Faced with the 2020 global Covid pandemic, my brother and I sought a safer alternative to our usual December jet around the world into strange lands. Ray suggested staying instead in the States this year, but go quite remotely off the grid into a swamp.

So, Adriene drove with Ray and Ellen from Ohio to pick me up just before Christmas at the Atlanta airport so the four of us could settle first into a rambling Savannah, Georgia, house where for four nights we cooked, drank artisanal cocktails (two per days, Ray’s orders), and played boardgames (like Adriene’s incredible Sequence game). With its Spanish moss, funky architecture, and friendly folks, we found Savannah quite glorious.

Meanwhile, I panicked over our imminent trip into the swamp for three nights of camping, each night at a different site. A winter thunderstorm our first day of paddling forecast to drop temperatures 50 degrees into sub-freezing nights, quite cold if unprepared. We moved out of Savannah well before dawn, driving to southeastern Georgia to pick up gear from the swamp outfitter and embarked into two canoes by mid-morning. Ray and Ellen hopped into one boat, while Adriene steered our canoe. We reached our first camping platform well before the rain. Furthermore, by putting on all our clothes and eating a massive amount of food, we survived the following two nights of 25F cold, especially during the third night on a wooden platform situated in the midst of the swamp. The migrating birds poked through the swamp “prairies,” while we saw only two late-season crocodiles. I’ve never been before with such a spirited and helpful crew of four.

We planned to wash up and relax at a glorious beach house in St. Augustine, Florida. Unfortunately, I booked a house for January, not December. Adriene saved the day (again) with a last-minute condo on the beach that may have fit our needs even better than the original lodging. We may have found downtown St. Augustine unpleasantly overrun by pandemic-ignoring tourists, but our condo’s nearby beach proved perfect for hijinks and end-of-the-year reflections. What a wonderful trip in three parts.

All photos taken by the lovely and talented Ellen