A cloudy day, 58 degrees at put-in, but no breeze — Ochlockonee River running high. This is where Womack Creek meets the Ochlockonee on the east side of Tate’s Hell.
We put-in at the Womack Creek campground. There were no campers, but the hosts were home — Mack and Lee are doing a marvelous job of maintaining this and other east-side campsites in Tate’s Hell.
In mid-January, after three nights of freezing temperatures, we were not expecting flowers. But there it was, at the entrance — a brilliant display of Florida maple in bloom.
And soon after and thereafter, upriver, high bush blueberries, promising fruit in late May and June. Surprisingly without insects, but bees shall soon be gathering nectar when it warms.
The alder catkins were not unexpected — we see them in late winter. Their seeds still remain on the branches. The subleties of hue and shape which nature gifts us on this river cannot be overestimated.
But there were remnants, too, of last summer and last fall. A pair of hornet’s nest and the furry seeds of silvering which bloom in late fall.
With no breeze to speak of and the tide at turning point, it was a calm paddle up and back.
We were again surprised to see a single spray of Green Fly orchid. Our written sources had noted that they bloom in January to March, but after years of diligent searching from January through March, we saw a profusion in bloom last May! Last December two sprays were blooming. These are lovely elfin flowers — we have not GPS’ed them on our Womack Creek blog http://www.womackcreek.wordpress.com (our Master Naturalist project, “A
Paddler’s Guide to the Flowering Plants of Womack Creek”) because we were told that plant collectors can be avaricious and will harvest them if they know where to look. There are more plants in other locations in Tate’s Hell, but we have never seen them in bloom.
Too cold for alligators and even turtles, but there were 3 female cardinals, a gold finch, the always present kingfisher, a cormorant, a buzzard, a woodpecker, a thrasher and a flock of unidentified gray birds. No insects, either.
While eating our lunch of jerky, crackers, kumquats and for dessert a Perugina chocolate-hazelnut “kiss” each at Nick’s Primitive Campsite, the clouds parted to give us sun. We had the warm blessing of the sun on the paddle back to the Womack Creek Campground.
A lovely 7.7 mile round trip paddle.