Normal?)

Next morning – Saturday – I took my time getting going.  (In part because of the late night paddling, and I thought I had plenty of time.)

Then I set off for the Canal Run shelter.  (See Part II, including the Permits link.)  On the way I found a rare spot to actually get out and stretch me legs.  (And give other body parts a break as well.) That’s where I took the tagalong picture above, on a rare stretch of rather squishy-underfoot hammock along the Suwanee Canal.

oke 038That was on the way to the “fork in the canal,” shown at left.  See also the Canoe Map.

From there I set out for the Coffee Bay day shelter.   (Which according to the dots on the map is three miles further west.)

The problem was that when I first got there, it was occupied.  By a raucous group of adult men and teen boys, out for a day-cruise.  So I set off for Mile Marker 6, got there and turned back.

My hope was that they’d be gone by the time I got back.  Which worked, up to a point.

Then came the best part of the trip.  I sat in my camp chair and enjoyed a sense of accomplishment.  Along with the one cold beer saved from the night before.  And a hearty lunch of pre-packed chicken.  Not long after that I nodded off for a short nap, there in the afternoon warmth.

And that one brief shining moment of happiness even survived the morning after.  Or in this case the late afternoon after…  (Alluding to the 1972 Maureen McGovern song.)     Which is being interpreted:

They say that time heals all wounds.  And looking back, a month after my voyage into the Okefenokee, that seems true.  Which is another way of saying the paddle-back after the nap was rushed, to say the least.  But thanks to the healing power of time, the body parts that ached so much – that long Saturday afternoon of paddling – no longer seem so important.

At the time I was frustrated, mostly because of the disconnect between how fast I thought I could go, and how fast I actually could go.

But despite the discomfort that seems to got along with such efforts, it felt good to finally visit the home of Pogo Possum.  To visit – even for such a short while – the “hollow trees amidst lushly rendered backdrops of North American wetlands, bayous, lagoons and backwoods.”

And maybe – just maybe – I got from the trip just a hint of growth.  (From being merely a “misanthrope and cynic,” to develop a sense of “prickly on the outside but with a heart of gold.”)

As exemplified below.  And in closing, note that my Utah brother has a brilliant idea for further adventures next summer.  A 16-day, 400-plus-miles canoe trip down the Yukon River

 

Pogo - Earth Day 1971 poster.jpg

Pogo and his buddy “Porky Pine,” deep in the Okefenokee…

 

The upper image is courtesy of Water Lilies (Monet series) – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Le Bassin des Nympheas, 1904, Denver Art Museum.”  See also Le Bassin des Nympheas (Water Lily Pond) by Claude Monet, which added:  “Monet treated the water’s surface like a mirror, reflecting the swaying fringe of foliage and the clouds moving across the sky.  The water spans the breadth of the composition.  Only the willows and reeds that appear at the top of the canvas moor the pond to its surrounding banks.”  (But they’re still a pain in the butt to paddle through…)

Re: short and long versions.  See also In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly on iTunes:   “There was an under-three-minute single version, but clearly fans wanted the complete experience.  Flipping the record to its first side, though, is an underrated experience.”

I took the photographs of the “tagalong” boat combo, the sunset on the Suwanee Canal, the water lilies on the way to Cedar Hammock, and the Cedar Hammock shelter itself. 

The “trying to be normal” image is courtesy of: thecompellededucator.blogspot.com/2014/03 … “why be normal when you can be amazing.”  And of course Maya Angelou

The lower “enemy is us” cartoon image is courtesy of Pogo (comic strip) – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Pogo daily strip from Earth Day, 1971.”  In the alternative:  “A 1971 Earth Day comic strip written and illustrated by Walt Kelly, featuring Pogo and Porkypine [sic].”  Wikipedia described Porky Pine:

A porcupine, a misanthrope and cynic; prickly on the outside but with a heart of gold.  The deadpan Porky never smiles in the strip (except once, allegedly, when the lights were out).  Pogo’s best friend, equally honest, reflective and introverted, and with a keen eye both for goodness and for human foibles.  

I wondered why I liked him so much…

*   *   *   *

 And now word about the subtle difference between water lilies and water hyacinths

Water hyacinths are formally known as Eichhornia crassipes, “an aquatic plant native to theAmazon basin,” and considered “a highly problematic invasive species outside its native range.” (Fancy language for a “pain in the butt.”)  Water lilies on the other hand are formally known as nymphaeaceae, a “family of flowering plants” living as “rhizomatous aquatic herbs in temperate and tropical climates around the world.”

 *   *   *   *

And finally, the “long version,” in the manner of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida

Picking up with, “This is the third and last installment…”

This is the third and last installment of a tale that began with Operation Pogo – “Into the Okefenokee.”  It’s an account of my overnight camping trip, “deep” into the swamp.  (Last October 23-24.)  It included 11 hours of paddling over two days, lots of slithering alligators, and a “night operation.”  (Paddling to the Cedar Hammock shelter in the dark of night.)

1444146412784For an overview, see Canoe Map.  I started from Refuge Headquarters, southwest of Folkston.  The Cedar Hammock shelter-image is just below Mizell Prairie.  The image just below that is the “porta-potty” at Mile Marker 2, on the Suwanee Canal.  (Seen at right.)

On Friday afternoon, October 23, I paddled about half-way to Monkey Lake.  (Then turned back to Headquarters to pack my camping gear.)

Saturday afternoon I got as far as Mile Marker 6, just west of the Coffee Bay shelter.  And by the way, each black dot on the “trails” represents a mile.  (That and other factors mean the Canoe Map is “extremely small scale.”)

Another note:  This is the long version of this tome – in some ways not unlike the long version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.  And one more “by the way:” You’ll probably want to read the first two installments first.

Part II of this venture ended with me “on the cusp.”

On the cusp of paddling a canoe-trail deep in the Okefenokee, in the dark, through a slough of water lilies.  (The “entrails” of which blapped me; noted below.)  

That’s what made me think this thought, paddling in the dark:  “That Monet guy can take his stinkin’ water lilies and ‘stick ‘em where the sun don’t shine.’”

But we digress!!!

1445698042386I found myself paddling through the swamp late Friday night because my timing was off.  My timing was off because I thought my “tagalong combo” – seen at right – might get me charged twice, for two “boats.”  So I tried to be sneaky, andthat’s how I ended up paddling in the dark…

There’s more on that later, but first let’s review that first morning in the swamp.  (After driving down from Cordele.)

I left my camping supplies behind at the main (east) entrance, to be picked up later.  Then I made a quick 3-mile preliminary paddle – sans rubber raft – to the Cedar Hammock Shelter.

Then I started out on the canoe trail to Monkey Lake.  That’s where I ran across the big bull gator – almost literally – as noted in Part I:

As I paddled over over the water where the gator had been, I could swear he came up and nudged the bottom of my kayak.  I figured it was an accident.  (But the second time?)  Thatadded some spice to the trip.

I figured I could make Monkey Lake easily that first day in the swamp.  For one thing, a helpful sign along the way said it was only 5.5 miles or so.  At the time I figured I could make that in a couple hours.  But that’s also when I found out that my paddling-MPH on an all-day trip was a lot different than my speed on a two-hour jaunt.

Again to make a long story short, that day and the next my paddling-MPH turned out to be a lot slower.  (A mile every 36 minutes, not every 18 minutes.)  The result was that Friday afternoon I had to turn back early from the paddle to Monkey Lake, and paddled back to the put-in place.

I was able to get back after closing.  (Per my sneaky plan.)  And I did get my rubber raft from the car, blow it up and pack it, then set off literally “into the sunset.”

oke 066(Along the Suwanee Canal entrance to the Refuge itself.)  And in the process I got to photograph a really beautiful sunset, seen at left.  But again, either my timing or my paddling was off.

I didn’t get to the shelter until 8:30 or so, well after sunset.  Which brings up again that the “canoe only” trail from Suwanee Canal to Cedar Hammock is loaded with water lilies…

When I left the east entrance put-in, I thought I had plenty of time.  (Laboring under the delusion that I could make three miles in 54 minutes; 18 minutes per mile.)   Sunset was supposed to be about 7:00 p.m., and “last light” about 7:30.  But it took a tad longer than I expected.  One of the reasons was those stinkin’ water lilies…

That is, in this venture I discovered a very nasty thing about water lilies.  They’re hard enough to paddle through during the day, when you can see what you’re doing…

oke 055(The image at right is a picture I took of the canoe-only water trail to the Cedar Hammock shelter, during the day…)

Then too, the strange thing is that while I was paddling on the way back from Monkey Lake, I visualized how much fun it might be to “conduct a night operation.”  (To paddle through the beautiful Okefenokee at night.)

Which brings up the old saying:  “Be careful what you wish for.”

Which is being interpreted:  I found out that if you’re both in a hurry – as I was – and can’t see what you’re doing, your paddle tends to gouge out great tendrils of “swamp weed.”

That’s what I call the stuff that grows down under the lilies.  (As opposed to “sea weed.”)

I found out that when you try to paddle through water lilies in a kayak – in the dark and in a hurry – your paddle tends to grab a great wad of swamp weed and toss it – soggy and cold – all about your head and shoulders.  (Not always.  Just enough to keep you off balance…)

Which made for a long hour of paddling, with the last mile or so  through a never-ending sea of water lilies.  But there were moments of beauty.  Every once in a while along the way I’d stop paddling.  (I am retired after all.)  Partly to rest my arms and shoulders.  Partly to get a break from being blapped by water-lily entrails.  But a big part of it was simply to stop and appreciate the ambience.  It really was beautiful, in the middle of the Okefenokee in the moonlight:

I had been after an adventure all my life, a pure dispassionate adventure, such as befell early and heroic voyagers … not knowing north from south, as strange to my surroundings as the first man upon the earth…

oke 057That’s Robert Louis Stevenson by the way, so I’m not the only one with such thoughts…  (See 12 miles offshore.)

I eventually did make the Cedar Hammock shelter.  (Seen at left in the daylight.  My kayak –sans “tagalong” – is near the bottom of the picture.)

That’s when I found out that I should have brought something for the mosquitoes.  I did bring a cooler with four beers and two sandwiches.  (Along with some “dry good” food.)  And that first beer tasted really great, in the process of unpacking.

Also, I brought a “night light,” a small flashlight that attaches to the bill of your camp.  But I didn’t bring my tent, or bug spray, or mosquito netting.

I didn’t bring the tent because there was no place on the platform to put in stakes.  And because I was in a hurry to pack.  And the forecast was for no rain.   And because I thought it’d be nice to camp “under the stars.”  I didn’t bring any bug spray because there hadn’t been any mosquitoes any of the times I’d been at or around there before.  (And besides, bobandrobin had said, “We didn’t need the bug spray today…”)

Fortunately I ended up getting some sleep that night.  Mostly by covering myself completely with the sleeping bag.  And even though a week later I was still scratching bites, mostly on my ankles.  (Which was strange because they’d been covered by socks.)

And again there was a great deal of beauty to appreciate.  I alternated between hiding under the sleeping bag and sitting in my camp chair, drinking a beer and slapping mosquitoes.  The first part of the night featured a full moon.  (Which came in handy when paddling through the water lilies.  And that full moon may have helped me not lose my way.)   And that first part of the night the full moon lit up the swamp rather prettily…

Later the moon went down.  And with no artificial light around, the stars sparkled just out of reach.

All the while I took some small pride in being some place other people weren’t, and where few “normal” people dared tread.  (As the saying goes, Why Be Normal?)

The next morning – Saturday – I took my time getting up and going.  (In part because of the late night paddling, and because I thought I had plenty of time.)  In lieu of coffee I had a Coke Zero, and for breakfast a couple of granola bars.  I had a single-serve packet of chicken for lunch, later on.  And I’d saved one last beer, to enjoy with lunch.

Then I set off for the Canal Run shelter.  (See Part II, including the Permits, link.  And as per my plan to “bisect” the swamp later trip, via Foster State Park – Fargo.)  On the way I found a rare spot to actually get out of my kayak and stretch me legs.  (And give other body parts a break.) That’s where I took the tagalong picture above, on a rare stretch of rather squishy-underfoot hammock along the Suwanee Canal.

oke 038That was on the way to the “fork in the canal,” shown at left.  See also the Canoe Map.  The fork in the canals shown at right is just below and slightly to the right of the “porta-potty” image shown above.

From there I set out for the Coffee Bay day shelter.   Which according to the dots on the map is three miles further west.

I ended up getting to Mile Marker 6, that apparently marks six miles from the start of the National Wildlife Refuge, not the put-in place with rental boats, cafe and gift shop.  (According to the dots on the map.)  Then I went back and enjoyed some much needed “leg-stretching.”

The problem was that when I first got to the day shelter, it was occupied.  By a group of adult men and teen boys, out for a day-cruise adventure.  So I set off for Mile Marker 6, got there and turned back, all in the hope that they’d be gone by that time.

The plan worked, up to a point.  I only had to dodge a couple of BB-gun shots by the ardent young sportsmen.  (Not to mention the usual teen-boy goofballing.)   But then the group departed in its three canoes, and the Okefenokee was quiet again.

Then came the best part of the trip.  I sat in my camp chair – packed in the rubber raft – and enjoyed a sense of accomplishment.  Along with the one cold beer saved from the night before.  And a hearty lunch of pre-packed chicken.

Not long after that I nodded off for a short nap, there in the afternoon warmth.  And that one brief shining moment of happiness even survived the morning after.  Or in this case the late afternoon after…  (Alluding to the 1972 Maureen McGovern song.)     Which is being interpreted:

I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening rushing to get back to my car at the put-in place.  I made it time to leave before dark, but not to enjoy a much-anticipated burger, fries and cold drink at the cafe.  That came later, much later, as I drove my way back home.

They say that time heals all wounds.  And looking back, a month after my voyage into the Okefenokee, that seems true.  The body parts that ached so much – that long Saturday afternoon of paddling – no longer seem so important.

At the time I was frustrated, mostly because of the disconnect between how fast I thought I could go, and how fast I actually could go.  (Which BTW is a theme repeated on the just-completed, two-day Appalachian Trail hike.  The subject of my next blog-post.)

On the other hand, maybe that’s part of the process.   Maybe such disconnects come with the territory of fulfilling a life-long dream.  (See Part I.)

Despite the discomfort that came with the effort, it felt good to finally visit the home of Pogo Possum.  To visit – even for such a short while – the “hollow trees amidst lushly rendered backdrops of North American wetlands, bayous, lagoons and backwoods.”

And maybe – just maybe – I got from the trip just a hint of growth from being the “misanthropeand cynic,” and from there develop a sense of “prickly on the outside but with a heart of gold…”  And in closing, note that my Utah brother has a brilliant idea for further adventures next summer.  A 16-day, 400-plus-miles canoe trip down the Yukon River

 

 

 

“Into the Okefenokee” – Part II

SwampWaterPoster.jpg

Again, the 1941 film where a cottonmouth bites Walter Brennan’s cheek

 

And now, back to “Operation Pogo:”

1445624973384Operation Pogo was the first episode of my travel-venture “Into the Okefenokee.”  This is a followup.

(The saga will conclude in Part III.  And just a suggestion: You’ll probably want to read Part I first.)

As noted in Part I, I saw tons of alligator “cousins” – like the one basking at left.  (Usually on the ostensible shoreline, or slithering through the waters ahead of me.)

That first episode ended with me trying out one of those “free” campgrounds listed on Freecampsites.net, on Thursday October 22.  (Killebrew Park near Warwick.)

What I found seemed to be a modern-day equivalent of a Depression-era Hooverville:

I’m guessing [that] most people [who stay at such places] already have their Plan B…  Packing up and moving to the next-closest “free campground…”  The point is that after feeling distinctly uncomfortable at the idea of camping at Killebrew Park – even if there had been a space available – I had my own Plan B.

My Plan B was to drive up to nearby Georgia Veterans State Park that late Thursday afternoon.  (West of Cordele and just off I-75, as seen at right.)

It’s a beautiful park – and campground – but then I went to register.  Fortunately I’d just renewed my “Friends of Georgia” ParkPass, and so was entitled to one free night of camping.  I then asked how much it would cost to tent-camp otherwise.  (For future reference.)  The best available discount rate was $28.00…

On the other hand, Expedia said there was a nearby Budget Lakeview Inn (Sycamore) for $38.00. That may not be everyone’s cup of teaBut – having camped less than a year ago on a soggy salt marsh 12 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico – that wouldn’t have been so bad to me.  (See 12 miles offshore, on the 8-day primitive-camping canoe trip last November 2014.)

Which brings up what I said in my first Mid-summer Travelog:

For the price you pay to camp these days – as Steinbeck did [in 1960] – you can get a nice Motel 6 with AC.  (And that’s tent camping.  For what you pay for an RV or travel trailer, you can stay at a lot of Motel 6’s.)

And just for the record, I’ve owned motor homes.  (Three in fact.)  So I know whereof I speak.

Which brings up the fact that on that Thursday night – October 22 – I discovered that my spandy-new 2015 Ford Escape offers plenty of room for sleeping.

But first a word about permits.  Before you camp overnight in the Okefenokee, you need a permit.  (See Overnight Camping Permits – Okefenokee.)  That costs $15 a night.  (Of which $6 is non-refundable.  And none of it is refundable if you cancel less than a week before the reservation date.)   Then I also found out Recreation.gov tacks on a $6 “reservation fee.”

So for a grand total of $21, you may tent-camp in a swamp.  Which brings up again:  “For the price you pay to camp these days – as Steinbeck did – you can get a nice Motel 6.”  (On the other hand, you might miss some of the gators, “slithering along” like the one at left.)

Meanwhile, back at Veterans State Park, Thursday night.  (After registering…)

I had my tent, but wanted to get an early start.  So I blew up my air mattress and spread it – and my sleeping bag – in the back of my Ford Escape.  (I’d folded down the seats and moved the kayak outside.)  By moving the front passenger seat up and folding it up toward the dashboard, I had plenty of room in case of jimmy legs.

(The latter term refers to the Seinfeld Money episode.  In it – and perhaps ironically – “Jack Klompus drives the car into a swamp and Jerry returns to Florida.”)

So anyway, I got a pretty good night’s sleep.  Next morning – Friday October 23 – I left Cordele and covered the 160 miles to the Folkston entrance in about three hours.  I took my time getting ready, in part because my reserved camping shelter was only three miles away.

That is, in the time frame I had there was only one camping platform available, Cedar Hammock.  The nice lady at the main (east) entrance assured me I “should be able to reach it before dark.”  I in turn thought her estimate was way off.

oke 031Remember that I’d made Mile-Marker Three – at right – in 54 minutes the first time I visited.  (See Part I.)

So this Friday, I thought I’d have plenty of time to paddle around that day, and might even make the Canal Run shelter and back. (See Permits, above.  That would allow me to “bisect” the swamp on a later trip, coming in from the Stephen C. Foster State Park – Fargo, to the west.  Or so I thought…)

But there was another reason I took my time getting ready that Friday morning.  I wasn’t sure my “tagalong combo” was completely kosher.  (The rubber raft I towed behind my kayak, to carry supplies, noted in Part I.)  For one thing, according to a “liberal” reading of the park rules, I might be charged twice, for the kayak and the rubber boat.

So I operated on the theory, It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.  I figured I’d leave the rubber boat – and supplies – in the car.  Then I’d paddle around happily during the day, and return to the entrance area a bit after closing time.  (6:00 p.m.)

It kind of worked out that way…  But my plan also ended up with me thinking that Monet guy could take his stinking water lilies and “stick ’em where the sun don’t shine.”

But we digress!!!

I’ll conclude this venture in Part III, which means another “To be continued…”  Meanwhile you can consider this as well:  My Utah brother has a brilliant idea for further adventures next summer.  A 16-day, 500-and-some-mile, primitive-camping canoe trip down the Yukon River.

From Whitehorse, up through Lake Laberge – of “Sam McGee” fame – to Dawson City.

But for now, enjoy this lovely painting by Monet, of water lilies.  (And you can thank your lucky stars that you don’t have to paddle your stinkin’ kayak through them…)

.

 “Water lilies:”  Lovely to look at, but a pain to paddle through…   

 

As in Part I, the upper movie-poster image is courtesy of Swamp Water – Wikipedia.

I took the photographs of the first alligator basking on the “shore” and Canoe-mile-marker Three.

Also re: Mile Marker Three.  It’s past the turn-off “canoe only” trail to the Cedar Hammock shelter.

Re: “travel-venture.”  See also Travelogue … at Dictionary.com.

The “floating gator” image is courtesy of Okefenokee Swamp – GA | Kayak Trip … Paddling.net.

Re: “Lake Laberge.”  In his 1907 poem “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” Robert W. Service spelled the name of the lake as “Lebarge.”  

The lower image is courtesy of Water Lilies (Monet series) – Wikipedia.

 

Operation Pogo – “Into the Okefenokee”

SwampWaterPoster.jpg

The 1941 film in which a cottonmouth bites Walter Brennan “on the cheek…”

 

I saw the movie Swamp Water back in the early 1960s.   (When I  was around 10 or 12.)  The part I remember best was watching Walter Brennan getting bitten in the face by a snake.

In the scene, he kneels over and parts the bullrushes to get a drink. (Of  “swamp water,” while hiding from John Law in the Okefenokee.)  As Walter does all that, the viewer can see a grinning cottonmouth off to his right.  (The viewer’s left.)  The grinning cottonmouth then proceeds to bite him “right on the cheek.”

I’ve been fascinated ever since…

Which is another way of saying that back on October 23, 2015, I fulfilled a life-long dream.

I took my little 8-foot kayak and paddled deep into the Okefenokee Swamp myself.  There I camped overnight, on the Cedar Hammock shelter.  (Where – unlike “bobandrobin” – I could have used a whole lot of bug spray.)  On the other hand, I didn’t see any snakes either…

There’s more on the overnight camp-out later.  But first a word about that life-long dream.

I’ve been fascinated by the Okefenokee as long as I remember.  (In much the same way as I am by New York City.  To me they’re both fascinating and scary…)

Part of it was the movie Swamp Water, but another part was the old Pogo comic strip.  It starred Pogo Possum, and was set in the Okefenokee Swamp.  It also featured “social and political satire through the adventures of its anthropomorphic funny animal characters:”

Pogo is set in the Georgia section of the Okefenokee Swamp;  Fort Mudge and Waycross are occasionally mentioned.  The characters live, for the most part, in hollow trees amidst lushly rendered backdrops of North American wetlands, bayous, lagoons and backwoods.

http://static.comicvine.com/uploads/scale_large/11/119838/2646256-fourcolor105.jpgAnd characters in the strip included Albert Alligator, seen at right.

Which brings up a note:  I saw tons of Albert’s cousins – and other distant relatives as well.  I usually saw them basking on the “shore,” or slithering through the waters ahead of me.

But one time I saw a big bull gator – who eventually submerged – in a very narrow canal. This was on the canoe trail to Monkey Lake.

As I paddled over over the water where the gator had been, I could swear he came up and nudged the bottom of my kayak.  I figured it was an accident.  (But the second time?)

That added some spice to the trip.

And speaking of “shore.”  One thing I learned is that – in the Okefenokee – there are precious few places to stop and take a break from your canoe or kayak.

The shelters – for day use or overnight – are few and far between.  As a result, the ol’ keister got extremely sore by the end of the second day.  (Not to mention blisters on my palms…)

065Which leads to the fact that the “shore where the gators bask” – noted above and as shown at left – was not really a shore.  (As that term is generally understood.)

In the Okefenokee Swamp, such a shore is usually a line of reeds that an alligator can mash down.  (And where a human steps off at his own peril…)

But we were talking about that life-long dream.

I’ve lived in the Tampa Bay area most of my life.  (Before I ended up in “God’s Country.”)  So to go anywhere north, I always had to drive up I-75 or I-95.  Either way, as I got just past the Florida-Georgia line, there – off to the right or left, respectively – always lurked the Okefenokee.

(Begging to be explored, both threatening and fascinating…  Much like New York City.)

So when I finally got my chance, I took it.  (Albeit, well past my 64th birthday.)

To prepare for the trip – about two weeks before the October 23 overnight jaunt – I drove down for a short two-hour exploratory kayak.  (Verb, not noun.)  On that short jaunt I paddled out to Mile Marker 3.  (Three miles west of the Suwannee Canal East Entrance to the Swamp.)

I covered that three miles in 54 minutes.  (A figure that would came back and haunt me later.)

Having done that, I took the plunge and made a reservation to camp overnight.  That – I thought – would enable me to explore a lot more of this mystic swamp.

1445698042386But first a word about transport.

I originally planned to rent a canoe, from the local Okefenokee Adventures at the main entrance.  (11 miles southwest of Folkston.)   The cost would be $25 a day for the two days, and in the canoe I could carry all my gear in comfort.  (In one vessel.)

Needless to say, you can’t pack much gear – beyond a cold drink and sandwich – in an eight-foot kayak.  But then I found myself “financially challenged,” for the time being at least…

The upshot was that – instead of renting a nice big canoe – I opted for a “tagalong combo.”  I paddled my small kayak and towed a small rubber “dinghy,” as shown at right.

And incidentally, this site shown was one of the few places that I could get out and stretch my legs.  That’s another way of saying I found one stretch of hammock(s) along the Suwanee Canal, the ” principal waterway into the swamp.”  Aside from the shelters themselves – few and far between – that was pretty much it for getting a break from paddling.

And finally – for this episode anyway – here’s a word on tent camping.  (Before  we get to the swamp-camping part of the journey into the Okefenokee.)

In Mid-summer Travelog (Part I), I wrote about tent camping as a less-expensive alternative to motels, while traveling on the road.  That was part of a discussion of Travels with Charley, the book on a road trip John Steinbeck took in 1960.  I noted some big differences between highway travel in 1960 and highway travel today.

Like, in 1960, Steinbeck could camp for a dollar a night, if not free.

Once, early in his trip, Steinbeck stopped at a farm in New Hampshire for fresh eggs.  He then asked permission to “camp beside the stream and offered to pay.”  The farmer said there was no need to pay.  “The land’s not working.  But I would like to look at that rig you’ve got there.”  (At this time motor homes were still rare.)   The two men ended up at the table inside Steinbeck’s “rig,” discussing events of the day over “a good dollop of twenty-one-year-old applejack.”

Old Grand Dad.jpgAnother time – just before he drove into Chicago to meet his wife at the Ambassador East – Steinbeck was relaxing where he’d pulled over to make coffee.  (Beside a lake of clear, clean water.)  Then, “A young man in boots, corduroys” and a mackinaw came up; “Don’t you know this land is posted?  This is private property.”  Steinbeck ended up camping there, after a “bribe … with a cup of coffee.”  Coffee, that is, with a “dollop of Old Grand-Dad.”  (Which may bespeak an object lesson for traveling…)

Then on pages 95-103 of the Penguin Books edition, he wrote of the marvels of the then-new trend in personal housing.  (Mobile homes.)  More to the point, on page 98 he wrote this:

Since I did not require any facilities, sewer, water, or electricity, the price to me for stopping the night was one dollar.

That seems to be no longer true.  Not in any meaningful way anyway.

In Travelog (Part I), I wrote that for what you pay to camp – as Steinbeck did – you can get a nice Motel 6, with air conditioning and no bugs.  (And that was for tent camping.)  But then I had to add this proviso, in a follow-up post, Mid-summer Travelog – Part III:

It is true that camping at a state park these days – even with online reservations – can cost almost as much a night at a Motel 6.  But after the trip I found a website, Freecampsites.net. (See also FreeCampgrounds.com.)  I haven’t actually tried one of these yet, but it does bode well for the future.  (And I suppose there’s some kind of object lesson in all this…)

Which is another way of saying that on the way down to the Okefenokee, I got a chance to try out one of those campgrounds on Freecampsites.net.

The site I planned to check out was Killebrew Park – Warwick, GeorgiaWarwick is a cute little town of some 430 souls.  It’s at the south end of Lake Blackshear, and a mere 16 miles southwest of the Cordele ramp to Interstate 75.

But Killebrew Park was a different story.  It was indeed at the south end of Lake Blackshear, and thus a possible site for future kayaking adventures.  Before even entering the campground I saw a large sign, “No campsites available.”  (Or Words to that Effect.)

Then I drove into the campground itself, just to make sure.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-NEdTsiK6DRA/Tz3sF8_7X-I/AAAAAAAACO0/AjUYec-_ZGo/s1600/Bonnie+and+Clyde+1967.JPGWhat I saw reminded me of a scene from Bonnie and Clyde.  (As shown at right.)  That led to me to later Google the term Hoovervilles  – and possibly discover their modern-day equivalent:

The communal “Hoovervilles,” “Hobo Jungles” and “Shanty Towns” of the Great Depression evoked
the hippie communes that were springing up all over the country in 1967.  The nomadic, anti-establishment rebel  lives of Bonnie & Clyde struck a chord with young audiences of the 60s.

But the campground at Killebrew Park had a different feel to it.  The standard practice at most campsites is for a 14 Day Stay Limit.  So after driving through the place, I’m guessing at what most people do when staying at such places as Killebrew Park.  I’m guessing they already have their Plan B mapped out:  Packing up and moving to the next-closest “free campground.”

Whether these free campgrounds are the modern equivalent of such “Hoovervilles” is beyond the scope of this post.  (Now just passing the preferred post-length of 1,600 words.)   Or possibly for another, later post.  The point is that after feeling distinctly uncomfortable at the idea of camping at Killebrew Park – even if there had been a space available – I had my own Plan B.

That and the overnight-camp in the Okefenokee will be covered in the next post…

 

http://spinoff.comicbookresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/future-continued.jpg

 

The upper image is courtesy of Swamp Water – Wikipedia.  That article describes the “1941 film directed by Jean Renoir, starring Walter Brennan and Walter Huston, produced at 20th Century Fox, and based on the novel by Vereen Bell.  The film was shot on location at Okefenokee Swamp, Waycross, Georgia, USA.  This was Renoir’s first American film.  The movie was remade in 1952 as Lure of the Wilderness, directed by Jean Negulesco.”

The “cottonmouth” image is courtesy of www.cottonmouthsnake.org.

Re: “John Law.”  See also Urban Dictionary: John Law, and not to be confused with John Law, the noted economist (1671-1729), the “Scottish economist who believed that money was only a means of exchange that did not constitute wealth in itself and that national wealth depended on trade.” 

The “Albert” image is courtesy of www.comicvine.com/four-color-105-albert-the-alligator-and-pogo.  Wikipedia described Albert as “Exuberant, dimwitted, irascible and egotistical…  The cigar-chomping Albert is as extroverted and garrulous as Pogo is modest and unassuming, and their many sequences together tend to underscore their balanced, contrasting chemistry —like a seasoned comedy team.”

Re: “God’s Country.”  See Introduction to Ashley Wilkes:   “I live in the ATL – also known as ‘God’s Country’ – and that’s the birthplace of Gone with the Wind.”

Quotes from “Travels with Charlie” are generally from the 1980 Penguin Books edition.  The “applejack” quote is on pages 27-28.  The “Granddad” quote is from pages 109-13.

*   *   *   *

And finally, as to possible other places to camp free, see RV Parking at Walmart | Walmart Atlas.   See also A Guide to Car-Camping – in Walmart Parking Lots and No Overnight Parking at Walmart | Walmart Atlas.  The upshot seems to be that you should be able to car-camp at some 80% of Walmarts around the country.  For another example – mobile home parks, as Steinbeck used – see Amenities & Rates – Arrowhead Campsites & Mobile Home Park.  That park – located in Ocala, Florida – offers an overnight tent-site rate of $17.00.