A Visit with Friends in Alabama

February 16

We left North Carolina at 8:15AM and drove south toward Georgia. The weirdest anomaly on this trip was that the further south we traveled, the more the temperature dropped. At 2:30PM in mid-Georgia the temperature was down to 36°.

We arrived at our campsite, in Dames Ferry State Park by 4:20 and set up camp. We took a short walk then I sat at the picnic bench for a few minutes with Alan before I booked it inside the van. He came in shortly afterward, it was just a bit too chilly out. 

The campground was very clean and well maintained, and the person checking us in gave us a senior discount, and also signed us up for a free Georgia State Parks rewards program.  Our campsite was right on Lake Juliette and we had a pretty view overlooking the lake. 

Once we’d settled in, I cooked up dinner – chicken and rice, along with a salad. 

February 17

Overnight temperatures got down to about 28°, but we were nice and cozy inside the RV.

We woke up to the sound of ducks right outside our RV – they were at the side door, but when Alan went to get a look at them they immediately took off into the lake.

We drove to Piedmont NWR, grabbed some brochures, then hiked the one-mile Allison Lake Trail. Other than a few yellow rumped warblers, there wasn’t much wildlife to see on this hike.

We decided to head out to Bond Swamp, which is a branch of Piedmont. Along the drive, we stopped at Subway to pick up lunch. When we got to the road to enter Bond Swamp (the name should have clued us in), we realized very quickly that this wasn’t a good idea. The road was flooded in sections and full of potholes of indeterminate size and depth. We didn’t want to get stuck so we quickly called it off, and headed back to Piedmont NWR. At Piedmont, where we decided to try and hike the three-mile Red Cockaded Woodpecker Trail. Since our bout the month before with Covid-19 we hadn’t fully recovered, so we weren’t certain of our stamina for such a hike, but we decided to take it easy and, in as Nike says, just do it. Obviously, since you are reading this account of our travels, we made it back in one piece. We searched for trees with white circles around the trunks which indicates that the rangers have identified those trees as having red cockaded woodpecker nests in them.  They make their nests in living trees, so you can often spot the sap running down the tree from the hole they have made for their home.

Along this trail we came across a small cemetery plot. The stones were so worn down that I could not make out names.

February 18

We again woke up to ducks, but they weren’t nearly as close this time.

We drove to our next lodging destination at Lakepoint State Park in Alabama. This is just a stone’s throw from Eufaula NWR. 

After stopping at the visitor center at Eufaula NWR to pick up a map. The refuge was closed due to COVID, so we headed out on the wildlife auto trail. The auto trail has a winter portion and a summer portion with good signage marking for each. We had not been on the auto trail for five minutes before we had our first wildlife encounter. We saw a black object on the side of the road quite a distance ahead. Our first thought was bear? However, when we got out the binoculars and cameras we realized it was a feral pig. This was exciting since we have never seen a feral pig this close or clearly. We took lots of pictures before trying to inch closer only to have the pig scurry away. This was the first of numerous feral pig sightings for us; over the two days we traveled the wildlife drive and we saw at least two dozen feral pigs, adults, teens, and piglets.

Along the winter route, there is an observation tower that looks out over a marshy area. Alan checked it out but didn’t see much more than a great egret, but we agreed to return the next day.

February 19

Bright and early we got up and headed out to the Eufaula NWR again. We barely got onto the wildlife drive before Karen spotted another feral pig. We drove out to the observation tower, and scared up some ducks as we walked on the short boardwalk to the tower. We didn’t get a good look at them but from the sound they made we believe that they were wood ducks. This morning there was not a lot of activity on the water except for some mallards swimming around. Later in the morning we did catch a glimpse of two wood ducks flying across our view. Since nothing else was happening here, we got back on the wildlife drive.

We continued to get peeks of wild pigs. However, they were all very leery of us and ran as soon as they realized we were there.

With not much else to do, we headed out to the town of Eufaula for some lunch. We dined at Thelma’s Kitchen, a mom-and-pop place with cafeteria-style Southern cooking. We both got some chicken and ribs. The ribs had a sauce on them that we did not recognize, but it was very good. The mac and cheese was homemade and hit the spot too.

Our appetites sated, we went back to the camp to rest and then hit the wildlife auto drive one last time before it started to get dark. Guess what we saw, more feral pigs.  We saw a large group of them in this one field and got a few pictures. There must have been at least 15, including quite a number of little ones. We continued to the observation tower to see what we could see. This time we saw a few more birds including a great egret, red tailed hawk, bald eagle and an osprey. Since it was starting to get dark we headed on out and back to the campsite.

February 20 – 22

We visited our good friends, Helaine and Ted Sketo, hiking with Helaine (Ted had a torn Achilles’ tendon) on their farm down by a pond and saw white tailed deer and bobwhites. The next day we hiked in another part of the farm near the silos, and Helaine let me drive her new truck (that’s Helaine behind the wheel in this picture, with Alan in the back seat).

We were taken around the nearby towns and given a tour, and we were treated to brunches at local eateries, and feasted on Ted’s wonderful cooking. Spending time with these two was the cherry on top of this trip.

We said our good-byes late in the day and headed home, staying at a Candlewood Suites hotel along the way. We were really impressed with the room for the price we paid.