Monday, June 10, 2024

Phinizy Swamp Nature Center

We gave the Phinizy Swamp Nature Center another try on our way home from the beach. This time it was open and it was well-worth our time, I think!

They have beautiful boardwalk trails over a swamp, surrounded by tall reeds and trees dripping with Spanish moss:


Sometimes when my brother posts about Millie walking along trails independently, I wonder whether Phoebe should be doing the same thing. But, like, here's the thing: alligators. 

Need I say more? 

I mean, she could walk on her own (and did at times), but also...there's a lot more risk along our trails out here than I feel there are along trails in the southern Alberta prairie. Sure, they have rattlesnakes (but we actually have those, well as water moccasins/cottonmouths and copperheads, etc.), but we (also) have literal alligators

And poison ivy. Everywhere. 

So between the snakes, poison ivy, and risk of falling off the boardwalk into (potentially) alligator-infested waters...Phoebe tends to be carried a lot. She's just too much of a wild card at this age.

The boardwalk spit us out onto a lovely little playground where we let Phoebe down to run around:

Here are a few pictures of Phoebe climbing:

She was really interested in all the bugs around. At the beginning of our hike Benjamin found a cicada (one of the special brood ones that are yellow, red, and black, not the ordinary annual ones we get that are green) and Phoebe insisted on holding it until it finally flew away—but that wasn't for at least ten minutes. Andrew was dying because he was holding her and she was holding this big ol' bug, and he really doesn't like bugs. But that's part of who she is, I guess. 

I didn't get a picture of her cicada buddy, but I think Rachel did.

Here's Phoebe climbing up a rope ladder to greet a dragonfly she spotted (there were so many dragonflies around (it's a swamp so this makes sense, but it still feels noteworthy)):

She scared it away:

Here are the boys checking out this little obstacle:

Here's Phoebe enjoying some swinging time:

Miriam decided to enjoy the swings as well, but soon found herself falling victim to a prank when Rachel came by, yanked Miriam's shoe off, and tossed it to Andrew, who put it on top of the swing set.

Feeling bad for teasing Miriam, Andrew had Phoebe reach up to retrieve the shoe. Meanwhile, however, Rachel was after Miriam's other shoe.

Big sisters are the worst!

Miriam eventually got both her shoes back and we hit the trails again. Here's Benjamin by the sign telling us not to feed the alligators:

I honestly wasn't sure we'd see any alligators. We've come across similar signs here in Georgia—at Ocmulgee Mounds, for example—and although we did see the lone alligator rumoured to be in the park (the rumours are true), it was way off in the lake and we could barely see it. 

So I wasn't sure we'd see any alligators.

Phinizy Swamp is a manufactured wetland. It used to be a swamp, but then the city grew around it and it became less swampy. But now it's been re-swampified as part of the sewer treatment (and wildlife habitat reconstruction) program. They have a number of tanks-turned-ponds that they pump treated water into rather than putting it directly into the river.

We were admiring the view across the wetlands when we chanced to look down and...

...saw there was a gator resting on the bank just below us.

It was somewhat of a long and hot walk and we were thinking how lucky we were that we'd accomplished our objective—we'd found an alligator! 

And then we stopped to admire some more views...

...and we looked down...

...and there was another alligator!

Altogether I think we spotted a handful of alligators! Rachel was particularly good at spotting them, half submerged like this.

Having done seen what we came to see, and feeling rather hot and thirsty, we decided to turn around and hike back to the nature center to use the facilities...and then back to our vehicles to get some lunch.

Poor Phoebe was feeling particularly done for the day and she just "could not even" when we told her we had to do still more hiking to get to the cars...

She can be a little dramatic at times.

But it was just a short walk over the boardwalk and Phoebe survived (it's not like she was even walking, anyway).

Here's everyone happily eating (a much better place for a mid-day picnic than the random gas station we'd stopped at on our way out to the beach (when Phinizy Swamp was closed)):

Here's some old silos on the property:

After this the drive home was pretty uneventful. We hit some gnarly traffic (not unexpected in Atlanta) and rerouted away from another bit of traffic, and got home and started unpacking. 

The little kids were excited to be back in their own house with their own things and their own friends. They spent the early evening hours jumping on the trampoline and making a real racket while I made a quick spaghetti dinner. 

When I called the kids inside to eat they hollered goodby to their friends and then began tromping up the back porch steps.

"Mom! Mom! Mom!" they burst through the back door screaming. "There's a baby deer under the stairs!"

Of course I had to go see. And it was absolutely true. There was a tiny little fawn hiding under our porch steps:

Mother deer habitually hide their little fawns while they go off to forage, so I wasn't worried about this sweet thing at all. We've seen mother deer in the neighbourhood nursing their fawns, and walking through our yards trailing babies behind them. But it's hard for those momma deers to forage effectively with such wobbly, naive things underfoot, so these babies get tucked away until they can easily bound after their mothers (and their mothers return for them and give them milk). 

Such a darling thing to encounter! 

Less darling when I realized that my peach tree seedlings had been...foraged upon...but, ugh, these little fawns are so adorable, even if they grow up to be something of a nuisance.

Oh, the kids also had to go into the backyard to help a baby deer escape because it was on one side of the chainlink fence and its mother was on the other side...and it just kept running into the fence like a little dummy. They shooed it out of the backyard and it rejoined its mother (and then probably thanked us by snacking on my lilac bushes).

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