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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Okefenokee and then North

Tuesday, Feb 19, 2008

The Okefenokee Swamp is fondly remembered by many for its most famous residents, Pogo and his pals. It is a Federal Wildlife Refuge and in many ways is similar to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area before motors were banned. It is a vast area of water and swamp and while it has three roads leading into it, you really need to explore it by canoe, kayak or johnboat.

We chose the Western entrance along the Suwannee River. The swamp is the source for the Suwannee that flows westward across Florida and into the Gulf. There isn't much between I-75 and the swamp but we knew we were not going back to the Country Kitchen for breakfast. They were probably out of grits!

That left us with Jasper, Florida and Fargo, Georgia. We knew Fargo had almost nothing so Jasper it would be. We passed another Department of Corrections work crew in orange vests cleaning the highway just before Jasper and pulled into town. There sat H&F Restaurant on the left side of the street. "Country Cookin" and "We Serve Buffet Style." Can't miss this! We arrived just about at the end of the breakfast hours.

One of the gentlemen in a group solving the town's problems showed me where to find the coffee and we decided to have the buffet. The bacon was quite tough. The eggs and toast were cool. They did fry up some additional bacon for us - still tough though! Oh - and the grits were good if not hot.

The seating is what Linda calls "Church basement style." You could choose to pull alongside someone in the long row or be standoffish. Reading the newspaper clippings about the restaurant, I could see the reason the local Jasper folks take pride in this place. It has been in business for over thirty-five years and I'd give it five stars for small-town ambiance but just one for the breakfast food. We'll give it another shot at lunchtime someday.

Finally arriving at Okefenokee, we checked in at the Visitor Center and discovered that the National Parks Senior Pass works here. My Internet searches had not given us much of an idea of what to expect.

Adjacent to the visitor center, there are hour-and-a-half pontoon boat guided rides available. You can also rent a jon boat and take that out on your own. I would strongly suggest that you plan to do one of those. We didn't have the time but that would be a great way to see things.

Sitting in the water close to the jon boats were a mother alligator and her baby. A couple of turtles were also poking their heads out of the water.

A nature trail meanders through the swamp and is beautiful. The Cypress trees, Spanish Moss and bogs are a delight. We saw two large turtles sunning themselves on a log, salamanders sunning themselves on the boardwalk and some very pretty butterflies darting among the sparse blossoms at this time of year. I'll bet that an April visit, paddling or motoring through the area is just fantastic.

Following our brief tour of the swamp it was time for lunch. This time we pulled into Jimbo's Bar-B-Q in Homerville, Georgia. This place has been in business (or as they put it - "Puttin the hog on the log") since 1936 and the original owner's great nephew is the current owner. They serve two thousand pounds of barbecued pork each week. It was good! So good, in fact, that the local Red Hat group was lunching there also. Linda stopped and chatted briefly with them.

With lunch taken care of a bit earlier today, we headed out through Waycross, Georgia and onto Interstate 95. That took us into South Carolina for the evening where we stayed in St. George. If that rings a bell with you it is probably because this is the site of the upcoming 23rd annual World Grits Festival on April 11, 12 and 13.

From here we plan to head inland to photograph the South Carolina capitol building tomorrow.

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