Saturday, 16 March:

Day Two - On the road again...

The rain wasn't the only thing that interfered with sleep; it was very windy, especially around 0100, and the tents made a lot of noise. Still, we were all anxious to be in Florida, and were up and out 0700. Chilly, so the new propane stove got its field trial - success, there was coffee and cocoa! Very early spring, here, at the edge of the Blue Ridge. Numerous birds were persistent with their spring song, including a phoebe and some Carolina chickadees.

We leave camp before 0900, but drive to summit to register and see the sights. Also check transmission fluid, and discover that it is a quart low. After leaving Black Rock Mountain State Park, we lose at least an hour tracking down ATF and fuel in Clayton.

Driving south on US 441, we get to Madison, shortly after noon, and stop to eat lunch in the town park. A neat southern town that escaped destruction in the war. Definitely spring here, as things were greening up nicely. Peach trees blooming, as are various spring flowers. Black vultures have already gotten as far north as Madison.

We pick up I-75 southbound again at Forsythe. Between here and Tifton, there has been a lot of recent rainfall, as streams are very muddy and overflowing. Overcast, but quite warm for us yankees. Turtles were seen sunning in swamps a hundred miles north of Florida.

As we arrive at the Florida state line 1730, there is an immediate and dramatic change in our surroundings, or is it just our attitude. Something's different, and it is certainly warmer. We get the compulsory group picture in front of the "Welcome to Florida" sign.

Due to the earlier vehicle-caused delays, we are behind schedule and opt to go to Suwannee River State Park, near Live Oak, to camp for the night. We get to set up camp in the youth group area, so we are off by ourselves. It is a beautiful area, a small clearing surrounded by a pine-live oak forest on the sandy uplands, with a drying waterway among huge cypress trees at the foot of a small slope. As we set up camp in the gathering dusk, there is a sizeable chorus of spring peepers calling. Taking note of this for later, we hurry with camp, in order that we can go out for dinner.

Dinner was barbecued chicken, boiled potatoes and baked beans at the Falmouth Grill, about a mile from the park. Delicious, and it was free, as they were celebrating their third anniversary! Met a former buckeye, and arranged for a canoe trip the next morning.

At 2100 we set out on a couple of night explorations. The first was just down the hill to the stream pools where the peepers were calling. There were also leopard frogs, a barred owl, numerous diving beetles and other aquatic arthropods, and some fish. From there most of us set out on a short trek through the pine-oak forest. There were many ant lion pits in the sand under the roof overhangs at camp. Another major find was a large betsy beetle, complete with parasitic mites, under a rotten log. We saw other insects and spiders, and several different fungi, though many of these were rather dried out.

By 2300, some were more than ready for sleep; others stayed up to watch the campfire. The owl called sporadically.

- EJ