Hey everybody (I’ve been told its creepy when I say Y’all)
We evacuated from Miami on Friday and drove up to Okefenokee Swamp/Wildlife Refuge in southeren Georgia. We arrived at night and found out that we would be staying in a series of trailers. We unpacked, then fell asleep. We woke up the next morning and had the official information session for all volunteers. We learned about the swamp, and watched a “award winning” video on the wildlife/conservation efforts. The swamp is the same size as half of Rhode Island. We then asked what there is to do around here because we had the whole weekend off. We found out that there was a river where all the locals swim.
We drove to the river and discovered that the water was tea colored. The locals started laughing when we said we wanted to go swimming because apparently there are lots of alligators and cotton mouth snakes (very poisonous). We then looked across the bank, and on top of a cliff, there was a rope swing. We could not resist, so a few of us swam across. To swing off the rope swing, we had to climb this really rickety tree that would launch the rope off the cliff so that you were suspended 40 ft over the water. It may have been one of the most thrilling experiences in my life. I was scared sh*tless, but the the free fall made it worth the anxiety.Besides the fear of the sketchy rope breaking, the fear of falling striaght into an alligators mouth nearly made me wet myself.
On Sunday we went on a “canoe” trip around the swamp. I use quotes because we were in plastic boats, with plastic paddles, and nobody on my team knows how to canoe properly. It was really cool to explore the swamp though. We saw alligators, and birds, and the area was BEAUTIFUL!
On Monday we met our supervisor Russel. Imagine the crockhunter with a southern accent, who makes fun of himself for being a typical redneck. He taught us how to use power tools, and we ventured off into the swamp to clear a trail. We got to put on camouflage overall waders and we trudged through the swamp. It gave me a strange sense of power using power tools in camouflage. I can see why people actually go swamping for fun. Russel told us that what happens in Okefenokee stays in Okefinokee, but I’ll tell you guys anyways.
Here are the rules we broke that made the day sooo much better:
- We got to ride in the front basket of a 4 wheeler driven by Russel. Imagine speeding alond the bumpy trails feeling like there is nothing beneath you, and there is absolutely nothing stopping you from flying into a nearby tree. So much fun. In the words of Meredith “This is better then Disney World.”
- We got to hold baby alligators. Not only that, but Russel waved the baby alligator in front of the mommy till it lunged at us. We all screamed and Russel cackled. He did not put the alligator back until he heard a car coming because we aren’t supposed to touch the animals.
We then spent the next two days in motor boats traveling through narrow passageways clearing a 12 mile canoe trail. It was amazing careening around sharp bends in the swamp, especially when Russel was driving. I was sitting on the bow of the boat and he yells up to me “Hey, Alena, brace yourself. I’m going to show you how we crash in Okefenokee.” He then proceeded to crash into the brush. After clearing the trail, we then tore down a structure in the swamp and finished up today.
Tomorrow we go back to Miami. There is no power down there, so I don’t know how well I will be able to communicate. I am sad to be leaving the swamp, but I am happy to get back to Miami.
I hope all is well with everyone! Keep writing!