New Year’s Day at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
By Julius Ariail
Posted January 3, 2014
For the 29th continuous year, Christ Church sponsored a New Year’s Day trip to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge — rain (this year) or shine (some years). Thanks to Phyllis Hiers and her family’s photo albums for counting back to the first trip in 1986. This year’s group left the church parking lot at 8 a.m. and gathered in a light, misty rain around 11 a.m. at the Lighthouse on the Refuge to walk down the Lighthouse Trail to see the overwintering ducks in the Lighthouse Pool and the pelicans, gulls, grebes, loons and mergansers just offshore in the Gulf. At 12:30 p.m. they drove to the picnic area north of the Lighthouse for a picnic lunch that featured hot black-eyed peas, turnip greens, and chili — all much appreciated in the cold, rainy weather. The picnic tables were protected by a large backpacker’s tarp and a free-dtanding canopy brought from Valdosta, and thankfully the misty rain moderated during the lunch so that the children could play in the picnic area and the adults could sit and visit for awhile. Twenty-eight parishioners, family and friends people were present for the lunch from as far away as Tennessee and the far western panhandle area of Florida. Two of the “charter members” of the group, the Rt. Rev. Henry and Jan Louttit, were also there — Bishop Louttit in his trademark purple outdoor jacket, of course.
After lunch the group did a little more birdwatching on the Refuge, and then drove to Wakulla Springs State Park to ride on the riverboats down the Wakulla River to see the abundant birds, alligators (not so abundant in the cold), and manatees (more seen this year than ever before). Then they drove to Spring Creek for the traditional seafood supper at Spring Creek Restaurant. Tweenty-six people were present for the supper.
One of the many highlights of the day was observing that three families were represented by three generations, and another set of grandparents had two of their grandchildren along for the day. Seeing the popularity of this annual tradition continue into the third generation was a joy for those who had been participating in the trip for almost three decades. On January 1, 2015, our 30th year — write the event on your calendar now and plan to be on the Refuge for the big celebration!