Family time at Historic Blakeley State Park -- Jan 31st, 2016
I called my youngest brother, Rob, (who lives in Mobile) after we arrived in Alabama, to see if he had time to get together. He said, yes, indeed, and suggested a Sunday explore at Blakeley State Park a few miles north of Daphne on the eastern edge of the Mobile Bay delta. That worked out perfectly for us as we had other commitments on Saturday. The three of us are quite partial to explorations and expeditions like this, so it was Old Home Week, and good fun, as well.
Blakeley State Park contains numerous sites of historic significance, including a major Civil War battlefield, and it boasts boardwalks, 15 miles of nature trails, camping and picnicking. The Delta Explorer, an eco-tour boat, is docked here. The Explorer is wheelchair accessible, has bench seating and a restroom facility, and provides a two-hour tour of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. The boardwalk above, with Rob and Jimmy, seems to be sinking into the swamp! So much of the south at this time of year is a tedious gray or dull beige.
We had a map of sorts, but spent most of the two or three hours wandering around and not really caring where we were exactly. The sky was overcast most of the day, but occasional bursts of bright sunshine made us almost swoon, it felt that good. I think we decided that the area above was a small group campsite, but to me it was a gorgeous meadow.
Because this was a battlefield, there are miles of breastworks and fortifications, the remains of earthen forts, old rifle pits, redoubts and battery sites. None of us could tell for certain the age of the above fortification, but we figured it dated from the Civil War.
But in the Cypress-Tupelo swampy areas, Swamp Palmettos and Possumhaw Vibiraum afforded us a bit of green. The boardwalk gives people a chance to explore here; without it, you'd sink in up to your ankles (or worse) and it wouldn't be pretty. With the sun out at this point, we were warm enough to shed our cover shirts.
Occasionally in Blakeley you come across a gem such as the one above.
A monstrous oak tree that dwarfs any and everything nearby.
Exposed Tupelo roots in heavy wet bottomland reminded me of a pile of snakes or big worms.
Believe it or not, this large water oak with the hollowed base around its roots is called the Hiding Tree, because it was supposedly a hiding place for Confederate soldiers fleeing after the Battle of Blakeley. It certainly has an interesting, exposed root system. I wouldn't go any further in ... spiders, doncha know.
As we neared the end of our hiking, these two horses w/ riders appeared.
The brown horse is Buttercup and Whitey was called DJ, I think. Very friendly.
After visiting with the horses AND riders above, we three sat at a picnic table to chat ... mostly family related stuff --what's going on, where's the next trip, retirement, and so on. A fresh breeze blew in off the river, so the cover shirts came back on. Glancing down at the table, I noticed a piece of lichen moving, as if it had a purpose. "Hey!" I said, "What is that?" We all looked, certain now that it was alive and not merely a bit of lichen dropped from a tree. The thing was small, about the size of the nail on my little finger (without the white part). We touched it with a leaf and it kept moving; we were mesmerized. Rob scooped it onto a fallen oak leaf and placed it on an oak tree, where it all but disappeared, perfectly camouflaged on the bark, and I do mean perfectly. Well, eventually it slid into a crack, so we went back to our conversation. I looked it up online when I got back to the Hampton and was very surprised to learn it's a Green Lacewing larva (Leucochrysa pavida). They use actual pieces of lichen to camouflage their backs. Clever nature!
Jimmy and I had a grand time, traipsing about Blakeley with my brother, Rob ... another wonderful day of connecting with family. He said in a later email, "It was a tree't to see you both today." (nice play on words, Rob!)
Tonight's sunset was intense!
Tomorrow I'll wrap up our week in the Southeast.