As it got light, the songbirds were singing, and the Pileated Woodpeckers and Red-shouldered Hawks were calling. I also heard some thunder although it hadn't rained yet. Still, I didn't want to pack up a wet tent, so I went ahead and took it down.
I loaded up the Sea Eagle FastTrack and left Mixons Hammock around 8:30. It would be about a six-mile paddle up-current to tonight's shelter at Minnies Lake.
Certainly, there was no hurry as long as the weather held.
It was another big gator morning as I paddled through the widest part of Billy's Lake.
The big alligators were bellowing, a deep gutteral roar used to indicate their territory or attract a mate. One in particularly was eerily deep and loud. I felt like it vibrated the boat, and I was hoping he wasn't following me.
As I paddled past the canal going back to the state park, Billy's Lake narrowed a little and the gators, while still abundant, didn't seem to be quite as large.
This Little Blue Heron was hanging out in an area where the gators weren't as thick.
Though I was headed upstream, it was still a fairly easy paddle. I would stop paddling as large birds would fly over me, and I just wanted to listen to the whoosh whoosh sound of their flapping wings as they passed.
A mile from the state park canal, I came to Minnies Lake Run which I would take north for three more miles to the Minnies Lake Shelter.
Those three miles are some of the prettiest in the Okefenokee, and I had it all to myself.
The gators were fewer and smaller as the channel was narrower going through the beautiful cypress trees.
This was a mile up the channel - mile 29 on the Red canoe trail, which is 31 miles from Kingfisher Landing in the northeast down to Stephen C. Foster State Park where I launched yesterday.
That gator didn't care about me at all, so I had to get a close-up.
This shot is at the next mile up - mile marker 28 with a mile to go to the shelter.
Going into Minnies Lake, I saw the first canoers of the day.
Shortly thereafter, I came to Minnies Lake Shelter.
Now the map shows this shelter as a "day use only" and there is a sign that says this is a "day use only" shelter. I began to second-guess my permit and whether there may be a different shelter at Minnies Lake for overnight stays. It was still early in the day, and it looked like the rain was going to hold off, so I continued paddling for another mile.
In Minnies Lake, the number and size of the alligators increased once again.
Soon I reached the end of the lake and the point where the rental motorboats must turn around.
The run narrowed again after that, and it was another fun section although there was no other shelter. I was then convinced that I just needed to turn around.
I saw a few more people and talked to a couple from Hungary that had stopped at the shelter for lunch. I paddled around a little more while they finished up and headed out.
Around 2:00, after paddling about eight miles for the day, I took over the shelter and pulled the boat up out of the water.
I set up my tent in the back of the shelter so it would be out of the way in case there were any other visitors.
I boiled some water and had a late lunch which would get me through the night.
Later, when I knew there wouldn't be anyone else coming to the shelter, I moved the tent to the front.
One of my afternoon activities was swatting carpenter bees. There were just so many and their incessant buzzing was driving me crazy. I snapped off the end of one of my paddles and used it like a tennis racket. The eye-hand coordination from my old baseball days came in handy. :)
Eventually, I did a little fishing from the dock, out of the range of alligators. I caught a couple of small ones, nothing to brag about but it it was fun.
Then I did some more reading on the steps while just listening to the sounds of nature.
In the evening, I took some photos as the sun went down and the moon rose.
Like last night, the mosquitoes came out, but they were tolerable. I was just happy the last couple of bees finally went to bed.
The night sounds of the swamp came alive, and I could see the emerald eyes of the tiny frogs all around the shelter.
I crawled into the tent and slept well for awhile. Around 3:00 a.m., I woke up and started reading again. Then one gator started its gutteral bellow, and then another, and then they were all around me. It sounded like the swamp was snoring. Very cool although it only lasted for maybe fifteen or twenty minutes.
Soon, I was back to sleep with a big smile. It was another amazing day in the wilderness.