Saturday, March 18, 2017

Back to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and St. George (after awhile away)

It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds.
Aesop

In the almost-three years we have lived in NC, there have been only two things I miss about Florida--the St. Marks wildlife refuge and St. George Island. They have been tugging at me for a long time and so I finally decided I had to go back.

I stopped at the refuge on my way to the island, which turned out to be a good decision--the day I left St. George it was pouring rain, and so I would have missed the refuge altogether if I had waited.

I have not seen a limpkin for a very long time!

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I drove up to the lighthouse and parked, as usual, and started the walk around Lighthouse Pond. The birds were, as always, perched on the pilings.

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There were the usual ducks in the pond. I used to know what these were but now I am not sure...

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There was a grebe in amongst them, but he decided to go elsewhere...

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I guess it takes a lot of hops to finally become airborne.

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But he did finally land and swim on.

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After getting to the boat launch area, I decided to take a walk down the Cedar Point trail, where I had often encountered nesting osprey. No luck with that this time, but I did see these egrets standing in a very still pool.

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Just a note--that picture took forever to take. I didn't want to alarm them and have them fly away, nonetheless I had to walk across underbrush and pretty much climb into a tree to get that photo. There were some egrets with some juvenile ibis nearby, so as long as I was already in the thickets, I got those as well.

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I had hoped to see pelicans when I got to the end of the trail, which juts out into the Gulf, but there were none. So back to walking. I got to the lighthouse and continued on behind it, another trail we always walked. This heron was standing there near the water.

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I continued on to the little beach-like area, where I found this egret.

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He didn't want company....

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It was time to move on and get to a house I had rented at St. George (see the following post for that section of the trip) so I got in the car to drive out. There are many pools and ponds alongside the road, and I couldn't resist stopping near one when I saw this egret getting fluffed by the breeze. Note the bright green nares, a sign that it is breeding time.

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It was a joy to be back there. Read on for the second part of the trip.

Back to St. George Island (after about 3 years away...)

In every outthrust headland, 
in every curving beach, 
in every grain of sand 
there is the story of the earth. 
Rachel Carson

As mentioned in the post above, it became time to get back to St. George Island. Rather than camping, my lodging mode when we lived in FL, this time I rented a house right on the beach for a week. It had a fantastic screen porch and was only a very short path through the sand to the shore. The oysters and shrimp were as good as I recalled. And finally--birds!!

On my first walk on the beach, I came to this great blue heron:

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A little while later it was joined by a much smaller shorebird...

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And off in the distance was a boat that I presume was busy already replacing the huge amount of oysters or shrimp I planned to consume. They must have known I was coming.

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I had sunshine every day that I was there except for the morning that I packed up the car and headed for home. On that day it rained steadily over 300 miles. But while at my rental house, I spent time every day on the beach. I have always done my beach sitting at the state park--dogs are not allowed on the beach at the state park. So it was quite a joy to see all the dogs playing in the water in this section. I saw these poodles almost every day.

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Most of the time I would take my Kindle down with the thought of reading, but I got very little reading done on the beach...too much to see. This was fun (though hard to photograph very well)--

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and going the other way:

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I saw dolphins swimming by almost every day.

I love the sandpipers, which come in both small and large. I used to know what this larger one is. Very cute.

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It caught something!

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It dropped it....

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And got it back!

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And then there are the little sandpipers, my favorites--

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These dogs were having fun, but the people with them somewhat less so. I imagine they were young dogs and they may have been having a little too much fun, particularly if the one had to be kept leashed.

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I was very disappointed at the lack of pelicans, it must have something to do with the time of year or availability of fish now. It was not until my last full day there that a few finally flew by. I have missed these birds in particular.

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And one more dog who was having a great time in the surf--

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I've decided to make this trip an annual thing. When we moved to NC, I thought I could trade the beach for the mountains, and that worked with every beach but this one. I don't enjoy the lengthy and tedious drive, but once I get there, it is certainly worth it.

Meanwhile, I don't know if we will get back to paddling this summer, but this blog will get more attention eventually. Seems odd to live in NC and not have ever seen the Outer Banks, so that is the next trip, coming up this summer. In the meantime, stand by.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Not Paddling (This Time) at Lake Santeetlah

The first river you paddle runs 
through the rest of your life. 
It bubbles up in pools and eddies 
to remind you who you are. 
-- Lynn Noel

This is my favorite lake of all time. Crystal clear with a woodsy shoreline and surrounded by mountains. Doesn't get better than that.

Nonetheless, after living a little over an hour from this lake for two years now, this is the first time we have made the drive to the Robbinsville area so I can stick my feet in it again. Distances can be deceptive here--a 30-mile drive can take an hour if it is over winding 2-lane mountain roads. So we decided to do a recon trip to the lake before taking the kayaks.

We chose the slightly longer but less twisty route, using mostly 4-lane roads. We turned left off of Rt 129 onto Thunderbird Mountain Road, a very familiar area for me. I have stayed in several vacation rentals on this lake, all in this vicinity. We passed the marina and turned in to the little recreation area with a sandy beach and swimming area and an ideal launching spot to the right of it. We had a picnic lunch and enjoyed the breeze coming off the lake.

This is the view from the launching area, looking across the designated swimming area:

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Now here is what you want to be doing on a hot summer day...


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Looking out across this section of lake showed a couple of paddlers returning to the launch area.


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When we left there I decided to drive a little farther on Rt 129, with the thought of possibly seeing Tapoco Lodge again, and beyond that Calderwood Lake. But it was getting late in the day and after driving a while we decided maybe to save that for another trip, so we headed home.

We noticed several boat ramps on Lake Fontana on the way home, which would be even closer than Santeetlah. So that makes two more lakes to add to our paddling plans in addition to hopefully getting back to Chatuge and Glenville. We were unable to paddle (or pretty much do anything--long story) for much of last summer and all of fall, and with everything else there is to do in this area, we are slow getting back to it.

The bluebirds returned and raised a family in bird house #1, while the swallows raised their family in house #2. We now have swallow nests in both houses.

I'll be back when we get to one of those lakes. Stand by.