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Best day ever in the swamp!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

I was thrilled to wake to blue skies this morning since I would be spending quite a few hours today out in the swamp in a boat.

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Around 10:00 this morning, intern Kathy and I waited in the boat house for local volunteer Russell to arrive.  We would be going out in one of the boats with him to help with the maintenance of the canoe trails through the Okefenokee swamp.  He is certified to pilot a boat, and has been a life long resident of this area.

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Our journey today included the orange, purple, magenta, and a portion of the black canoe trails.  My guess is that we traveled close to 50 miles on the waterways through the Okefenokee swamp today.  The boat has a special motor on the back that chops up the peat ‘blow-ups’, and helps keep the canoe trails open to travel.  What an adventure we were on!

IMG_1337The weather was perfect, and we began our travels down the Suwannee Canal Run.  The cypress trees were a brilliant rusty color against the incredibly blue skies.  The canal waters were smooth and calm, producing unbelievable reflections.  What a feast for the eyes it was!

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There were four of us on board.  Russell was the captain of our ship, and gave us an exciting journey through the canal and trails.  So exciting, that I thought at one point that I was going to fall in!  He had suggested adding a folding chair for me to sit on because of my hip issues.  It worked out perfectly until we tried to blast through a rather large peat blow-up.  As the boat seemed to me to almost turn on it’s side, I tried to hang on and wondered how I could save my camera!  Surprised smile  His comment, “Oops, sorry about that.”

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One of our jobs on this trail clearing ride was to restock the registration sheets at the canoe camping shelters that can be found along the Nationally designated Wilderness Area.  This is what one of the shelters looks like.  There is a covered area for canoeists to erect their tents with a picnic table and porta-potty.  Camping in the Wilderness Area is on a pack in/pack out basis.  What a grand experience that would be to do!  Kind of reminds me in a way of hiking the Appalachian Trail.

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My hope on this adventure was to see lots of birds, and I was not disappointed.  Along one of the trails we encountered a large group of little blue herons.  Between the birds, and their reflections, there are 15 little blues in this pic.  Can you find all of them? 

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I have a special place in my heart for sandhill cranes, and I was really thrilled to see some today.  This is one of the places where the cranes from the upper Midwest spend their winters.  I think these two might be ‘Cheese Heads’ from Wisconsin.  Open-mouthed smile  I got my fill of hearing their haunting calls today.

I took around 140 photos today, and can only post a limited number each day due to my connection issues.  So, I’ll be posting more about what else we did on this trip in the near future.  It was a spectacular day, and is a true example of why volunteering on our National Wildlife Refuges is so worthwhile to me.  You just can’t beat experiences like this!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

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