Or, should that be “Postefenokee?” Regardless, we’d had a long day of kayaking in the Okefenokee Swamp, and were all dog-tired. If I left right away it would be after midnight when I got home. That didn’t seem reasonable. I was going to spend one more night in southern Georgia.
Seeing the families around us fishing, we inquired about camping facilities in the park. There were none. So right when we were about to narrow down on spending the night in our class b rv, which was a great idea I picked up after reading a post on campingfunzone.com, the park attendant said that there were several fish camps nearby.
Before leaving the park, John insisted that we drive through the Okefenokee Loop. This route took us through pine barrens, and eventually wound up at the old Chesser Homestead. The homestead is open most days, but we had arrived too late. Even so, we walked around and took photos.
We completed the loop just before it closed at 7:00 pm. It was now time for food. I’ve always said that a perfect paddling day starts with a good breakfast and ends with barbecue. The Okefenokee lady had told us about a place in Folkston, the nearest town, so we headed that direction.
When we got to Jaylen’s BBQ, we were a bit…hesitant. The place was a shack. We pulled around back and parked, and our concerns increased. There was a rough wooden fence, and the space inside the fence looked run-down.
However, there were always 2-3 cars in the drive-through, and the place certainly smelled right. We went on in and placed our orders.
All four of us ordered the Boston Butt pulled pork sandwich with various fixin’s and sweet tea (a requirement.) I also ordered one half-slab of the ribs so we could get a taste. Both the ribs and the sandwiches came pre-dowsed with their own sauce, a mustard-based concoction with a hint of something else. As far as the flavors were concerned, the word Righteous came to mind. It was excellent, and despite our misgivings, turned out to be a great meal.
As we ate the cars continued to come through the drive-through in a steady stream. However, no one else came inside. There was one restroom, and a sign proclaimed it to be out of order.
Suitable filled, it was time to find a place to sleep it off. We said our goodbyes to John, who was heading back to Bluffton for the night, and Matt, Jimmy, and I set off in search of Traders Hill Camp Ground.
Matt had called the campground and they said that arriving late wasn’t a problem, and that they had plenty of room. We found the place out of town back toward Okefenokee, on the banks of the St. Mary River and drove through it. There were only a couple of other tent campers, but there was a group of RVs down closer to the river. One group had set up tents right at the landing, just out of bounds of the campground. After an uneasy moment finding the camp host, we secured a spot with electrical hookups, even though we just had tents. We couldn’t tell much about the place itself in the dark, but managed to get our tents set up.
I drove my car around so that the hatchback would be convenient to to my tent. As I did so, I spotted what appeared to be headstones barely 30 feet from our camp. That was disconcerting. Even so, we did what all campers do – drank, and regaled each other with tales until we could no longer stay awake.
Then I remembered why it had been ten years since I’d spent a night in a tent . I like the camaraderie of the campfire, and I enjoy having a cup of coffee and breakfast in the early morning, but it’s those bits in between that bug me, sometimes quite literally. My camping gear may be 30 years old , but it’s good stuff. Yet, two self-inflating pads and a battery powered fan weren’t enough to mitigate the hard ground and sweltering humidity. The snuffling of armadillos around the tent didn’t help. I got precious little sleep.
Coffee, a good breakfast with grits, bacon, and eggs, and something that might pass for a shower were enough to make me wake up sufficiently to explore a bit more.
The headstones we spotted last night turned out to be historical markers. Traders Hill was a trading post and settlement on the St. Mary’s River dating back to the late 1700s. In 1854 it became the site of the first court house for Charlton County. In the late 1800s the railroad bypassed the town, and the county seat was moved to Folkston. The markers we found commemorate the first court house and the first Masonic hall in the county. There are other historical markers for the settlement out on the main road.
Originally we thought we might try to squeeze in another paddling trip while we were down here. Since we were right on the river we looked at options on the St. Mary River. Most sections would be another seven or eight miles – a good hunk of the day for us, with long drives still ahead of us. So, instead we rolled up the tents and got our gear squared away. At least we drove down to the landing once more. It looked like this would be a great place to launch a trip. There was a strong current, and at this point the St. Mary flows north, then out to the coast.
We parted ways and headed out. I spotted a sign for the Traders Hill Cemetery, so I decided I wanted to check it out. When I pulled in I could see that while there were a few older headstones, for the most part this was a fairly modern cemetery with recent interments. It was hot and humid, so I decided not to explore.
Instead of routing back through rural Georgia, this time the GPS sent me toward I-95. As I drove thought town I snapped a few photos of the old buildings, including photos of a couple of schools that were being remodeled as a community center and civic offices.