I'm pretty sure this was the biggest one we saw and he was about 9 feet long from nose tip to tail.
When we arrived Friday night our leader had us set up our tent at the same campsite as this delightful older gentleman's campsite since we are new to camping. John from Plains was his moniker. John is in his late sixties maybe and is a very experienced camper and canoer; he owns a peanut processing facility in Plains, Ga. He is the nicest guy. My friend and I really didn't understand that we would actually be camping right next to our car and that it meant you could stock your car full of shit you might or might not need. Despite me telling y'all that I found out we would have power at our disposal I still packed pretty minimalistic. I'm not really sure what I thought about camping since I've only done it a couple of times, but I thought you eat, sit on the ground around the campfire and go to sleep or whatever. We pull up to the site and John asks us if we have blah blah blah. No, of course not. Much later after the fire is stoked he tells us to bring out chairs over. Um, what chairs? The next morning he asks if I want coffee (we are still at the campsite). "Sure" I say. He tells me to bring my cup over and get some. I told him point blank "John, I didn't even have camp chair. Why in the hell would I have a coffee cup?". Needless to say I am much more prepared for the next time I go car camping.
We spent the first night in the tent. It proceeded to rain all night and my one tiny sleeping pad didn't really cut it. I tossed and turned all night long. It doesn't help that I like my feet out of the covers and my mummy sleeping bag was constricting. The next night the park ranger from Cumberland Isl and a wildlife refuge employee from the Okefenokee (both were the coolest folks on the trip other than John), invited my friend and I to sleep in their cabin since they had a whole extra room with 2 twin beds that were going unused.
It's quite hard to resist the siren call of open beds when they are free and it's raining cats and dogs. So I agreed and my friend and I spent a comfortable night in a plush cabin. They really are plush too. I highly recommend you stay in one if you go visit the western side of the Okefenokee.
Other things we saw: a wood stork, a red shouldered hawk, plenty of ibis, anhinga and deer, and a couple of cute yellow-eared sliders.
The paddle was fun. I think we did somewhere between 8 and 10 miles on Saturday. We walked around Billy's Island a bit, but that wasn't the best part for me. The history of Billy's is cool though, there just isn't much to see other than your typical coastal interior. The paddle to Minnie's Lake and back was my fave. It gets quite narrow in the canal and cypress dot the way. Despite being with a very large group, there were parts were no one was close to me so I got to experience the swamp all alone. So quiet and magical. Also spooky since it was overcast and grey outside. Because of that I didn't use my good camera during the run up to the lake and back. I got some cool pics on the IPhone, but it's not the same. By the end of the paddle I was really hurting. My shoulders and arms were out-of-control sore. I had to push through and get back though. Especially since I spent the last hour really needing to use the restroom and a swamp is not a good place to go out and pee behind a bush. I am definitely signing up for more trips with the Georgia Conservancy. The next one on the schedule will be my second service trip to Cumberland Island, but I also went ahead and booked an over night trip down the Flint River. I'm especially excited since John from Plains is leading the way. He is one cool dude.
A cool truck that we saw on the way down: