Sunrise over Lower Red Rock Lake

Sunrise over Lower Red Rock Lake
Sunrise over Lower Red Rock Lake

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lovely Tandem Day Paddle

Last Sunday, I had a beautiful paddle while getting to share Okefenokee Swamp with a visitor.  It all started when I was chatting with a guy who came to the refuge alone.  He told me he really wanted to paddle in the refuge but didn't want to paddle by himself.  Of course, I seize any excuse to paddle so I replied,  I'll take you paddling, IF I can get the use of a tandem canoe".  (One of the really nice perks here is that our concessionaire, Okefenokee Adventures, lets the volunteers and staff use their canoes/kayaks for free. That's in addition to treating all their clients to fantastic tours and good food as well as filling their needs for paddling and camping equipment. ) So, as soon as I convinced Skip that I meant it,  I went over  to Okefenokee Adventures and asked if I could borrow a tandem canoe, and if a guest would have to pay to go with me.  I got the right answers, yes and no, and ran back to tell Skip that we were on.  He choose to come at 9:00 Sunday so I was all ready to go meet him by 8:30 A. M.


Two of thousands of spider webs made visible by the fog


Starting out

The day was very foggy and  spider webs were "blooming" everywhere. I got a little distracted by them and almost was late for our date.  Then I found I had no food with me, so had to run back to my trailer to get my food. But we got all our stuff packed and were able to start off  before 9:30 A. M., just as the sun burned off the last of the fog.  The day was so warm, we paddled in short-sleeved shirts. After the first two miles, I suggested we visit the porta potty on a platform as this would be our last chance to use a bathroom and get out and stretch without having to stand in water.

Porta Platform located near the junction of three trails

Skip at rest stop

While there, we enjoyed the birds, including our only sighting of a white ibis. Then as soon, as we started back on the trail, I remembered I was supposed to take a picture of the rest room platform. (Georgia Rivers Network is building an interactive map of the Okefenokee and wants to use my pictures, and the GPS waypoints for them so people can click on little icons along the map and see what to expect there.)


One of last ibis in our part of the swamp

 So we quickly turned around. I think I was paddling a little harder than was Skip, so we ended up backing up into a patch of tall grass along the canal. This caused loud crashing just to the back of our boat.  Then I realized we had backed into an alligator's sunning spot. Skip, who was sitting almost on top of all this commotion but was not able to see what was happening, managed to keep his composure.  But later, he told me a pun, " If you spent a week in a cypress swamp, would you be weak in the knees?"  I'm pretty sure I got his knees weak with only a few seconds on top of an alligator.

Stay away from those grassy patches!

The rest of our trip was uneventful.  We paddled around the triangle that goes around an island, then went out on Chesser Prairie a ways. We came back to the canal and paddled to the entrance to the day trip trail and took it back.


More and more Golden Club is blooming


One of several alligators sunning in Chesser Prairie

Sweet dream?

In the day trail, we had to pass six canoes that made up two groups of novice paddlers, who were slowly bouncing from stream-side to stream-side. The warm day caused lots of turtles to be out. One of them was the size of a small washtub.  But he was also very wary, and dived into the water way before I could get close enough to catch a photograph.  Our trip took us through mostly tree-lined canal, then through scrub and prairie so we got to see the main habitats that occur on the east side of the swamp.


The smallest but least wary turtles we saw

View along the day-use trail that parallels the Canal - fire hit it heavily

We definitely feel on the cusp of spring here. We watched a red-shouldered hawk return to her nest, then listened and watched as her mate called before flying off, probably to find more food. Leaves are mostly tiny fuzz on many of the bushes. There are lots of fresh, new waterlily leaves, with more growing and unrolling underwater. The sound of robins has disappeared as they have left to deliver spring to Up North. The big flocks of ibis seem to be gone.  But the flock of little blue herons is still here.  Turkey vultures are passing through and we seemed to be in the midst of at least thirty vultures during one mile of our paddle. They were overhead, and resting in the trees.  We would often spook one to fly off with a roar of wings.


Grooming turkey vulture


Oh, no! This is the end of a beautiful day on the water. 

Trip Length: 9 miles - Average paddling speed: 2.8 mph - Total age of paddlers - 157 :)