Tuesday, November 1, 2011

No tricks, only treats

Oct. 31—Trick or treat. Today we had no tricks, only treats.

After spending the night Georgia’s Stephen Foster State, which lies within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, we took a boat tour of the swamp.

Okefenokee Swamp, the land of the trembling earth, according to the Seminole Indians who lived there, consists of 402,000 square acres. It has three entrances; we were at the Fargo, Ga., entrance on the western side of the swamp. Several years ago we had visited the southeast entrance as well as the north entrance. The swamp is so big, each side differs considerably in wildlife and habitat. We did learn, however, not to visit in the heat of the summer. That’s when deer flies bite, and the strongest of insect repellants is no match for those pests. That’s one reason we decided to take a tour in the fall, when biting insects were few, and we wouldn’t perspire under the sun’s blare.

The 90-minute boat tour of the swamp was very peaceful. The guide explained that Okefenokee means “land of the trembling earth” because of the floating islands of peat. These islands grow grasses, even trees, when they are large enough, and animals as well as people can walk on them. However, when you tread on the these patches of earth, they sink slightly—hence, they “tremble.”

We did not see too much wildlife on this cool morning, aside from a couple of alligators that were sunning (including one that had lost its foot), a hawk, some blue heron, and deer.

We actually saw several deer, when we entered the park the night before, as well as this morning, when we neared the ranger station. But when we were on the boat tour, the guide turned off the motor at the end of the “trail” so we could quietly appreciate the silence of nature. Suddenly we heard branches snapping nearby. When we looked for the origin of the sound, we found an eight-point buck staring us in the face! He seemed as curious about us as we were about him. We watched each other for at least 15 minutes. During that time, he was joined briefly by another buck. Our eight-pointer, however, dominated his territory, and the intruder left.

The ranger said that she had never seen a deer stay in one place for such a long time. I believe her.
The tour over, it is time to go home, which is less than three hours south of here.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

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