Joined: Wed Apr 25, 2007 10:11 am
Location: Dawsonville, USA (north of Atlanta)
All work and lots of playtime
Saturday morning was a little overcast here in the Oke and there was a lot of work to be done -- canoe trails and boardwalks still closed by fallen trees from last summer's wildfire, campsites that desperately needed maintenance, motor boats and canoes and kayaks to be cleaned and properly stored -- but all work and no play makes Wild Bill a dull boy, uh, old fart.
Bill H. had arrived here two days earlier for some refresher courses in wilderness maintenance, and Jonnie D. drove up early Saturday from her entomology classes at the U. of Florida. It only took a few minutes to get all of our climbing gear down to the boathouse and into what Bill H. calls the "Swamp Harley."
We stopped long enough to cut up and clear a fallen 60-foot Carolina Bay tree out of the public boat basin, and then headed out to the center of this 396,000 acre wilderness. Along the way we flagged several hazardous trees that were leaning dangerously over the canoe trails; they'll be felled next week by the hazardous tree team coming in from the U.S. Forest Service. We also ran the big boat with its special air-cooled engine and cast iron foot and prop through a 5-mile trail that was beginning to silt up from inattention.
Finally we arrived at a special loblolly pine that has been affectionately named "Coffee Top," because it stands tall above Coffee Bay and the camping platform that rises out of the black swamp water. The base of this tree is huge (some day I'll figure out how to load photos onto this website while using an antiquated government computer that was probably around when Noah was a youth) and has a DBH of approximately six feet. It is not particularly tall -- maybe 80 feet or so -- but the view from the top is spectacular.
East and west views are of the Suwannee Canal, which is the headwaters of 19th century songwriter Stephen Foster's famous "Swannie River." To the north is a 50-acre area of burned out cypress and pine that is already beginning to recover from the huge fire that roared through this wilderness last summer. To the south is a magnificent open prairie of many hundreds of acres, filled with swamp grass and dotted here and there with pools of water.
Bill H. hiked for several hundred yards onto the prairie, despite the swamp mud that stuck to boots and threatened to trap puny humans in a morass of, well, smelly goo.
Meanwhile, Jonnie took the lead climber's role and made a quick SRT ascent into Coffee Top. Within a few minutes she had me a great setting and I joined her in the canopy. we listened quietly to the calls of marsh hawks, barred owls, greater sanhill cranes, kingfishers and other feathered critters.
All good things come to an end, so we piled everything back into the boat and motored slowly back for a dozen miles or so to refuge headquarters, and to the old mobile home that serves as a bunkhouse for volunteers. Jonnie and Bill H. then spent a couple of hours on various websites to check out some of the birds we'd spotted during the day.
Finally, after a big supper, we hiked a half mile in the dark to the refuge's helipad, where we were able to use binoculars to check out the incredible number of stars that were visibile in the night sky. All in all, it was a fantastic day...!
Alice Lou taught me everything I know, she just didn't teach me everything she knows!
Joined: Wed Apr 25, 2007 10:25 am
Location: Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
Re: All work and lots of playtime
Gem of a report, thanks! Looking forward to photos when you get out of the swamp.