Wild Savannah

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 15, 2013

How did I manage to live more than half a century, most of it in the South, before making it to Savannah, Ga?
My husband and I recently spent a weekend there, and I wish we’d done it sooner.
Only five hours from Salisbury, Savannah is full of history, great architecture and wonderful food. It’s also a happy, convivial city, the perfect place, we discovered, to observe women in matching bachelorette party T-shirts getting a little crazy. Because of its liberal open container law, Savannah feels like Charleston’s rowdier cousin.
As it turns out, though, there’s another wild side to Savannah.
Sad to leave on Sunday morning, we crossed the Talmadge Memorial Bridge out of the city and prepared for the long haul through South Carolina.
But Savannah had one last trick up its sleeve. On a whim, after seeing a sign for the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, we got on US 17 and pulled over at a hiking trail.
As we prepared to head down the path, however, we noticed a hand-printed note, dated just hours earlier, warning potential hikers about the cottonmouth rattler spotted in the middle of the trail.
Errrr, maybe not. We headed down the road and spotted the entrance to the Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive.
The drive goes through four miles of earthen dikes built on four rice plantations dating to the late 1700s and early 1800s. In 1927, the land became the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.
The main attraction is alligators, but it’s also an excellent birdwatching area, featuring lots of wading birds, bald eagles and, if it’s the right time of year, the elusive Eurasian widgeon and fulvous whistling duck. (Look honey! A widgeon!)
We drove slowly in our car along the sandy dirt path, pulling over frequently to peer at egrets, lizards and turtles.
With huge dragonflies zipping around and alligators lurking around every bend, the place felt eerily Jurassic.
It’s a bit sad that the views are somewhat diminished by Savannah’s industrial skyline in the distance, but don’t let that stop you from visiting.
This is still a wild and wonderful place, well worth seeking out.
Katie Scarvey lives in Salisbury.