I ended my last post with my arrival at Santee State Park in South Carolina where I’d gone in order to visit Congaree National Park whose two campgrounds only accommodate hike-in campers with back pack equipment. State Parks are no longer the inexpensive places to stay that they once were. Although I suppose that at $45 a night including tax, it is still less expensive than private campgrounds. Though it is perhaps the most expensive site I’ve paid for. This was not for full hook ups. Water and electric only. Inconvenient dump station available.
I arrived at Santee on Friday October 30 and found that in previous years there had been a Halloween decoration contest at the park. But not this year sadly. Though some people did still put out things.
On Saturday morning I drove 38 miles to visit Congaree National Park where the Mosquito Meter outside the visitor center was thankfully reading Mild.
I was surprised to find that inside what had been the visitor center was only a small gift shop. All of the exhibits had been blocked off and the only information available was outside the VC at a small window manned by one park employee. So I’m zero for two in terms of being able to see the visitor center and its information. If you are interested in why we didn’t see it on our first visit, here is a link to that 2013 blog where you can see David having a wonderful time among the big trees even without being able to have VC information.
The 2.6 mile round trip boardwalk trail is the center of the trail system at the park and I started there. There are 10 trails in addition to the boardwalk for a total of over 44.5 miles of hiking within this mostly designated wilderness park.
There are a lot of big trees here and it was a bitter sweet visit for me remembering how excited both David and I were to see them in 2013. It appears that the last survey of Champion Trees done in Congaree was in July of 2009. At that time there were 26 trees that qualified based on circumference, height and crown spread for National or State championship status.
Congaree protects the largest remnant of old-growth floodplain forest in the United States. These Bald cypress and their “knees” are common to see standing in the swampy areas.
With 11,000 acres of old growth forest within the park’s 27,000 acres, there is plenty of room for Champion trees. No area in North America has a larger concentration of champion trees. Congaree is noted for being one of the tallest temperate, hardwood forests in the world. Loblolly pines as tall as a 17 story building, Sweetgum 15 stories tall. Of course not all of these are near the few acres of trails in the park. 44.5 miles of trails is a drop in the bucket of 27,000 acres.
I’d love to come back and kayak Cedar Creek but probably not until there is some more ranger presence and perhaps a map to indicate how to find your way around and through.
Once a bend in the Congaree River, Weston Lake is now an oxbow lake. Over 2000 years ago the river gradually changed its course and meandered south leaving Weston Lake behind. The lake is slowly filling in with clay and organic debris.
This iron box is an old still used to make alcohol. After the 18th Amendment was passed in 1919 (interestingly the same year women got the right to vote), prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol, moonshiners and bootleggers found refuge here in the Congaree River floodplain. It’s difficult terrain and tall trees made it a perfect hiding place.
I am off the boardwalk now and on the trail to Bluff Campground. Congaree has two campgrounds and both are backpack in. No RVs which is why I’m at Santee State Park.
Bluff Campground. There were 3 widely spaced tents here today.
On what I hope is the trail to Wise Lake, I find the day’s only wildflowers.
Not sure if it’s some sort of aster or a blue mistflower. Anyone know if either of these guesses are correct?
Is this also part of Cedar Creek?? It’s hard to show in a picture how large these trees are without someone to stand next to them.
There are minimal signs in the park so a map and a compass really are necessary.
Wise Lake I presume.
Congaree has many grand loblolly pines but none more so than this former state champion. Loblolly are the tallest trees in South Carolina and this one is over 150 feet tall. No way to get a picture of its height but how about its base? My standing beside it gives a good idea of just how big it is.
And here is David from 2013, happily standing beside what was then the state champion Loblolly pine. Same tree toes as I see today. Had I looked at this picture before returning, I would have stood in the exact same spot.
I scattered some of his ashes around this tree to honor it and his memory. I think it would make him happy.
By looking down into the swamp waters, I can look up into the skies.
I have walked over 7 miles both on and off the boardwalk, taking several trails. I return on the boardwalk and stop to spread David’s ashes around this giant American beech which was the first BIG tree we saw when we came in 2013 and I can remember him saying “Holy Sh**” look at the size of that beech”. Just thinking about him here brings a smile to my face but oh how I wish he were with me now.
On the drive back to the campground I pass cotton fields and more cotton fields so finally I stop to take a picture of them and me with them and the cotton itself.
I love cotton clothing but it is a heavy feeder, destructive of the land and always reminds me of the stain of slavery on the soul of this nation.
Back at the campground, trick or treating is getting underway. I wish you could read the headstones. There is Kris P Bacon, Barry M Deep, Noah Scape.
And this cute graveyard guardian was handing out very creative treats. See the next picture.
Apropos of the times, plastic gloves filled with a candy bar and rolled sweets. Love the spider ring.
Little Bo Peep and her sheep were here too.
Today is Saturday and usually at 11am I meet on Zoom with my friend Laurie for our book club. Since it was Samhain and I was going to Congaree, we agreed to wait until 5:30 to discuss our current read which is The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh. We are both fans of the charismatic bear and this book is a really beautiful look at the place that inspired Milne’s stories.
Pooh of course is part of the club and was trying to finish his reading with Owl’s help.
I closed the night off with a beautiful full moon breaking through the clouds of a black sky. Love these dark sky parks.
I couldn’t decide. Similar but not the same. Beautiful both.
On Monday, I left Santee for an atypically long drive of 221 miles to the Walmart in St. Mary’s Georgia where unlike a few days ago in Roanoke Rapids, everything worked fine. In addition, for all 221 miles the Service Engine light did not come back on. The moon appears totally full for days before and after the actual full moon date. Even in the Walmart Parking lot it was quite a show. Almost looks like there are continents on it. But I don’t see the man in the moon or any witches riding by.
My drive Tuesday was a more typical 111 miles and therefore I was able to take my time and stop at the Florida Welcome center where I knew they would have fresh orange juice. I’m masked up to go inside and get some.
Inside I also enjoyed the clocks showing “Florida time” and both time zones in the state. I think that is so silly to have people in the panhandle in a different time zone from the rest of the state. Why do they do that?? Probably the same reason that we STILL do spring forward and fall back. (This makes me start singing “Day Light Savings Time by Mike Yank and the Armadillos-right Carrie?)
And then here I am on the main drag in Flagler Beach Florida, A1A, right beside the Atlantic Ocean. I was stopped at a pedestrian crosswalk when I took this.
You are no longer allowed to build on the ocean side of the road and for those buildings that are “grandfathered in”, like the restaurant and little hotel next to the state park, if a hurricane destroys your building, you are not allowed to build it back. No building on the ocean front or its dunes in Flagler County.
This road reminds me of what Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach looked like in the 70’s when I lived on 42nd street just before the referendum passed permitting Liquor by the Drink which opened the flood gates to high rise national hotel chains and eliminated the view of the ocean from all of Atlantic Avenue. Now it’s just a wall of buildings. Good for the people of Flagler Beach to resist the siren song of money and protect their public beach.
I pull in to register at the park and have to stop for a parade of White Ibis crossing the road. I feel like I’ve actually arrived now. There’s the Flagler Beach water tower. I wonder how many little towns still have water towers? I just love it.
As usual here, I pull into my site, I do not back in, so that I’ll have an ocean front view out my big windows. But before I set anything up, I need a visit to the ocean. It’s been a year since I’ve been here but things look the same thankfully. So many hurricanes in Florida this year, but none has impacted the park.
Pretty happy and as you can see from my long sleeves, it’s not too hot YET.
Here’s the view out my front window.
I spend most of the rest of the day leisurely setting up in site 15.
The park has two campgrounds. One on the ocean side of A1A and one on the sound side. Both are not large – perhaps 30 sites each – and their smallness is one of the things I really love about them.
Never enough ocean views.
My first dawn and sunrise at the beach are not that spectacular but it’s the only one that isn’t completely clouded and rained out in the first week of my visit. I am writing this at the end of that first week after days of rain and high winds that have kept everyone inside including my slides.
There isn’t much to say about what I’ve done while here since I’ve been confined. When the rain takes breaks I try to get my 10K steps in without being blown over by the winds. Before I had to bring in the slides I tried to do 30-60 minutes of yoga but now with my nearly complete confinement by high winds 18-30 mph and nearly constant rain, I’m mostly reading The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd, doing puzzles, watching videos, emailing friends and wondering how long it will be before Mr. Trump will let Mr. Biden get on with his job. Getting antsy for sure.
Speaking of puzzles, I start out with something easy and small on my new puzzle board which is perfect for RVing. It folds up, puzzle, pieces and all for storage. It’s a bit big for my dining table but I make it work.
I did have a couple of days to enjoy the beach before the bad weather set in. I so wish David were here to enjoy this with me even the confinement. I’ve thought this throughout the pandemic. We could play cards and games, read aloud. But he is here in a way. I carry his ashes as he asked me to. He sits in the window of the RV when I’m parked as in the picture below and in the passenger seat when I’m driving. I miss him every day.