Grenda Lake Mississippi

We ended up spending a week in the Army Corp of Engineer’s North Abutment (Grenada Lake) Campground. We initially pulled in for three nights but we were concerned about the news coming out of Nebraska. As we watched one heartbreaking report after of Nebraska flooding another the thing that really stood out was that I-29, the main highway we take to go home, was closed. Between us and our location in central/west Mississippi was the Missouri. The flooding Missouri was blocking our trip home. We discussed it at length and spoke to our dear friend who minds our house and we decided to play it safe extend our trip. By staying south a few days more we could avoid the mess up north and avoid becoming part of their problems.

After our first three nights we moved to a full hookup site for four more nights giving us a full week on Grenada Lake. The weather was sunny and cool. We had several days of brisk winds that stirred up the lake turning the water to brown. Even so we were able to go for nice long walks in the sunshine, ride our bikes around the campground and relax. Once nice thing was the cooler weather meant an end to the horrid biting bugs that had left me covered with welts in Alabama. It was blessedly stable uneventful weather after dodging tornados in Alabama. We made one trip into Grenada to see the historic mainstreet (which was not work the trip except for a neat local grocery store full of all kinds of fascinating stuff like pickled whole pig’s feet). Again, we were delighted by wildflowers, migrating songbirds, egrets and herons and for some reason more turtles than I have ever seen in one place. Somehow we never did get a picture of the turtles but we saw them sunning everywhere. I wish I could adequately describe how soul refreshing it is to stay in such a lovely location and enjoy such absolutely perfect weather with no pressure to be anywhere or do anything. I even baked bagels and pumpernickel bread one day it was so relaxed.

On our second night we were alarmed to note that the road on top of the dam was closed because of how high the water in Grenada Lake was. The local authorities were running golf carts up and down around the clock watching for leaks in case the levee broke. The locals did not seem concerned and our campsite was above the levee so we decided to stop worrying too and that was when I baked. On our last day, the wind finally calmed and we went for a long overdue canoe ride. The lake was twenty feet above flood stage. There was a small creek and the forest around it totally inundated. We were actually able to canoe into the forest and see tree tops of shorter trees and get far up the trunks of mighty evergreens. That was a really interesting perspective.

Our reservations were up and it was a really busy looking for the weekend at this campground. We had already decided to alter our trip home by going through the Arkansas’s I-40 interstate following the non flooding Arkansas river. That about the flattest road in mountainous Arkansas. We planned on exploring some of the many Federal campgrounds along that route. We could then avoid the lower Missouri flooding which was now moving out of Nebraska and towards Mississippi right through our original planned route home. We were pleased to read that the I-29 was now mostly openly and if we took our time, it would hopefully be clear for us to drive home.  Those Arkansas campgrounds were really busy because they were all booked up for the weekend. We made reservations for the trip through Arkansas but we were still left with three nights in Mississippi before we could take advantage of the reservations. We decided to move north again and stop for three nights near Memphis Tennessee at the Army Corp of Engineer’s Enid Lake campground. And so we said goodbye to Grenada Lake and headed north.

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Misty had great fun with a friend she made at our second campsite. This little guy was actually faster than her. We don’t meet a lot of dogs who can outrun her but this boy sure could.

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Forkland, Alabama

We left Miller’s Ferry reluctantly and with some concern about the weather. Yet another storm system was barrelling through the south with the threat of tornados, high winds and other misery. The predictions for the north were much worse. After the time we had spent lingering in southern Alabama I was looking at the calendar with no small amount of concern. We had to start making time north if we were to get home before our health insurance ran out but this storm system looked even worse than the last one. So we decided to move as far north as we could and still be outside the severe weather zone. We also decided to stay three nights which would allow the system to pass us and clear further north.

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Gorgeous Red Bud in bloom everywhere.

We arrived in Forkland Alabama Army Corp of Engineer campground to a nice surprise. Each of these campgrounds has a flavour to it. We had been to Forkland before but the flavour was nondescript woods. This time it was glorious spring and the wildflowers were in full bloom. As if that was not pleasant enough, a full on eruption of migrating songbirds meant the campground was positively thronged with red headed woodpeckers, blue birds, finches and warblers. And third, a storm of delightful whimsical art had hit the place. All over, stumps of wrecked trees had been transformed into birds and animals and mushrooms. The whimsy was positive, friendly and lovely. And so we settled in to a wonderful spacious campsite with our own dock not far from the washroom/shower/tornado shelter.

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There was one downside to our arrival. The campground host warned us that they had recently had a huge number of rattlesnakes appear. From his description, my guess is they have a wintering place nearby and they had awoken and spread around the campsite to warm and then disperse. Garter snakes do this back home so we have a brief spell of little snakes everywhere. I had done my best to train Misty that little garter snakes were terrible and she needed to stay away from them. I didn’t know if the training would transfer to the rattlers if she encountered one nor if she would recall training from the year before. We were careful never to let her out of the trailer without first inspecting the site and if we went out at night we always had a flashlight and checked where we walked. We did not see a single snake.

The storm system rolled in as forecast on our second day and we were once again watching the radar and checking the warnings. We seemed to have a sweet spot and storms raged north and west of us. As the system got closer a tornado watch was announced and the campground host stopped in to make sure we knew the washroom had a central reinforced room that doubled as a tornado shelter. At one point we were under a severe thunderstorm warning but I could see on the radar we were only in it because of the placement of the county border and the storm was going to miss us so we stayed in the trailer. We heard a lot of thunder and lightning to the north as it rolled by but that was all. We were safe. I was very concerned about the huge mess to the north, especially Nebraska and Iowa where most of the states were in a flood warning but we were fine in.

We spent our days again taking long walks, and many training walks with our Misty. The campground was actually crowded with lots of little kids and so we had plenty of opportunity to practice sitting nicely while children pet you and not barking your head off like an idiot and yanking the leash every which way when passing another dog. Misty did very well. We had one comical episode. A woman there had three long hair “teacup” chihuahuas who got loose and charged at Misty. Her reaction was hysterically funny. She froze and then slowly put her head down while these three little dogs, each one just the size of her head, barked furiously and acted like they were going to attack her. She was just bemused. Her reaction seemed to be “What are you?” I was very proud of her. Everyone around was laughing and laughing as the owner ran around trying to scoop them up while they dodged her and kept up their empty threats against Misty. Eventually we just walked away while she continued to ineffectively call, try to scoop, and get frustrated. People, train your dogs! I couldn’t help but think how one of those dogs would have been a nice meal for a rattlesnake.

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Many army cops of engineers campsite include private little docks and Forkland is no exception. These steps from our campsite led to our own little dock. Unfortunately flood water meant the dock was underwater and the swiftness of the flow with debris meant we didn’t get to put the canoe in the water.

After the third day amid alarming flood reports coming out of Nebraska, we left our site and headed off to our next stop, Lake Grenada area of Mississippi.

Millers Ferry Campground

This campground is my absolute favourite of all the Army Corp of Engineer campsites we have been to. The sites are especially well maintained, the campground is in the bend of a lake with a lot of lovely sites right on the water. The bathrooms are neat and clean and they have a laundry. We got a very nice site right near the water. Then we saw a six foot alligator so we made very sure our dog could not go anywhere near the water. One rather interesting thing they have is huge bamboo clumps. Some of them were thicker than a man’s forearm and three stories tall. I know they are considered an invasive nonnative plant but I still like the look of them.

There is a neat little marina across the water that had the best homemade burgers. Again we went walking every day several times a day, training walks with the dog and long bike rides. Dick finally found a real old fashioned bamboo fishing rod and he bought it. We also made a side trip to the nearby dam to see the rapids.

And of course wildflowers and birds. Lots and lots of cardinals, blue birds, assorted sparrows, chickadees, and more than one bald eagle. And every day egrets, white pelicans and Canada geese in the water. We have been to Miller’s Ferry Campground three times now and each time has been a pleasure.

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Isaac Creek Campground

We really enjoy Army Corps of Engineer campsites. They are big and spacious, have huge individual sites, and they are set in lovely places. Isaac Creek is wonderfully nice even by Army Corp of Engineer standards. The campground is located in south west Alabama just upstream from the Claiborn Lock and Dam and the region is positively packed full of history. It’s rather off the beaten track with no nearby city. We made a point of stocking up before we went in.

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One of the fun things was lots of paved roads for bike rides. The river was extremely high and fast flowing so we decided for safety reasons to forego canoeing. We signed up for three nights initially but we soon increased that to five as a major storm system was supposed to be barrelling through. We didn’t want to be traveling in storms. Our decision turned out to be correct as the system spawned 36 tornado warnings with six confirmed touchdowns. At one point we were also under a tornado warning which we spent in the shower stall of one of the washrooms. This was our second “hide from the tornado” event. Our young dog who is being trained got her longest sit stay session yet and she did very well. As it happened the tornados went to the south of us.

In spite of the one scare we had a lovely time. We took bike rides daily and short training walks with Misty at least three times a day. There were lots of other kids and dogs in the campground so we worked on lowering leash reactivity and proper heel technique. We also did lots of sit/stay and lie down stay.

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There were abundant wildflowers to enjoy and the place was full of migrating birds. After weeks of intense volunteer work for Gulf Specimen Marine Lab we found it a great pleasure to unwind, watch the sunset and sunrise and just enjoy life at a slow easy pace.

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Falling Waters State Park, Florida

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We left our friends behind in Florida and began our long slow migration north. In previous years we have taken 4-5 weeks to get home and our plans was to do the same. Our first step was therefore only a short distance away at Falling Waters State Park. The park was badly damaged by Hurricane Michael and had only just reopened after months of clean up. As we expected the park still showed a lot of damage from the hurricane. While the campsite itself was mostly clear, there were a lot of places still piled high with windblown debris. Several stretches of the hiking trails had major detours and one large boardwalk trail was still closed. However the main attraction, the creek flowing down and falling 72 feet into a large sinkhole, was open. It was running fairly quickly that first visit on our arrival day.

We stayed two nights and very much enjoyed ourselves. The campground is very busy and the sites are highly variable in quality. I strongly recommend reservations. Ours was a tight fit and we had to unhitch. It was beside an area still uncleared from the hurricane so we had to deal with things like mounds of overhanging and tangled vines with big spikes. The washrooms were in clean and excellent shape and the hosts were wonderful. There is a small artificial lake and swimming hole with a sandy beach that would have been very attractive except for the alligator dangers signs. We didn’t go swimming. 

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The second day we spent walking the trails that were open. Many of the trails were long boardwalks and they had lots of sections with brand new wood. There were also crews busy repairing and cleaning so all day long we heard the sound of small tractors and chainsaws. Even so it was really lovely The spring flowers were all in bloom. There were many beautiful ferns and mosses. It had rained a lot overnight and so the creek leading to the waterfall was running vigorously and we got really lovely display. 

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Overall it was well worth the stop and I’m glad we visited the highest point in Florida and saw Florida’s biggest waterfall. Next stop on our long migration home for 2019 was Isaac Creek, Alabama.

Dolphins

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What could be more exciting than the special privilege of seeing wild dolphins busy fishing? There is a large family (pod) of dolphins that goes up and down the coast around the estuary of Ochlockonee river. Dolphins are delightful and curious critters.  I have been informed this pod is bottle nose dolphins.

The dolphins have an interesting way to hunt fish. They drive the fish up onto the shore where the water is shallow and then race top speed through the water. They then do an incredibly fast 180 degree turn and swim back through the area they stirred up. I’m not sure what they were eating. If they are hunting mullet they use a different technique and the mullet can be seen jumping in the air trying to escape. We saw no mullet today so the dolphins were after something else.Their speed and power is just amazing.

One of the littlest dolphins came very close trying to get a good look at us. Misty spotted this and leaped in the water trying to chase the dolphin.

Misty kept going until we called her back. She was a fair way out. She had a funny look on her face as she swam back the first time as if she was a bit surprised how far out she was. She had no trouble swimming back. She went out after the dolphins twice. Both times she was responding to the little one coming very close to shore. The other dolphins did not seem a bit bothered by this. The big ones just kept right on fishing.

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Misty came back to shore each time excited and happy with her encounter with dolphins. Can dogs hear dolphins? Can dolphins hear dogs? The little dolphin was definitely curious.

It is a very special privilege to get to watch wild dolphins doing dolphin things and for a dog to have a chance to swim with a dolphin. Today was very special,

That Canada Goose Problem

When I was a little girl, the Canada Goose was in danger of extinction. I explicitly recall a great event when I was perhaps four or five years old. There was an uproar in the neighbourhood and my father grabbed me to run outside and see something wonderful. All up and down the street were neighbours pointing at the sky and hold up their children in great excitement. My mother clapped her hands and shouted “Spring is coming at last!”

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As we all watched a flock of about fifty Canada geese flew over honking and calling, me on my father’s board shoulders. I remember thinking it was pretty neat. I had never seen such a bird before.

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My father then went on to tell me the great birds had once filled the skies but they were now in danger of going extinct because of the greed and stupidity of humanity who had over hunted the glorious bird. I was really sad that the day might come that these majestic birds with their haunting call might vanish from the earth. If things don’t change, my father said, my children would not get to see a migrating goose. I was sad. It was the start of my interest in being an environmentalist.

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Flash forward five decades (okay five decades plus a few years) and not only has that Canada Goose not gone extinct, it has become a right bloody nuisance. There is currently a Canada Goose hiding out in a Winnipeg car wash trying to survive the winter in the cold. It is far too canny for anyone to catch. The reason geese are thriving is because they have adapted to us and like our golf courses, suburbs and even our car washes. All I can say (after a muttered curse when I have goose poop on my shoes again) is I wish every species in danger of going extinct could have such a resurgence. On the other hand, I should be careful what I wish for.

Update” That silly goose was finally rescued.

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