Before we left Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, we took another walk along the bank of the Suwannee River. As we walked, I remarked to Odel that the water was so dark, it looked like motor oil. Later in the evening, I was looking back in our blog to see where we were around this time in prior years. Well… last year at this time we were in Pismo Beach, eating “Motor Oil” ice cream, a locally made chocolate ice cream with Kahlua and fudge ribbons! Gosh, I’d like some of that right now.
We had a short, easy, drive from the Florida to St. Marys, Georgia, just across the border – only 110 miles. After we settled in, we drove the few miles to “historic St. Marys”, a small area of lovely ante-bellum homes and a pretty dock and harbor. Much of the historic area is given over to the National Park Service, as St. Marys is the jumping off point for trips to Cumberland Island National Seashore. At least half of the rest of the small town appears to be For Sale – homes and commercial buildings. Looks like the economic turn-down might have hit this area particularly hard.
As seems to always be the case these days, there is way more to do around here than the time we have to do it! Cumberland Island National Seashore is reputed to be a special place, but higher on my priority list is the Okefenokee Swamp (actually called Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, but to people my age who read Pogo in the comics, it will always be the swamp). Today, away we went to the Okefenokee!
Graceful old home in St. Mary’s, GA
Orange Hall, built 1860-ish
What an interesting day! We are on the east side of the swamp (25 miles away), which is the dry, “prairie” side. Here there is not nearly as much water; it’s more of a peat bog that absorbs water until it is saturated, then water pools and ponds. We are here in a rather wet time, I guess, as one of the trails was closed due to high water – and there was plenty of water for us to see as we hiked the trails and walked the boardwalk.
For me, the highlight was a visit to the Chesser Homestead, the only “swamper” homestead left in the Okefenokee (click here for an interesting narrative memoir). The homestead housed a family of 9, and the original house and outbuildings were open to our wandering. See the floor boards in the photo below? We could look right down between them to the ground below.
Above: Roadside Alligator (he’s alive)!
Above: “Swamper’s” Homestead
Below: the swamp!
Below: Swamper’s Kitchen
The outbuildings and workstations needed to maintain the homestead surrounded the house: a fenced vegetable garden, a mill for sugar cane (to make cane syrup), a hog pen, a corn crib, a well (though the house had a pump on the porch for bath and wash water), a whetstone… it was fascinating! I think I could have stood the work – it is the dirt I couldn’t handle. I’d work the garden, feed the hogs, chop the wood, stoke the stove… but only if I knew I could have a long, hot, soapy shower and clean clothes at the end of the day! Yep, spoiled, spoiled, spoiled (as I am reminded each time we boondock in the desert).
It was a fun day – oh, I forgot to mention seeing real, live alligators – and I’m glad we visited. Now it’s time to get some dinner going… later!