Amelia Island, Florida - April, 2010

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Introduction

Cheers!

Cheers!

What could be sweeter than sharing a good wine in a beachside restaurant on a 79º day with a cool breeze blowing? In the depths of December, 2009, Joyce and I looked for a destination, somewhere, anywhere, to be warm for a week in April. We've taken several Exploritas (AKA ElderHostel) trips enjoying them all. Normally we select hiking trips but ... none of them were hiking in warm places in April :-) This program, Amelia & Cumberland Islands, and the Okefenoke Swamp felt right. Nature played a practical joke on us. On leaving Syracuse the temperature there was warmer than that on Amelia Island.


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On The Beach Peak

On The Beach

We arrived a day early to orient ourselves before the program began. First place oriented, the beach, was a 5 minute walk from The Residence Inn Amelia Island. The Inn was the nicest place I've stayed to date. The staff was friendly and helpful. My only complaint? They stayed offering chocolate chip cookies at the front desk until our last day!

Renting an umbrella and beach chairs we spent most of our free time on the beach. With 10 miles of beach to our left and 10 on the right we had plenty of space to roam. Having seen little sun through the winter SPF 70 sun block seemed like a good idea, and it was …It would've been a better idea had I remembered to apply it to my left ankle. After two hours sunning it turned beet red.

Sea birds were everywhere. With practice we could predict when a circling Brown Pelican would fold back its' wings then dive-bomb an unfortunate fish below. We watched a pair of Laughing Gulls in full courtship display. With a squawk the male throws his head back while the female looks past him, just like real life. Eventually the female responded doing her "happy dance" stamping her feet on the sand. In the photo above upper a left, Sanderlings, members of the sandpiper family, search in formation for food hidden in the sand. They'd do the Navy's Blue Angels proud. While running in and out avoiding the waves their little legs churn furiously fading into a blur.

A view up the beach, public land to the highest high tide mark, is shown in the photo upper right. In the photo middle right a beach bum poses for the camera. Shown lower right, our home on the beach. In the photo lower left the beach at dawn. Before sunrise Monday we walked to the beach and watched a Space Shuttle launch 100 miles to the south.


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Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island

For centuries before the first European arrived Native Americans, the Timucua people, lived and prospered on the island. Immense oyster shell middens are found along the shore, the only signs remaining of the earliest inhabitants. Broom Grass, in the photo above upper left, helps hold sand dunes in place. Ocean waves keep the dunes on the move. In the photo upper right they've overrun a forest. In the photo lower right a feral horse grazes. When the rich abandoned the island their polo ponies and riding horses were simply let loose. At the height of the Gilded Age Cumberland Island was the place to be. Andrew Carnegie purchased land originally owned by Revolutionary War hero Nathaniel Green for his winter home. The photo lower center shows the ruins of Dungeness, all that remains. In the photo lower left live oaks and Eastern Red Cedars grow in abundance in the island's interior.


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Fort Clinch

Fort Clinch

Fort Clinch Florida State Park is sited on the northern tip of Amelia Island. Stationed there throughout the Civil War the 1st New York Volunteer Engineers spent most of the war rebuilding Fort Clinch. In the photo above, clockwise from the upper left, the 33 star national flag flies over the fort. Next, himself rests on a 10 inch Rodman seacoast guns. Next, a view from the battery looking out to Cumberland Sound. Lower right "Sarge"", a Civil war reenactor and park employee, led our tour. He makes it clear that the ladies will not get the plum job of washerwomen until they abandon their painted nails and shameless clothing. Next, a view of one of two barracks and the parade grounds. Finally, a view of the covered way below one of the cannons. Not a single shot was fired in anger by the fort's guns throughout the war.


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Wading Birds

Wading Birds

We saw birds unlikely to frequent our backyard feeders. In the photo above upper left a Great Egret stands watch in an Okefenoke Swamp prairie. The Egan Creek Greenway begins just behind the Marriott. Along the greenway, photo lower left, a Great Blue Heron waits patiently for lunch. In the photo lower right a Little Blue heron eyes us from a tree. In the photo upper right a Snowy Egret, startled by our passing boat, rises from the bank of the Amelia River.


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Old Town

Amelia Island — Fernandina Beach Historic District

In the photo above lower left a carriage drawn by a Percheron carries a bride and groom on their first trip as man and wife. In the photo lower right Joyce polishes off an ice cream cone at the Working Cow Home Made Ice Cream store. The Fudge Master worked at a marble-topped table tossing ribbons of fudge mixture into the air. It was great entertainment for passing the time waiting for our orders. We took an extended tour of Amelia Island on Polly The Trolley. Upper left Joyce and I enjoy glasses of wine, we seem to do that a lot, at Brett's restaurant along the bank of the Amelia River in the historic district. Joyce enjoyed her steak while I gobbled fresh caught local shrimp.


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Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge — Georgia

Before this trip all I new about the Okefenokee I learned from Pogo the possum. If you're thinking "He doesn't even know how to spell the name of the place" hold your fire. Locals use a myriad of spellings. If that's good enough for them it's good enough for me.

The photo above top left shows the aftermath of a controlled burn with smoke still rising from the ashes. The photo upper right was taken during our pontoon boat trip through the freshwater swamp. Cypress trees draped with Spanish Moss line the shore of the The Suwanee Canal. Plants I've never seen before, Golden Club, Butterworts, Bladderworts and Swamp Iris coexist in the swamp prairies. In the photo lower right Joyce holds on as a wild wind blows across the swamp and through our lookout tower. The photo lower center shows Red lichen living symbiotically on a tree. The presence of many varieties of lichen indicate good air quality. Sun sparkles on the water in the photo lower left. The water is acidic giving it a brown cast. Take this link for a detailed discussion of the flora and fauna of the refuge.

Okefenokee Swamp

Okefenokee "Land of the Trembling Earth"

In the photo above upper left the main features of the swamp Prairie, Blowup, Battery, House and lake are visible from the observation tower. Photo upper right a Barred Owl perches in a tree along the Suwanee Canal. I was asked, tongue in cheek, if the owl were real or a Disney's Audio Animatronics creation? Thinking back it did show up just where our guide said it would! In the photo lower right, White Water Lilies in bloom covered swamp prairies. Photo lower left, the signature predator of the swamp, the American Alligator.


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Updated: November 18, 2014