Okefenokee

The plan was to drive until we got tired—hopefully we’d wind up somewhere weird and maybe slightly warmer than home.

We stopped in Middle-of-Nowhere, Georgia. The town seemed to consist almost entirely of some gas stations, a Waffle House, a knockoff Waffle House, and a Snazzy’s Hot Wings and Sassy Things. If James Lipton ever asks me his version of the Proust Questionnaire, my answer for “what sound or word do you hate?” will be “snazzy.” But this little outcropping of truck stops and fluorescent signs springing forth from the interchange certainly met all of our criteria for a destination.

We slept in the next morning and then went for an extended southern buffet brunch with the after-church crowd. While I nursed my bottomless sweet tea, I searched my telephone for something distinctly different. It turns out that the Okefenokee Swamp is a real place. I would have given even odds that it was something along the lines of Jellystone Park or part of the back story of the Country Bear Jamboree, but when I mentioned it to Jen, she said that we had to go.

It’s definitely real.

 

It reminded me somewhat of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, but with Spanish moss and bald cypress and swamp tupelo and other odd flora. It also has markedly different fauna:

Alligators

We took a walk down a nature trail in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

Yucca

The park was due to close though, and I didn’t want to get the truck locked inside the gates, so we left and decided to do some exploring on our own. I was quite at home on the sugar sand and pine needle trails and only had to use the four wheel drive sparingly.

Dirt Path

During our three minutes of research, we came across a passage in the definitive guide to the Okefenokee, Wikipedia, that mentioned:

Longtime residents of the Okefenokee Swamp, referred to as “Swampers”, are of overwhelmingly English ancestry. Due to relative isolation, the inhabitants of the Okefenokee used Elizabethan phrases and syntax, preserved since the early colonial period when such speech was common in England, well into the 20th century.

Given the fact that some of the Pineys in my home town still speak with a vaguely southern Piney accent, and that our friend Jimmy James was fond of talking about “swumpers,” (which I believe were some kind of oversized mud bogging tires, since the word was exclusively used with a hand gesture of two rotating wheels and a sort of “whump WHUMP” sound), we were eager to interact with the local gentry. In practice, however, this was a difficult proposition. When we crested over a ridge with our Garden State license plates, ten miles from the nearest paved road, and came upon two dudes propped up on a quad the size of an industrial tractor while their womenfolk were rooting around in the dirt with their claws, I just nodded and we drove on.

Sunlight in Pines

I imagine that it’s a brutal buggy mess down there in the summer, but was a nice change of pace for a Yankee in January.

Twighlight Yucca

The next day, we went to Savannah. We didn’t spend too much time there, but did wander around a bit. It’s quaint.

Spanish Moss

We stopped by Lafayette Square…

Lafayette Square

…and attempted to take artsy photos of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

Given our nautical inclinations, the next stop was Tybee Island, and to the top of the Tybee Island Light.

Tybee Lighthouse

Due to high winds, we weren’t allowed to go out on the lighthouse’s outdoor catwalk, but from the top we could see working trawlers and ships heading into the Savannah River from the Atlantic. We also had an excellent view of the lighthouse’s first order Fresnel lens, which is still in use today—Tybee is still an operational aid to navigation, unlike our local lighthouse, Barnegat Light, which had its lens moved to the Barnegat Light Museum.

Fresnel Lens

From the top, we could also see some of the gun batteries of Fort Screven. The following photo of the lighthouse complex was taken from the top of Battery Garland, which is now a museum.

Tybee

In addition to military history, the museum also covers the history of recreation on Tybee Island…

Crazy Horse

…including an exhibit on ye olde bathing costumes. Hubba hubba.

Bathing Beauties

Georgia in January was colder than I expected, but not as cold as here. We’re currently under a literal Blizzard Warning from the National Weather Service, with predicted snow accumulations up to 24″ and winds of 50kts. At times like these, it sometimes helps me to think warmer thoughts.

Lone Tree

 

“Prepare to fend off the bridge abutment.”