It was the beginning of a strange time – what had started out as quiet murmurs of a novel virus overseas had slowly crept into our minds, and the idea that we might have to go into a self-imposed isolation had formed into a reality. It was early march, and the weather in Georgia was just beginning to warm up – warm enough that we could roll the windows down, but not so warm that we could roll the top back – at least not without dressing in full winter attire.
This trip – three state parks and a quick jaunt of state lines – would come to be the one before – the trip before the pandemic, the last trip in “normalcy”. The last sit-down meal in a restaurant, the last tangible memory before the world seemed to descend into chaos. It was the perfect weekend – deep companionship, late nights laughing and crying and bearing our souls, revisiting old haunts and new aspirations, a retreat in every sense of the word. It was exactly what our souls needed to shake of the dark days of winter, but also to nourish ourselves for what was to come that we had only an inkling of.
The first of our stops landed us in Laura S Walker State Park. Nestled just along the northern edge of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Laura S Walker surrounds a lake framed with cypress and pines, draped with Spanish moss. The lake, also named after Laura Singleton Walker, is home to alligators, a wide variety of water birds, pitcher plants, saw palmettos and mosquitos. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this park is below the “gnat line”, and is prime bug territory. I don’t always mind bugs, but always make sure to carry bug spray for when the going gets tough.
We were delighted to meet the park cat, a sleek and well cared for specimen. He was friendly and affectionate, though the park ranger said that she doesn’t take a shine to every visitor, so your mileage may vary. Obviously well cared for, I was delighted to see that he even had a heating pad in his box on the covered porch.
The park staff was also very personable and informative, welcoming us to the park, and helping us decide exactly where we wanted to hike and what might give us the best abbreviated tour. We chose to walk the boardwalk, hoping to see waterbirds, but delighted just to be out of the Jeep after a 3 hour drive.
Despite their directions, we still managed to get turned around in the campgrounds trying to pick up the trail head. We finally figured out exactly where the maps were trying to guide us, but a few more confidence markers could be helpful, especially as it seems that there is some construction / maintenance going on with some larger machines that leave doubletrack trail on frequently driven paths that are not related to the actual trail itself.
Once we found the lake, and the boardwalk, we knew we were off to the races! The palmettos parted to the pedestrian bridge out onto the water, and the inlet was framed with cypress trees, knees and draping spanish moss. It was quintessential South Georgia.
On just the other side of the boardwalk, we found a viewing platform and hide for watching water birds. I appreciated the effort put forth to allow the public to view nature without disturbing it, but unfortunately there were no birds in the area at the time. We continued our walk along the shore of the lake, keeping note of the edges, where unseen alligators no doubt rested.
At times, the park felt a little bit like a lost world, as if at any moment a jurassic creature would cross from out of the underbrush. We did not witness any prehistoric creatures on our short trek, but no doubt if you go to the park, you may. Just be careful around the waters edge 🙂