Rebecca here! I’m still away on my backpacking trip, but today’s guest post comes from longtime reader Bob Plath, a.k.a. “Catskill Bob.” Reading about his adventures down south brought back some fun memories for me.
About twenty years ago, we spent a couple of days at Jekyll Island, Georgia, as part of a trip to take our then eight year old daughter to Disney World. We regretted that we had only allowed such a short time for a visit because the island clearly merited closer exploration and we promised ourselves we’d return someday.
Then I discovered Rebecca’s blog this past winter, when she was working at the 4-H Center on Jekyll [note from Rebecca: this would have been the winter of 2010-11]. Her enthusiasm and the valuable information she provided, as well as a three week window of opportunity in May to justify the long drive from our home in upstate New York, were all the provocation we needed to begin planning a trip. Our itinerary would include some other points of interest on our route.
We rarely get to the shore, so the morning we spent on the beach in the company of Black Skimmers, Redknots, Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, Oystercatchers and others was probably the highlight of the Jekyll part of the trip. The pond at the old amphitheater yielded Anhingas, Black-crowned Night Herons and Roseate Spoonbills. We also added Painted Buntings, Parula Warblers and Wood Storks to our life lists, but the exotic (to our Yankee eyes) vegetation was also cause for wonder. Who knew that cabbage palmettos put out spikes of showy white flowers? We were like kids in a candy store. Less intriguing were the salt marsh mosquitoes, which put our northern mosquitoes to shame for their ability to land and bite before being detected, robbing the victim of the satisfaction of an occasional pre-emptive strike.
After five great days at Jekyll we headed for Florida’s gulf coast and visited the Lower Suwanee Wildlife Refuge, where we hoped to see a gopher tortoise. Despite getting down on my hands and knees to peer into the maw of a few burrows I found, I didn’t spot any.
Our next stop was at the Okefenokee, where we had a very close encounter with a five foot Diamondback Rattlesnake. If it hadn’t rattled, we might have stepped on it. We retreated to a safe distance and took some pictures. My wife suggested that I move in closer so that my presence in the photo would give a sense of scale, but I demurred. We were much more impressed with the snake’s girth than its length.
Later we read that this, the most venomous snake in North America, is fond of escaping the midday heat by sheltering in gopher tortoise burrows. I recalled with horror my up close and personal inspection of these burrows a few days before.
We wrapped up our trip at Grayson Highlands State Park in southwestern Virginia, where the conjunction of southern and northern hardwood forests produce astounding diversity.
It was a great adventure, and it sprouted from a seed planted by Rebecca in the Woods.
Bob Plath is a 60-something cabinetmaker living on an old dairy farm in the western Catskills in upstate New York. When he’s not breathing sawdust, he and his wife Annette enjoy hiking and nature photography locally and also in the Adirondacks, and nature-themed trips further afield when we can. They’re both impatient for retirement when they’ll have more time to pursue our outdoor interests.
Newer readers who weren’t around when I lived on Jekyll Island might be interested in checking out the archives. Fun places to start include my encounter with a cottonmouth, my description of the massive live oak we called the Grandfather Tree, my explanation of spring tide, and my photos of sea turtle tracks on the beach.