Wednesday, April 27, 2016

April 26, 2016 The Drayton Mill Trail

These are the days, the most beautiful of the year, temperatures from the 60's to 80's, without snow, tornados, blinding heat and rain.  All is green and growing.

Thistrail is new to me although completed in the past year in agreement between the Milikin owners of the old defunct weaving and spinning cotton mill who have made the mill into luxury apartments. Behind the apartment building and it's swimming pool and up the street, I can see yellow tape out in the woods. tonight there is to be a Shindig with music and art from Converse students on the trail.

This is a black top trail which winds through the green forest for a mile and then connects with the trail at the Mary Black Hospital on Skylyn. There are plans to connect with the Cottonwood Trail and indeed they have already plowed the ground for it.

Along the way a few trees are marked:  White Oak, Black Oak, Scarlet Oak, Sour Gum, Gum, Hickory, Mocknut Hickory.  The first student sculpture is wooden frames hanging in the trees. Some have plastic water bottles.  On the right there are two silver metal trees, then a rough hewn wooden bench surrounded by 20 small rock cairns.  Down the hill from the trail is a stream with a dirt path beside it.

I take the trail until I can see through the woods, a place of torture on the road:  my dentist's office, and then Mary Black Hospital.

Going back I meet a walker wearing a T shirt with the head of an eagle on the front.  She is a native of the Drayton Community and tells me how her grandfather took her to walk at the drained pond beside thetrailwhere one Canadian Goose floats with great dignity. She tells me there is a leak now in the dam which is why it is drained.  She tells me that where the dirt path is, there are springs which at times, bubble up into mud holes.

The beautiful woods of the trail, may be developed into a neighborhood with homes.  She has mixed feelings about her love of the community and the wealthy developers who have come to change it.

Monday, April 11, 2016

April 4, 2016 Canoeing the Lake at Calloway Gardens

Calloway Gardens is about 80 miles north east of Atlanta and Decatur on the edge of the mountains.  It is near the Roosevelt State Park and the  hot springs where the president went to heal from his polio.  It is 17 miles from LaGrange where the founding Calloway had his first department store at the age of 18 and made his fortune.

Eleanor, Mathew and I are driving through the little mountainesque town of Pine Mountain. Mathew, who is eleven, is doing "stand up comedy" in the back seat.  On the side of the road a muscular middle aged man with a golden pony tail is marching back and forth from his baggage and water canteen strapped onto  five packed wheeled carts to another space down the street just a block. One cart has a big white printed sign proclaiming "ON A MISSION FROM JESUS".  The man is wearing an orange safety vest. a white T shirt, shorts and good hiking boots.

At Calloway Gardens and after a lot of discussion, the three of us embark in a canoe onto the lake. We paddle out from a covered stone boat dock and circle the lake, visiting ducks and blooming azaleas on the shore. After an hour, we paddle back into the dock.

We visit the Butterfly House, a beautiful glass green house where there are tropical plants blooming, water vapor misting and butterflies and moths in all the colors of the rainbow, flying and alighting on dark green leaves.  A brilliant blue butterfly is spreading its wings on the back of a turtle and suddenly flops into the water below.  There is a splash and in an instant, it is gone, eaten by a hungry fish.

Going home, we stop, for gas in Pine Mountain where the man on a mission has made almost no progress in moving his carts.  One by one, he slowly wheels them a few more feet down the street.

We eat supper at the little Saigon restaurant near Eleanor's house. She gets Pho for Mathew in hopes the clear soup will help him recover from the pollen.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

April 3, 2016 Living Walls on the Atlanta Beltline

Eleanor, Mathew and I are driving on DeKalb Street, passing the Living Walls, the painted expression of a city speaking. Paint on an underpass states: Never Give Up.  We park the car and merge ourselves into the mass of human beings walking, biking and skating the Beltline, a path which will one day encircle the whole of the city.  The world is in bloom and the air is filled with pollen. Mathew is coughing and his nose is running.
My eyes are inflamed.

IT is Spring Break and those families who did not flee to the beaches of the Gulf or the sea islands of the Atlantic are all outside, joyously moving in the warm air.

Today is Hannah's birthday, born on a day when the earth itself is celebrating it's birth. At least here in the Northern hemisphere in South Carolina where it is an all out glorious Spring.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

March 7, 2016 Hunting Island: Goobye and Thanks For All the Books

The sun rises over the silver ocean.  Where the jungle trail meets the sand split between the submerged dead trees and a shining dark pond, the ospreys have made a nest of sticks at the top of a tall dead tree.  A birder from Charlotte is there with a long lensed camera waiting for them to arrive.

A pair of cormorants is floating and diving on the pond. We watch them until they fly up, circle and land on the branches of a dead oak out in the ocean.

Other than the birder, the beach is empty. We have stayed in the light house cabin over night.

Yesterday, Pat Conroy, died in Beaufort Hospital.  His home was just here on Fripp Island.

This week, his brother, a neighbor of my son, John, said, "I have to go to Beaufort, to put my brother back into the river."

In the sand, I write:  "Goodbye Pat, And Thanks For All the Books"

By now, the water has washed my message away.

Monday, March 7, 2016

March 3, 2016 Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site

People walking across the grounds of this historic site are not wearing clothing for a day's walk or picnic. Instead they are dressed formally in dresses, suits and ties. They gather at the obelisk, an ancient brick structure of two stories in height with arched passages through it.  A wedding is taking place.

I am looking for the interpretive trail and ask a woman exiting her car with her brown and white English Spaniel, Bradley.  She points to the tabby fort and tells me to walk into it and through it out the other side and I will find a trail along the Ashley River.  The trail ends abruptly by the lovely green river.  There is a cormorant perched on a rock or piece of masonry in the flow.  Another dog walker (she has a Shitzu and a Yorkie) tells me in a New York accent, that the trail goes another way beyond the fort, but it goes into the woods and she was afraid to follow it.  I try that one and it also ends abruptly by the river.

Here, without trails, there is the old tabby fort, built in the 17th century, an architectural dig of the old town, picnic tables and a restroom, the brick obelisk, beautiful trees and the green flowing river.

I leave to find my way South towards Beaufort and in the outskirts of the town of Summerville, now clogged with traffic, there is a sign, advertising " GATOR RABBIT AND BUFFALO BURGERS.  There is no restaurant to be seen.  I take 165 for about 15 miles to the hamlet of Ravenel.  Along the way, pink and purple azaleas are in full bloom.

On Hwy 17, a small car passes, proclaiming on its back window:  "I Kayak, Therefore I Am".

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

March 1, 2016 Musgrove Mill State Park: A Birding Hotspot

A false spring, a haze and a temperature of 70 degrees. Daffodils are blooming. There is hope in the light air. There are new bird houses in the trees at Musgrove Mill State Historic Site.

There is a new Park Manager named Dawn Weaver who lets me in the locked office. She is about to go to the bank, but instead she takes me to the back porch and shows me the new bird feeding station where on one recent day, birders counted 200 birds.  Circling high in the air and screaming their screeching calls, are two hawks.  She tells me they may be about to mate.  They are, indeed, checking out the trees near the office for a place to build their home.  There are also a pair of eagles who live on the park grounds.

Dawn Weaver came a few months ago from Huntington Beach State Park, a coastal birding hotspot. She tells me of how she saw her first Roseate Spoonbill on her second day at the park. Some birders put her to the test to identify it. A few days later, a nine year old girl told her sadly that she was having to leave to go home without seeing a Roseate Spoonbill. Dawn took her to the place where she saw one before and could not find one.  Suddenly two of these beautiful pink birds flew by them and landed on the pond.

Before I go to walk the trail down by the Enoree, Dawn shows me the eBird website from Cornell Ornithology Labs.  Their maps now indicate Musgrove Mill as  birding hotspot.  People who watch birds can sign up at and add their own lists of birds.

Before I hit the trail, she tells me that there is an area where the wild boars dug up the trail, but they have cleaned it up.  She says they only come out at night.

I am not afraid of the wild pigs.  I have met them before at Congaree National Park and found they had no interest in me whatsoever.

Don't go out in the woods  tonight
You're sure of a big surprise
If you go out in the woods tonight
You'd better go in disguise

If you go out in the woods tonight
You better not go alone
Don't go out in the woods tonight
It's safer to stay at home

For tonight is the night the wild boars have their picnic!

Plagerized from the song by Amarin Rose "The Teddy Bear's Picnic"

Monday, February 22, 2016

February 21, 2016 Cottonwood Trail: A Sanctuary

I can see the color orange across the wetlands.  A man is using binoculars to look at something high in the trees on the edge of the forest.

When I approach, he tells me that he has seen both a flicker and a pileated woodpecker high up in the same tree.

He is a former Bosnian, who fled the wars in 1994.

Around his neck, he wears Swaroski binoculars.

"I thought I needed them." he says. "They cost three thousand dollars.  You don't need any like this."

"I like to come here to be alone.

I think of many things."

He smiles broadly and raises his arms like a runner crossing the finish line.

"Or I can think of nothing."