Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kolomoki Mounds State Park near Blakely, GA

When I was looking around for a place to camp for three mid-week days, I ran into a wall of spring vacationers--families with kids had filled all my usual places. So I needed to find the anti-spring-vacation campground. Where would you not want to take the kiddies for a week? I know--Indian mounds! I had planned a trip to this park back in early February, but cancelled because the weather was just too cold. While St. George and Ochlockonee and Stephen C. Foster were all completely full, this campground had only one site taken when I arrived. Over the three days I was there, the most sites filled was seven, with nary a child in sight. While this park would not be of much interest to young children, I found it fascinating.

As I have mentioned, you cannot reserve specific sites in GA state parks, so I didn't know what to expect in terms of my location. Their web photos only show one view of the campground, site 2. It looked just right. When I got there, the other campers had chosen another site, so I got site 2. Here are some views, first of Kolomoki Lake to the right of the site:



This is a small lake that was created when they dammed Kolomoki Creek. No boats over 10 hp are allowed on it. If it hadn't been so windy during my stay, I would have deeply regretted not taking the kayak. This is the view of the rest of the lake, looking to the left from the site:



There is a small, somewhat ramshackle dock that goes into the lake in front of this site. Here is the view from the end of that dock.



In that photo, note the pole with the gourds on it for purple martins on the far left. They were nesting while I was there and I spent a lot of time watching and photographing them.



---



This one bird spent a great deal of time one morning trying to get a particular piece of twig into the gourd to add to the nest. Here he comes with it.



He perched at the entrance, turning this way and that, trying to fit it through the opening.



While he was working on that, another bird came to a nearby gourd to work on his nest.



---



The bird with the twig took off, flew around the circle of gourds, and came back to try it again.



I was very happy to see a pair of Canada geese strolling by my site one morning (I do love those geese!).



---



It took them until the evening of second day to find it, but the small birds did discover the feeder I had hanging at my site.



So, on to the mounds! The main one, and the one that fascinated me, is Temple Mound, a monster of a mound. I spent a lot of time at this mound two of the days I was there, and I always had it to myself. Here's the trail that leads to it.



Here is a long view of the mound, which doesn't really do it justice, particularly with nothing to use for scale.



Here is what that plaque in front of it at ground level says:



This depiction was to the right of that text.



There are 88 steps (thanks, Julie). The top is mostly flat, with a small rise to one side.

The plaque at the top says:



The view is amazing, the peacefulness at the top is wonderful. I took many photos from up there and none of them really convey the feeling that you get so high up, looking down on little birds flying from tree branch to tree branch and contemplating the history of the ground under your feet. I walked away from the steps over to one side and took three photos that comprise this panorama:



There is a small mound at the other side of the field (former plaza), which was discovered to contain several burials as well as pottery and other items that were presumably buried with the dead.

This is the view from the top of the steps, where I sat for long spells, just taking it all in.



There is a museum inside the park office building (which is itself set in a mound) that gives information about the Indians and also the excavations of the mounds.

I stopped on the road back to the campground to take this photo at the end of the lake where the dam is located. The campground is on the shoreline to the left.



When I got back to the campground I recalled my difficulty in finding any photos of sites at this park, so I took a photo of site 6, which was empty and is typical of the sites alongside the lake.



There are 10 sites next to the water, 24 sites in all. There was a sign about tenters being required to use the tent pads in sites, but I didn't see any tent pads in any of the sites, so that was puzzling. Some of these sites, such as #1 and 2, which I was in, are double sites, which share the picnic table area and are about five feet apart. The others have trees between them and are sufficiently private. All of the sites are good, whether on the water or in the woods. Some are a tad on the short side, which could be a problem for the bus-sized RVs, but there are enough that are large enough. They are all level side-to-side, but a few seemed to be inclined front-to-back, which is less of a problem, in my experience. The bath house is clean, but only one of two showers was functional while I was there. Given that there were so few other campers, I never had to wait to shower. There are nature trails, but I didn't hike them since I spent most of my time at Temple Mound. The park is a short drive from the town of Blakely, which has very little to offer that I could find, but it does have a large grocery store.

This was an excellent campground for adults, particularly if you are interested in historical exhibits and locales. I'd like to get back here again before the heat and bugs of summer keep me from camping.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lake Seminole State Park near Bainbridge, GA

I've been to this park several times over the years. As with other GA state parks, you can't reserve a specific site, so, while there are many sites right at the lake, you may also end up in a site that views the lake through trees and past other campers. I was lucky this time, it turned out that I arrived shortly after someone had vacated site 11, which is a lakeside site I have had before. More on sites later. This was taken after I had set up:



This is the view from the back of the camper, looking toward the main part of Lake Seminole (the park is located along an inlet):



I had wonderful neighbors on this trip, Billie and Bud from Chicago, who were camping with their wonderful Springer, Sunshine. They got Sunshine from Springer Rescue in Alabama.



I spent a lot of time chatting with them; it turned out that I am currently reading a book that Bud had just finished.

As always, the Canada geese were there, though it was too early for goslings. I like these geese a lot (possibly because I don't have any around my home, so I don't see them as pests--I know that they can create problems sometimes).



---



I arrived in a terrible storm, but the weather cleared and warmed up over the 3 days I was there. One day I was sitting outside reading and enjoying the view when I heard a bird call that was unfamiliar to me. I looked around and spotted, much to my surprise, a bluebird perched on a nearby signpost. I have not seen a bluebird for years. Of course I had the camera next to me. I put the Kindle down, picked up the camera, and took several photos of the bird as it flitted from signpost to signpost and into the branch of a tree.



---



---



---



Here's the thing about the sites at this park. I went for a walk to explore the sites that were closed, which are out of sight of the part of the lake that the rest overlook, but they had views of both the lake and the wetlands that are along a hiking trail. These sites are grassy, level, wonderfully shaded, and quite large. All of these sites would be better for tents than the gravel ones close to the lake. In fact, all things considered, I liked these sites a lot better. But they are closed off. I talked to one of the hosts about when they were opened, and she said that they open them when the front sites fill up. She said people want to take the sites all the way at the far end of the closed section and then complain that the bath house for those sites is closed. Apparently it's expensive to open/operate a second bath house, which makes sense. However, I think that these sites are greatly preferable to many of the ones on the lake side, which are neither lakeside nor woodsy, just somewhere in between. I would like to get back to this park again soon and I plan to ask if I can use one of those woodsy sites, well aware that there is a short hike to a bath house. It seems a shame to me that the best sites (IMO) at this campground are closed (they have been closed every time I have been there, but perhaps they are opened in summer?). Lakeside is really nice, and I enjoy the geese, but there are more powerboats and jet skis than birds in that section of water. If you are a tenter and you encounter the "This Section Is Closed" sign across the gate, and there are no other good sites available for tenting, you might want to ask about those sites. It's so pretty and peaceful and green back there. Oh, and one site, I think it might have been 28, had a bluebird house next to it!

Next planned camping trip is to a new (to me) campground--I'll let you know how that goes.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

New Views from St. George Island, Florida

Back again to St. George, this time my friend Deb from Indiana had driven down to join me. Deb's tent and my camper both fit nicely in site 57, which is a very roomy site. We had fantastic weather and did a lot of biking and beach walking over the four days we were there.

One day when we were driving into town we saw this unusual cloud formation over the water--basically a cloud tube. It was moving out to sea and losing its form, but I was able to get this photo of it.



On another day, we took our chairs down to the beach to sit and watch the surf. The little sandpipers were darting around at the water's edge.



And then the dolphin show began! We saw many, many dolphins, in groups of from two to six or more, swim by. These two were fairly close to the shore.



While I was waiting for one that had submerged itself to reappear, I got more than I expected!



---



And it lands with a splash!



We saw several dolphins jumping that afternoon, but since it's a somewhat unpredictable event, those are the only photos I got of jumps.

We saw several people walking on the beach that afternoon, all looking down at the sand for shells or ahead of them at the breaking surf, completely missing the show going on offshore.

It was another great trip to St. George, which remains far and away my favorite campground. It was almost full every day that we were there. I imagine that it will stay that way from here on until fall. I'd like to get in at least one more trip before the bugs arrive.