Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Blessing, One Opossum, Two Snakes, Two Turtles, and a Gator...

Laura S. Walker State Park
January 2015
With Laurel, I captured the moment the ranger removed the alligator for the finale of the wildlife encounters afternoon at Laura S. Walker State Park. I then turned to Kellisa and caught her excitement at the thought of seeing an alligator up close and petting it.
However, this story and our day started a few hours earlier on a Saturday morning in our home. I was looking at a map for a place to go hiking. Laura S. Walker State Park is on the Northeastern edge of the Okefenokee Swamp and it's about a 90 minute drive one way. Because other swamp access points are closer, we never visited Laura S. Walker State Park. But the little park symbol caught my eye for some reason and I went to their website to investigate the trail system.
Before I could find the trail tab, I read that the park was offering a wildlife encounter program that afternoon. I knew the girls would love seeing and petting animals so my decision was made to visit before I looked at the trail map. A quick glance reveled a promising trail running through the forest and along a lakeshore.
We hade to hurry to make it there in time for the animals. I just told the girls we were going on a hike because I didn't want them disappointed if we missed the animals. We didn't have the supplies to pack a picnic lunch, so I figured we'd buy a fast food lunch when we exited the expressway. When we arrived at our exit, all the drive-thru lines were extremely long. I knew we didn't have time even though both girls were already asking for lunch.
Without a Plan B, I kept driving. I knew there wasn't any other fast food places on our route. I was hoping to pass a decent gas station where I could run in and buy a few things to eat in the car and hopefully hold the girls off a few hours. Before I could find a gas station...magic happened.
I drove through a small town intersection and saw a sign out of the corner of my eye that said, "Free Food". I turned the car around to investigate and sure enough, some organization (Manna Ministries - Thank You!) was handing out free lunches. I got in line and in a few seconds, they were handing us three lunches. I offered to "donate" to their ministries and they refused. They handed me a prayer card to fill out which I happily did with some of my usual prayers. I've been let down many times in the past, but I'm also smart enough to never pass up free prayers, good thoughts or well wishes. I'll take whatever we can get...we usually need them!
The lunch was outstanding even if it was a little difficult to eat in the car and without utensils. I had to pull over so we could eat our mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables with our fingers. I was thankful for our "magic" meal and my thick stack of napkins in the car. We arrived at the park with full bellies and just in time for the animal encounters.
I will let the many pictures share the story of how much the girls loved the local swamp animals (one opossum, two snakes, two turtles, and an alligator). You will notice a lack of hiking pictures because we found out from the Park Office that a trail bridge was still under construction. We would need another Plan B for our hike...


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