With the football and festival schedule continuing to dictate how free time is spent and how much of it there is to spend, Monday seems to be the only day without obligations. I like doing things on Monday; as long as you avoid rush hour, you can pretty much go anywhere you’d like and have it mostly to yourself.
I’d been wanting to revisit St. Mary’s, the small seaside town that is just over the Georgia border. There’s not much to St. Mary’s, especially when you visit on a day when the submarine museum is closed. Just up the road, though, is Crooked River State Park, a 500-acre space with expansive marsh and river views.
Four trails wind through the park, offering the hiker what sounded like an exciting variety of things to see. Tree enthusiasts will find five Georgia Champion Trees. Champion Trees are the largest known examples in a species and the five at Crooked River are: staggerbush lyonia, Florida soapberry, myrtle oak, chapman oak, and Carolina holly. Another trail promises ideal bird-watching and the possibility of seeing indigo snakes and gopher tortoises.
What I really wanted to see, though, was a feral pig. The last feral pig I’d seen was almost a year ago, when I saw a smallish black one rooting around near the Yeehaw Junction exit on Florida’s Turnpike. We took the Sempervirens Trail down to the River Trail and as we rounded a corner Mr. B. stopped: Ahhh, he exclaimed.
Rooting through the forest floor was an armadillo.
The river trail was delightful but far too short. Mr. B. looked at the map and suggested a curvy, 1.25-mile boardwalk trail that encircled an evergreen wetland and that contained an observation tower. I was all for this, thinking we’d take the short leg to the tower and then turn around. But we turned in the wrong direction and ended up stumping along for what seemed like to me like an hour of punishment in the still-hot Georgia sun. What followed was the creation of a character Mr. B. calls “Bitchy Boo,” a kvetching woman who must walk a hundred paces ahead of a man (out of earshot), muttering about snakes, heat, thirst, lack of bathroom facilities and lack of toilet paper with which to construct and wave flags of surrender to the elements.
Just as soon as we got back to my car, a woman popped out of the trail we’d just been walking. She had on short-shorts and an exercise bra and was listening to an iPod. Walking the Palmetto Trail in Crooked River State Park must have been a ritual for her; she marched up to the signpost, touched it, and immediately reversed direction into the woods. I felt like a wuss and said as much. As we left the park, Mr. B. said he was going to sell me to the bikers at a nearby biker bar, who evidently wouldn’t hear my bitching over their exhaust systems.
If you visit: Mr. B. did not find the trails exciting, but I did. Keep in mind that I like my trails flat and broad and not full of vegetation. Mr. B. likes narrow, winding trails.
Don’t expect much access to the water unless you are in a kayak. The River Trail was short and led only out to the water and back.