Okefenokee Swamp __
A photo journal of four old geezers.
Youngest 59, oldest 73,
of Trail 12, 5 day trip -- 2/7/02 --2/12/02
Kingfisher Landing to
Click on all photos to enlarge -- "back" to return to normal.
I had just received a permit to paddle trail 7 for March 31st and had begun getting my things together when I got a call from John that he had stumbled onto a cancellation and had a permit for trail 12 __ a 5 day run, for Feb. 7th. He asked if I could make it on such a short notice. I could and gladly signed on. He then called Chuck and Mac and they were also raring to go. We all had stir fever not having gotten a paddle wet in almost a year except for one two day paddle I had done two weeks before on the Ocklawaha. So my gear was in fairly ready shape.
It was settled and we were to meet Wednesday, the night before, at
Trader's Hill, a great little campground only about 8 miles from the east
entrance to the swamp. Chuck, Mac and I were all set to go when we got a call
from John early Wednesday morning, saying that there was a front moving through
and he was expecting heavy rains for Wednesday night __the 6th. so he had booked
us into the Western Motel instead. That was fine with us since we didn't want to
start the trip with everything we had dripping wet. we discovered there was a
nice restaurant next door which made things even nicer.
It did rain in the night but not heavily. It was still raining when we
went to breakfast about 6:30 and from the looks of the sky, it was set in for
the day. Not exactly what we had wanted but we were still happy to get out. We
dropped our canoes and gear at Kingfisher, shuttled all vehicles except for one
__ down to the east entrance, finalized and updated our permits at the
administration building, and took off for Kingfisher. It was still raining when
we got there but had lightened up slightly. We had stopped in town and picked up
extra strong garbage bags __ just in case, even though we all had dry bags. By
the time we got loaded and on the water, it was 10:30 and the rain was again
The canal was clear and deep but we were soon to discover, this would be the last good paddling water we would have for over 15 miles. As we turned right to Maul __ the canal narrowed and became one morass of shallow water lily pads and heavy hydrilla. We might paddle for a dozen feet only to bog down in hydrilla. Chuck who was paddling his new Pirogue _ with a flat bottom was getting through much better than the rest of us. John who was paddling a 15' Mad River was doing almost as well. But Mac and I were in Mohawks, Mac in a 16 and me in a 17, and we worked our buns off getting through. Me especially, I had a terrible time keeping up with those guys. Some places there was only a few inches of water. Meaning, we poled with paddles as much as we paddled __ water (average) was less that a foot (obviously there were holes deeper here and there) making paddling difficult. I should mention that the rain really began to come down harder about 2:00 P.M. and continued all day.
We slowly worked our war through trout Lake, Double Lakes, Pond Lake, and Christmas Lake was even shallower but we made it, struggling and making slow headway. When we got to Ohio Lake, the wind was blowing hard about 11:00 o'clock to our heading. The others struggled through ahead of me. My draft was more than theirs so I grounded three times near the middle. Each time I would get clear and think I could make it, the wind would blow me right back on a mud bank. I broke out my kayak paddle and turned it into a "windmill' pole (figure of speech) __ more than a paddle. Without it I doubt I would have gotten through. Exhausted and cold, I pulled in to the small canal on other side where the others were waiting. After catching my breath, we continued on. Due to this delay, the extreme shallow water, the hydrilla slowing us to a crawl, we were very late getting into Maul Hammock Shelter.
Sorry, shot zero photos the first 12 miles due to it raining all day and my working my butt off to keep moving.
It was almost dark when we found it. We all were half frozen. The temperature had taken a drastic drop. We were so cold our fingers were numb and we were shaking all over like we had a extremely severe case of Parkinson's Disease. (grin) So cold we had a hard time getting out gear unloaded and tents setup. I don't remember ever being so glad to see a shelter and said so, they all agreed. We were one cold and wet bunch of old geezers.
The Maul Shelter platform: Mile Marker 12.
The brochure text says it's 12 miles. However, the scale of the map says it's 8 miles. This map scale is incorrect. It is 12 hard miles from Kingfisher to Maul.
The shelter is 50% covered with a high tin roof, and appears to be about a 20X28 __ with a short dock jutting out into the water.
The roofed area was just right for us to put four two man (7X7) tents up and still have room to walk around them. The uncovered area is about the same size and has a small table which we found very handy. The outhouse is on a small platform of its own and about 10_15 feet away. This shelter I'm told is the oldest of all shelters and we did notice several boards that had rotten places that could be a problem in the future. Needless to say, we only snacked supper and crawled into our sleeping bags darn quick. I was so cold and tired from all the extra exertion that I fast was asleep. However, Chuck worked hard all night, we heard him sawing heavy timber all night long. You could have heard him all the way back to Kingfisher. (grin)
Morning came but nobody was in any hurry to climb out of that nice warm bag. Finally, we forced ourselves and braved the cold air . . . even though we were all bundled up . . . we were still cold. Chuck made our day by whipping up some ham and eggs and hot coffee. I broke out my thermometer and checked it . . . it was 31 degrees. We surmised that it had to have been at least 29 before we got up. There was ice all over everything. The canoes that had water in them were solid ice, my rain gear was frozen hard and stiff, my kayak paddle I had left on the dock was solid ice. But there was a nice mist hanging above the lake. The forecast was for a nicer day and no rain so we were buoyed by the thought of having more pleasant paddling.
We packed up and were on the water by 9:45 . . . only to not be able to find our marker to get out. John volunteered and paddled all around the lake looking for markers but there were none. Chuck went back the way we had come in and found a canal running north that appeared to be the way out. It was then that we spotted a sign pole, down and in the mud. So for those coming behind us, the way out of Maul Hammock is a small canal east of the shelter about a hundred yards.