Monday, June 25, 2012

Hikes: Congaree National Park

Not one dame was gored by a boar, chomped by a gator, or snapped by a snapping turtle.  I have yet to receive any reports of West Nile or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and everyone made it out uninjured.  That was all I would have needed to call my first go at arranging a hike for my hiking group a success.  The icing was the smiles and thanks that followed our jaunt through Congaree National Park.  We had a few hiccups but all in all it was a good trip.
Pre-hike photo. Not pictured is the fearless leader of our group since she finds a way to hide from all cameras!
Congaree National Park is located in Hopkins, South Carolina (right outside of Columbia).  From the various routes used to make it to the park, it appears that Mapquest, GoogleMaps, Garmin, and SCDOT are not in agreement on how to make it to the park.  My suggestion is to follow the signs (old fashion I know) off of I-77.  We all made it safely, and that is the important part.  We were there in time to see the park ranger raise the flag and gauge our chance of being eaten alive by mosquitoes.
The ranger gave me permission to take this picture despite not have her required headgear on.
The last time I was out there it was on 5!
  After taking a before picture and dispensing a warning about the wild boars and Big Foot, we headed out.  We started out on the Boardwalk Loop which is elevated (though not above the high water mark).  The welcome center has a guide to some of the points of interest seen from the boardwalk.  One lady in our group was charged with telling us all what we were looking at from the moonshine stills, to tornado damage, to the only naturally occurring type of palmetto tree remaining in South Carolina (hint: it's not the one planted up and down main street and featured on all of our visors, flip flops, and koozies).
Bald cypress knees

  We continued along the boardwalk until we reached the Weston Lake Loop.  Our ultimate goal was to make it on to the Oakridge Trail.
 I had never been this deep into Congaree.  A few years back a friend was in town around my birthday and we did the Boardwalk and Weston Lake Loops.  We were just out for a nice walk and 4 miles at that time of the year was plenty enough.  It was only after getting on the Oakridge Trail that I started to have that "this is amazing" feeling.  After all I was 15 minutes out of the city, but I was viewing ancient plant life and there were no sounds of the city.  The only noise was us.  The benefit of being noisy is that you scare away the wildlife.  However you sometimes miss out on really cool things.  The group member that was alone out front happened upon a family of wild boars.  She was quiet and let them pass. Yes the little pink piglets are cute but mama will charge if you even smile at them funny.  Generally you would climb a tree but bald cypress trees do not have limbs...
I was by myself at this point but if I could have gotten a person to stand by this tree you could see how big it was.  A person could fit in each of the creases in the trunk.
We eventually made it back to the Weston Lake Loop and the Boardwalk Loop.  We took this time to stop and regroup.  I wanted to make sure that everyone went the correct direction on the boardwalk.  This also gave us the opportunity to look at the wildlife in the lake.
Shaded seating, and I captured fearless leader in my camera lens!
Common snapping turtles waiting for us to feed them...sorry fellas.
That line right above my left hand is the head of an alligator.
After resting and snacking we headed on back to the welcome center.  We completed 6.6 miles in a little under 3 hours.  I learned a few lessons after organizing this hike.  The first is to not rely on the address being enough to efficiently get people to the meeting spot.  A general summary overview of the directions would have been helpful to most as some of the GPS systems were way off base.  The second is to always show people on a larger map the general direction of the hike.  Saying the trail names and blaze colors was helpful but showing them that we were really making a giant loop was probably the most helpful.  All in all it was a good hike and I can't wait to organize another!  Many thanks to a great group of Dames who made this first organizing experience great.  Until next time y'all.
Smiling Dames!

1 comment:

  1. Nice write up Pearls!! Love the pictures :) You did a wonderful job leading us into the Congaree. Thank you so much! What a beautiful park.