Sunday, August 9, 2015

2006 Kayaking Amelia Island and Okefenokee Swamp with Elderhostel

This Elderhostel program was hosted by The Center for Adventure Education of Georgia Southwestern State University and was based in Fernandina Beach on Florida's Amelia Island. The first day we kayaked on the Intracoastal Waterway, stopping for lunch on an oyster shell-lined bank, created when the channel was dug years ago through oyster beds. A kayak stop at Kingsley Plantation, active in the heyday of sea cotton production, rounded out the afternoon.

Lofton Creek was our second day's adventure, a quiet and secluded paddle out of the wind and offering wildlife sightings. A morning thunderstorm sent us back to our bus where we ate our picnic lunch. An hour later, the storm departed, the sun arrived, and we paddled another two hours amidst the splendid, serene, wooded setting.

Simpson Creek winds through salt marshes as it travels from the Intracoastal Waterway to the Atlantic, passing the office and launch ramp of our outfitter, Kayak Amelia. Ray, one of the owners and our guide, supplied us with delicious, large, homemade chocolate chip cookies at our rest stops, a company tradition which quickly became a highlight of each day's paddle.

Our final paddle was in the magical Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia. A National Wildlife Preserve covering 396,000 acres and designated as a national wilderness area, the swamp is alive with wildlife, but the cold, rainy day cut our viewing of critters to a minimum. Our guide, Sheila Roddenberry (canoe on right), is from the locally famous Roddenberry Family Singers and an expert on all things related to the swamp, and she greatly added to our understanding and enjoyment of this special place. Her mother and sisters sang for us when I was on an Elderhostel program in 2004.

We paddled the swamp for five hours, including a picnic lunch on the floating platform at Cedar Hammock, followed by a circuit of Grand Prairie. Hammocks are the higher areas with trees, while prairies are the wetlands (which is an alien concept for someone from Illinois, the Prairie State.)

The participants' thanks also go to Lee Knight, our extraordinary coordinator/guide/naturalist/ musician/singer/folksong expert, whose expertise, humor, and gentle nature added to the program's enjoyment and impact.

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