Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Okefenokee Recovering

Stephen Foster State Park ( the one in Georgia) is smack in the middle of the Okefenokee  NWR and seventeen miles from anywhere.  With its tall slender pines gently swaying in an 80 degree breeze, in an almost deserted campground on grassy shaded lots, it is a very pleasant place to be. That the surrounding 300,000 acres looks like a war zone is really disorienting. The huge fires of 2007 and again last April (when smoke clouded the streets in Montgomery and Jacksonville) have left the verdant swamp looking like it was hit by a napalm attack.
The road in traverses a long “pine island” which burned completely.  Salvage loggers have cleared the dead trees and left only the few pines whose roots were not cooked.  At the edges of the island, cypress still standing may leaf out in the spring, or not.
We took a boat ride with ranger Michael who, like his dad before him, has spent his life here telling laconic tales to tourists. We motored along through a mile of tumbled trees, their blackened root balls staring at us.  Huge trees on the pine islands felled by winds after their roots cooked in the deep hot peat fires lay across smaller trees.  The alligators, and there are hundreds, lie like jack straws among the downed, blackened trunks along the shores of Billie’s Lake. 
The fire is still burning miles north of here and underground where it will drop the level of the peat layer so far that, when the rains finally come, this “Prairie changing” fire will rearrange the whole topography. Cypress stands will become wet prairie and a whole new cycle of peat building and island building will begin “unless the fires come back again.”
We are seeing all this before the greening of spring has begun, with the black trunks exposed and the the skidder trails still in the pines, but there are signs.

A view from the Boardwalk…


…The part that  didn’t burn.


Some parts remain untouched…

…but we weren’t.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lazy, lazy day

OK, TV is addictive.   One night in a campground with Wi-Fi and cable plus a whole night of Oscars and we are worthless.  It doesn’t hurt that it is raining steadily and we seem to have camped in a moat.  We did nothing all day but delete e-mail and watch re-runs of Jon Stewart on HULU.  Our neighbor says, “I didn’t get out of my Pajamas ALL DAY!”

"Some people have all the fun."
Some people have all the fun…

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Biking Jekyll Island

Most of the tourist info I have seen of Jekyll island include a couple pics of laughing couples on bikes.  It is easy to see why.  This island has such a rich variety of bike paths and mixed environments that there are surprises around every bend.  
In two half days we rode on
  • curvy pavement winding through pines along the bay
  • firm sandy trails in the woods
  • on a dike through the Marshes of Glynn
  • on seawalls overlooking the beach
  • down streets of ranch homes shaded by oaks
  • along the edges of spectacular golf courses
  • over boardwalks and little bridges in the marsh and past wildlife overlooks
  • and, of course, right next to the perfectly preserved “cottages” of the Millionaires Club. (Nice neighborhood)
  • on Tabby, and asphalt, concrete and sand, pavers and pine straw. Everything wide, safe and well marked.
The weather was coldish, cloudy and windy the first day, but we dressed for it and found easy parking, and a snack bar we liked.  Out of deference to the millionaires, past and present, we did not invade the Jekyll Island Club hotel in our Lycra or attempt the croquet greens without the requisite “whites”.



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Seaside Biking–Wheeeee!




Biking  on Hunting Island comes in all flavors.  We left the CG on the Magnolia Forest trail.  It dips and curves over ancient dunes forested in Pine and Magnolia.  The path is carpeted with pine cones, pine needles and quite a few pine roots. 









This is as close to Mountain biking as we get.


2012_0221pat_pics0007“Beach Access”


Bikes and Horses?  COOL!















We rode out the paved and abandoned “cabin road”.  (The cabins are two fathoms down and 40 yards offshore now)  When the road ended abruptly, we took to the hard packed sand. We are, after all, experienced, steely-eyed  beach riders (see video above).

We struck off along a narrow seam of sand between the upright palms and the recently deceased forest washed up by the angry sea just beyond.  Eventually this led to an impasse (or a “No Pass”.) 



But a little cycle-cross got us back to an established path we walked last night and hence back to civilization.



Joanie, you look relieved…

Monday, February 20, 2012

Beaufort South Carolina


Sure it’s just more drop dead gorgeous homes, but it’s sunny and cool in the Low Country.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hunting Island State Park

We are way out on the Sea Islands in beautiful Hunting Island State Park (near Beaufort, SC.)  It was drizzly this morning, but the change of scenery was so worth it.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

NO Maps!

It has been about a week, first in Savannah and then Charleston,  that we have been slaves to our little tourist street maps.  We check our position constantly, identify the features, turn around twice with our tonsils to the sky and end up having to consult the map again to cross the street.  ENOUGH!  Patty wants to walk somewhere peaceful with no directional ambiguity and just mellow out.  Sound like a walk in the Four Holes  Swamp? Al was a little skeptical, but it turned out great.


Only one way in….



…and only one way to walk.

It was peaceful and calming.  We perhaps saw more wildlife in downtown Charleston (remember, there be camels there), but it was just what we needed. 





     Come on squirrels, get with the program!

And for those of you (Marilyn) who are not happy until Patty makes a fool of herself….


Friday, February 17, 2012

Southeastern Wildlife Exposition


Our stated purpose for the Charleston leg of our journey was to attend “SEWE”.  Wildlife artist friends from our show days always praised the show, the quality of the art and the food.  Well, we don’t know nothin about art, but we know what we like to eat.

There are few pictures today–- cameras make exhibitors nervous, even if theirs is a unique talent.

There are whole tents of gourmet food takeaways and, of course, celebrity chefs at work on game recipes.

There was an entire room of competing knife makers.  Is that a good idea?  We  especially liked the peachy cheeked young salesman for Irish boots standing in a water trough.

Quite nice boots, wouldn’t you say? was his opener.

We watched the Jack Hannah show with visiting guest animals and clips from his round- the-world adventures.

There was a hotel hall filled with landscapes, framed prints and such, but the main event at Charleston Place was an exposition hall filled with the very best –- sculpture, original paintings in every media and each booth arresting and unique. It would literally take your breath away.   Luckily, we had not the faintest hope that we might afford any of this, so we just enjoyed and tried to stay out of the way of the folks with checkbooks.

Outside, (the camels remember), we found this high climbing young lady enjoying her work.




The FOOD, thank you for asking, was just down home good.  We took a recommendation and tried Jestine’s Kitchen; they said, “It used to be a secret, but now it isn’t.”

The aroma from the barbeque place  nearby brought us back there the following night.  I didn’t get the overpriced hot dog from the Airstream, but I feel a little guilty about that… 

Charleston SC.

…hopelessly lost in Charleston.  Al remembers moving up from Skidaway  Island in an overcast morning, setting up in the very organized Oak Plantation Campground and getting our marching orders from the Charleston visitor’s center.
“You are here. Here are pretty homes (big circle on the map), here is every kind of food in the world (another circle) trolley is free…, you are parked here. ENJOY.” 
We strike out and, within minutes, Al –yes Al --is hopelessly disoriented and has no idea which direction is North.  A pocket full of electronic Apps were little help.  He was semi- demented.
“What’s the big deal?, says Patty.
But we saw some interesting things along the way…
camel and airstream.
  Yeah, nice one.

So many paths….

So many doorways….

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Tour of Savannah

Savannah deserves  better photographers that we are,IMG_1520 but we make up for it with manic energy.  The trolley tour was a great introduction Y’all.  And I am telling y’all true y’all, our driver, Cindy, was the BEST, y’all.  She made Paula Dean sound like she may be from Pittsburg. She wheeled that trolley around like it was a Corolla, talking the whole time. When we reluctantly left Cindy, we retraced most of the route and walked every likely street in the square mile historical district. 
IMG_1522  Without Cindy we would not have noticed that  the windows in this Sears Roebuck kit house were installed upside down.
 (They couldn’t read the instructions, Y’all.)

Nor would we have known that the beautiful fountain in Forsyth Park was ordered from a Mail order catalog out of NEW YORK CITY. Yep. page 42, I believe.”

We knew that the Pirate’s House restaurant was housed in a couple of the oldest buildings in Savannah or Georgia for that matter, but without Cindy we might not have known about the Grits and Shrimp.

The beautiful Kehoe House Inn was the family’s second house on the square.  The Irish ornamental  Iron maker did very well in Savannah where the amount and quality of your iron work gave a clue to your wealth.  So he built a second house with eighteen bedrooms for his eighteen kids.
 “Oh yes. And all that white trim? That’s all iron.”  Thanks Cindy.

IMG_1540General  Sherman encamped 10,000 troops in the old cemetery grounds, mostly just teenagers. When they left, many of the gravestones had been scattered, so this was the solution.
There are SO MANY little things to see and appreciate in a town like Savannah.  Everyone will find hundreds to love and admire.  We know we only touched the surface but we loved every moment.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

We Dive In


Not really.  It’s still drizzly and cool here on Skidaway Island, so we visited the …

It’s on the campus of a “Sea Grant College”  and a small part of this research campus, but we enjoyed the close up views of local sea creatures in well lighted tanks set just at eye level. 
This guy isn’t local, but just too spectacular.  The Lion fish isn’t native but is found just off shore on Grey’s Reef.
What are YOU lookin at???

We Ain’t Got JACK!

They are simple devices, these trailer jacks, a couple of tubes, a couple of gears and a handle.  They lift your trailer off the towing ball and even make it easier to adjust the Weight Distribution Hitch (which isn’t simple and no one says it is.)  This simple device, properly called a “Tongue Hitch Jack, A-frame, side winder” I’ve learned, failed a cold sunny morning in The Big Wheel CG and no amount of terminology, official or otherwise, would convince it to go about its prescribed duties.
Ever dependent on the kindness of strangers, we scratched our head while looking woefully at our problem.  As so often happens, two kindly strangers accustomed to such temperatures were about and, with the help of a Minnesotan  and a Nova Scotian, we jacked the tongue high enough to mount the hitch and removed the offending device.  Thus began our search.  
Three spots in St Marys had offerings, but not one that matched our exact needs.
We struck off up I-95.
One heavy diesel repair place, No.
Sixty miles to a big RV place. Just the thing and “it’s not on the inventory so you can have it for $10 cash.”
By now we were well beyond our intended stop but selected the beautiful Skidaway Island State Park outside Savannah.  We threaded our way through late afternoon traffic to the quiet campground.  There Al installed the bargain Jack only to find that it would not lift its own weight, making rumbling thumping gears-not-meshing noises.  Other noises were also detected in the otherwise tranquil site.  
Al was for pulling twenty miles on up to Camper World and buying a $350 electric Jack for Valentines day, but cooler heads prevailed.
In the rainy morning, we packed up and visited CW which did not have the required manual jack and would require most of the day to (maybe) get the Valentines Day Jack installed.  We visited two more trailer repair places NO and NO, sorry, but while we were phoning yet another from the parking lot, a very sympathetic mechanic came over and offered to “shim up” the worthless bargain Jack.  He did so in 15 minutes and would take no cash reward.  He told the shop guy 1/4 hours labor, but the shop guy has already seen our shiny trailer and  Great Mammoth Conveyance (GMC)  and charged us double.   
The shim job worked competently its first outing, but for how long?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chickens, Bert? Really? Chickens?

Two days ago we towed IMG_1484through the remainder of the Florida Panhandle and just across the Georgia border to the place where a full size submarine surfaces out of a grassy lawn.  Oh yes.
We proceeded dutifully beside the Kings Bay Submarine Base, and, turning our backs on the perfectly beautiful Crooked River State Park, wheeled into the Big Wheel RV Park.  We were here on the undiluted rave recommendation of one of our heroes, Bert Gildart,  adventurer, explorer and world class nature photographer. Bert wanders our National Parks, enduring privations (when away from his Airstream), facing down wild animals (duh? that’s his game).  Surely, if he warns us away from Crooked River into our first private campground,  it must be because the conditions there are too extreme for more risk adverse old Airstreamers like us – hordes of biting insects perhaps?  or free ranging armadillos? Have there been Maltese Pythons sighted this far north?   Other inducements offered by Bert were the  friendly folks and the Sunday POTLUCK!  (Now Al loves potlucks. A table load of everyone’s best dish, what’s not to love?)
Standing amidships in the registration lane, bowlegged, barking and defiant was Jasmine, an eighty pound bulldog.  She, of course, turned out to be a pussycat, and while Al was scratching her ears, a friendly resident gave true testimony as to her gentle disposition.  He liked our rig … had restored an Airstream himself… wishes now he had kept it (a refrain we have heard before.)
Registration was patient and unhurried and we were allowed to join Passport America for a discount on our first nights stay.  We were awarded pull thru site #1 with a view out our door of the wood pile, lawn mowers and assorted plastic children’s toys arrayed beneath the singlewide. Another friendly resident walking her Lab paused during our setup and was genuinely welcoming.  So far, so good.  Not a view of the river, but… 
We scouted the lovely village of St Mary’s, walking all the streets in town, marveling at the old homes and the older Live Oaks. We had a lovely dinner with new friends we pounced on while waiting for Lang’s Seafood to open and returned home after dark to load our packs for a day trip to Cumberland Island National Seashore 7ish next morning.
Constantly thereafter with hardly a pause for breath, we were serenaded.  He (or they) were nearby, Incessant and  discordant.  Patty, who already has sleep issues  sharing a bed with an old man and his miniscule bladder, was totally wasted by dawn, when , quite strangely, the rooster paused so we could hear the shotgun blasts from just over the boundary fence.  We fervently hoped that the gunshots  and the mangy chicken’s silence were related in some gruesome mortal way, but we were disappointed and he was still at work as we left in the dawn’s early light.
The winds were clocked at 30 knots that day and the temperature dropped to 24 degrees last night. Our shiny little home was buttoned up tight and various heating devices were humming along, so if the roosters did not have sense enough to seek shelter, at least their protestations were muted.
It is sunny this morning, temperature slowly climbing.  We haven’t seen smoke rising from the barbeque pit as promised, but we are hoping that the entrĂ©e of the day is CHICKEN.