Despite the less than ideal weather, we had a wonderful time. Our trailer is Canadian made and built for 4-season travel, with central heat, thermal pane windows, and excellent insulation. We’re very cozy indoors, and have our computers, books, and music to keep us occupied. But there’s only so long that we can hang out in a 21-foot trailer without going stir-crazy. So we bundle up and head outdoors every day, no matter what the weather. I never thought I’d be wearing the wool Stetson hat I bought in Yellowstone in Florida, but it sure came in handy—along with thermal underwear, wool socks and boots, gloves, rain jacket, and a wool scarf. (In Florida? Really??)
A highlight of our stay was meeting new friends who are avid birders and hikers, and most important, a lot of fun: Loretta and Henry (from Georgia), and Patricia and Ken (from Alabama). The six of us spent a freezing day birding at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, a very foggy day at Wakulla Springs State Park on the trails and river, and a rainy evening enjoying a delicious low-country boil made with fresh local shrimp. They know all the best places in Georgia and Alabama; we hope to meet up with them again for more adventures.
Here, the high points of our stay at Ochlockonee River State Park:
• Ochlockonee River State Park: This beautiful Florida state park is located in Sopchoppy, 40 miles east of Apalachicola on the “Forgotten Coast.” The campground is small, but with spacious sites, and many are on the banks of the Ochlockonee River. Hiking and biking trails take off from the campground through the surrounding terrain of pine flatwoods, thickets of live oaks, golden grasses, and saw palmettos. It’s a landscape that Eric and I both find beautiful. The pine flatwoods are home to the endangered red cockaded woodpecker, which we tried our best to find, but never did.
We did, however, have great sightings of the unique white squirrels that live in the park—they’re not albinos, but a genetic mutation of grey squirrels. We also happened upon a rare white deer (also called a piebald, or calico). Good thing there’s no hunting in the park—it’s not exactly a mutation that lends itself to camouflage.
• St. Marks Wildlife Refuge: Bald eagles, osprey, brown pelicans, hundreds of ducks (scaups, shovelers, ruddy, mergansers, blue winged teal), black crowned night herons, avocets, ibis, great and little blue herons, snowy and great egrets—this refuge is one of the best. Established in 1931, St. Marks was one of the first National Wildlife Refuges, and encompasses 70,000 acres of coastal marshes, islands, and estuaries. It’s also home to the oldest lighthouse on the Gulf coast, built in 1842 and still in use today.
• Wakulla Springs State Park: One of our favorite north Florida adventures is a wildlife tour on a Wakulla Springs riverboat, and we go every time we’re in the area (it’s about 30 miles from Ochlockonee State Park). I called to make sure the tours were running in the dense fog, and a woman with a lovely Southern accent said, “Yes ma’am—the boats are running. But it is dismal out there.” Dismal was an understatement, but we went anyway, and had a good time. Not as many birds or gators as usual (they don’t like cold weather, either) but we did see at least a dozen manatees, which gravitate in winter to the temperate waters of the springs.[portfolio_slideshow]
Glad to see that you are finally suffering with the rest of us… ;>). Hope you see some warm weather soon! R&K
We’ve had a few warm days here and there, but it’s been a wintery January! Maybe we all need to head further south, eh?
Hey Hi! 70 degrees here last weekend – in January. Way more than the typical “january thaw” we get – and still drier than a desert snake skin and the salmon don’t know what to do – milling about in the ocean with no stream action….. Calif has declared a drought but apparently our local yocals are never eager to encourage proactive water conservation as it will cut into city revenues…….
Loved the white squirrel – your photos are a treat.
Sounds like you have made peace with the road – haven’t heard too many kitty tales, or maybe I missed them?
You’re getting warmer weather in Ashland than we are in Florida! But the drought there is scary. I was thinking that it’s time for an update on travels with the kitty (she’s doing just fine).
Great slide show. Looks like a place we would really enjoy. The white squirrel and deer are beautiful. Stay warm. We’re trying not to blow away or freeze today in Rockport TX.
This is a beautiful spot, with lots to do within a 30-mile radius. We’re planning to go back when it’s a bit warmer for more kayaking! Love your tales and photos about your adventures in Rockport.
Love your gallery of photos, particularly that white squirrel and I am guessing a deer, although I have never seen one with quite this coloring before. We are definitely going back to the Apalachicola area when the weather is a bit more accommodating. So much to explore in this part of Florida.
That’s the first white deer we’ve seen, too (also called piebald or calico, as my sister points out below). You will love exploring this area more in depth; don’t know what your plans are, but March would be a great time to visit. It would be fun to meet up with you!
The pictures are gorgeous. I love the white squirrel and white deer – actually, I think the deer is a piebald. Pretty rare, and they say they usually have some type of abnormality to go along with the unusual color – short legs, curved spine or lower jaw. They are so pretty though. Have fun!
Yes, Ms. SmartyPants, that is a piebald or calico deer, which not many people know about. I did my research and wrote about it in the blog, but now I know you just looked at the pictures (you’re forgiven, because I know you’re reading this at work, hahaha!!)
Ah…suffering on the road…so glad someone asked about Spotty and she’s doing well…didn’t want to ask and learn the worst. Loved the photos..not only do we get the narrative we also see wonderful shots of the wildlife..including the plum colored beauty with the dark head..do so love that you’re still doing the blog..almost as good as being there at half the price. Love to you both!
Your comments always make me smile. I definitely need to write more about Spotty–so many people have been asking about her. Love you and miss you!
We will be in Galveston Texas at Casa del Mar right across from the ocean from Feb 2 until Mar 10. Great birding spots on the island. If you get over our way we would love to show you the birds. Michigan is covered in snow and ice with roads and schools closed. We are hoping that Texas warms up soon.
Bonnie and Dave.
Thanks for the invitation, it would be so much fun to see you again! Don’t know if we’ll make it to Texas while you’re there, but we’re interested to hear about your adventures there. Hope it warms up for you. (And for us in Florida, too!)
It was a good trip despite the weather! We made the best of it and were lucky enough to meet you guys and hope to see you on the road in the not-to-distant future! Love the pics!
We definitely hope to meet up with you all again — it was a lot of fun hanging out with you. Guess where we are right now? Back at the Ochlockonee — and it’s foggy AGAIN. But not as cold…
Trying to get caught up from 10 days with no internet and I find you were in a spot we hit last spring. NOT the time to go to Ochlockonee. Bugs, bugs and more bugs so you may have been there at just the right time. Not nearly the birds at St. Marks for us. We kayaked at Wakulla and loved it. How great to meet folks of like interest. At the campground??? Really nice pictures.
Winter is definitely the time to be here — no bugs at all. And it’s a gorgeous area, as you know! It’s been fun following your adventures in the Everglades — but I’m glad we’re not down there battling the mosquitoes.
Hey, great post for the state park we will be heading to in the next few days. I now have something to look forward to, white squirrel and albino deer. We will be there for a week, so how far is this from where you are at?
It’s a beautiful park, MonaLiza. We’re heading back toward Apalachicola, about 40 miles away.