A Summary of Our Visit to Stephen C. Foster State Park: A Most Excellent Adventure!
Charred pines stand tall as wounded soldiers still holding the line valiantly after a fierce battle with the fire-breathing enemy. Though many were consumed and felled, Stephen C. Foster State Park still has an abundance of those protectors swaying victoriously in the wind; having survived yet another swamp fire, and thus yielding provision to the new life springing forth to replace the dead.
This is what I recollect after seeing the many hundreds, if not thousands, of trees that were scarred with fire damage from the most recent Okefenokee Swamp Fires. I was humbled and moved almost to a point of reverence as I peered at those still standing. Perhaps many will look and not be so touched, but a least for an instant, my heart was pierced. There was a beauty about the scene, even in the wake of such devastation. For an article about the Okefenokee Swamp Fire, click here: Swamp Fire
Stephen C. Foster State Park struck us as being small and quaint. The structures were typical of other state parks that we've visited, and we found the trails to be quite easy...too easy in fact. Yet, when considering the abundance of wildlife that we were privileged to see, most of the other parks that we've visited to date paled in comparison. We were fortunate enough to video deer, an alligator, and a few turkey. Unfortunately, I was not quick enough with my camera to capture the "Red Shouldered Hawk". He was quite majestic to be sure!
For starters, the registration office is next to a waterway with a boat ramp. In the office, there are a few gift items that may be purchased, and there are restrooms located on the side of the building. Around the waterway are docks with quite a few aluminum boats and canoes for rent. There are also guided tours available for purchase if an excursion out into the swamp is in your plans (Dogs are not allowed in the boats). During our trip, however, we chose to forgo the boats and focus on the nature trails instead.
The first trail that we encountered was the Trembling Earth trail. It was located just outside of the registration office and was the shorter of the two. During our visit, there was about a 2,000 foot section of the trail closed. Though I did not inquire as to why, my suspicion is that much of the wooded walkway was probably damaged during the most recent swamp fire. Nonetheless, we found the short walk (a mixture of wooded platform, crushed rock, and dirt-trodden path) to be quite enjoyable. As our miniature dachshunds, Walker and Spencer, led the way, we saw first hand some of the ravages that the swamp fire left behind. Strangely enough, however, we also witnessed the bloom of new life emerging throughout the Forrest floor. Some of the nature that we experienced were insect eating plants, Spanish Moss trees, massively over sized grass-hoppers, butterflies, a various assortment of wild flowers, and upon the exit of the trail at the water's edge, we were astounded by the large gator basking in the warmth of the sun. He seemed quite uninterested in our presence, but he did offer himself up for a photo or two.
After our brief walk along the Trembling Earth trail, we surveyed the picnic area and found it to be more than adequate. There are two covered picnic pavilions with many other picnic tables scattered within the area. There also seemed to be an abundance of grills available. Additionally, there is a children's playground, a volleyball court, and a basketball court.
From the picnic area, we made our way to the Upland Pine trail. The trail length is 1.5 miles overall in length, 3/4 miles down and back. We found the trail to be very easy and other than the large buck that we captured on video, we found it to be a bit wanting. Two main reasons exist for our lack of enthusiasm about this trail. The first issue that we had concerning the Upland Pine trail is that it is very close to the entrance road to the park. In fact, for most of the trail, you can see the road. With that in mind, it did not lend itself to much of a feeling of being alone out in the wilderness, or nature. Secondly, we found that the trail itself was not marked very clearly. There seemed to be some type of service roads weaving in and out of the area, and at times it was confusing as to which was the road versus the trail. Signs would have helped in these instances, but they weren't always there. We did managed to find our way through without incident though.
As we prepared to leave the park, we took a brief ride through the two main camping areas (1 and 2). Though we don't have much experience camping, we were surprised to see that all camping is done here regardless if you have a tent or an RV. The spacing seemed adequate, however, there are some that may differ in opinion, since we really aren't experienced enough in this area to comment. At the Upland Pine trail head, there is also a group pioneer camping area. During our brief stroll through the area, we noticed a covered picnic pavilion, a group fire-pit, and few camp shelters.
In summary, our trip to Stephen C. Foster was an experience that we will not soon to forget. I'd like to think of it as The Little Park That Did. We are already planning a return trip in the Spring.
I have included this video slide show that I created from our visit. If you'd like to see more, please check out our YouTube channel. Thanks for stopping by and your comments are welcome.