Tuesday, May 26, 2015

May 22, 2015 Myrtle Beach State Park "They Paved Paradise..."

I arrived at Myrtle Beach State Park on Highway 17 (it is known as Kings Highway) from the South, having gone through Georgetown and Pawley's Island.  It is 3 miles south of Myrtle Beach where 400,000 vacationers are visiting this weekend. It is Biker Week as well as Memorial Day Weekend.

Have I lost my mind?  I have been invited to join a friend at one of the South Carolina at the Riviera style resorts that have grown up like fire ant hills along this once beautiful and pristine coast.

Myrtle Beach State Park has attempted to capture and preserve something of the maritime forest that once flourished here.  The park is 326 acres, has a fishing pier, camping and even some cabins, a Nature Center and Activity Center.

There are but two short trails: Sculptured Oak and Yaupon.  For me, the map that I get from the Park Office is confusing, so I take the entrance to Yaupon which leads into the forest from behind Shelter B-6 which is the last picnic shelter on the road next to the pier and the ocean.  Go to the pier and turn right to find it.  The trail is a tiny refuge from the insanity of Myrtle Beach.  Underfoot is packed white sand and pine needles, good to walk on. Little sapsucker woodpeckers live here in the winter. They leave accurately straight lines of holes in the trees.  There are Yaupon Holley trees in this forest. Native Americans made a kind of tea from the little oval leaves which contain caffeine. I took just a few to make my own tea at home.

The forest is filled with the intoxicating fragrance of magnolia.  Yaupon connects with Sculptured Oak and passes a pond before it comes out again near the Park Office.

I have had the trail all to myself, a short , peaceful walk before what is to come:  the 400,000 people, the bikers zooming in and out on the highway, the endless outlets and souvenir stores, the buffets with snow crab legs, sea food, fried chicken and chocolate fountains.

Soon, I am in traffic jams and become enthralled with the bikers, especially the women with their own bikes, their long red hair flowing behind them in the wind, their 5 inch heels.

I am going to a resort in the North 80's, so I take a look down North 77th street where my father once bought a small one story house with two bedrooms, large living room and kitchen-dining area.  It had a
carport in the back with a one room bedroom attached.  It was on the last street where there were houses or other development back then.  Where there are now high rises, we roamed the sandy open space where we named our places "wood fort, thorn valley and thorn hill".  In my mind's eye, I can see it all, my mother, my father, my sister and brother, my cousins, "Nellie", my dog.

How it all has changed.

Big Yellow Taxi

They paved paradise
and put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot.

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
'Til it's gone.

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot......

Joni Mitchel

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

May 16, 2015 Death at Crowder Mountain

On the news, I have heard that a woman came with her family and climbed to the rock face of Crowder's Mountain. Taking pictures near the edge, she fell 100 feet to her death.

This is where Michael and Earl would sit on the rock not so far from the edge and scare me to death.
It is where Hanah and John came with Camp Cherokee to rapel down the cliff.

May 19, 2015 Lynches Woods: The Tatooed Man

In the parking lot behind the Newberry Sheriff's Department, I meet a tall silver haired man with backpack leaving the entrance to the woods.  He tells me that the gravel road through the park was built in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps and that his father, in fact, helped build it.  He tells me to take the gravel road and not the woodland trails "until I get to know it".

I thank him and walk down the hill until I find a confusion of one way road signs and "do not enter" signs.
A hiker emerges to the left, leaving the woods in the opposite direction from the one way sign.  He is a man with salt and pepper curly hair wearing an old faded T shirt cut off at the arms to reveal a glorious tangle of tatoos.  He tells me that the gravel road is five miles, that there is a rise he calls, "mother mountain" and if I want to spare my body pain, I will take the opposite direction of the one way signs. "I have done it twice today", he says.

I try to do as he says, but find myself on a short loop past a big picnic shelter with eight to ten tables and back to where I started. I take the direction of the one way signs.

On the trail there are low stone arches marking streams flowing below.  These arches attest to the age of the road. And here and there are the new bridges recently constructed.  Soon I hear a heavy splash nearby and a rumpled man appears coming towards me.  I grab my phone and pick up a big stick. He does not speak English. I think he has slept in the woods. He travels on.

On my left is a cow pasture and on the faraway hill, a farmhouse and large gray barn with dull red roof. The stoic black cows are huddled together at the nearby fence.

The trail begins to ascend and I find that all along the way, I am on an upward walk through the lovely green wood with flashes of sunlight and plateaus.  It is really not strenuous. Here and there horse trails wind off into the forest. These trails do not look well traveled, but once I catch the telltale scent of horse.

As the sun rises at noon high in the sky, I leave my club (the one I was going to knock out the rumpled man with) at the first bridge for the next hiker.


Monday, May 18, 2015

May 16,2015 The Cottonwood Trail on That Jingle Jangle Morning

I am rounding the board walk in the wetlands just after dawn. Two antlered young bucks, one brown, one faun are drinking at a small rivulet. Startled, they spring up but go only a few feet away. We stand silently observing each other, their beautiful round eyes unblinking.  Soon I round the walk and there before me within 10 feet is a silent doe, perfect, composed,  standing where the water has receded in this week without rain.
Unconcerned, she walks delicately a few feet away picking her way through the reeds and irises.

There is a gentle breeze wafting around me like the wind at the ocean while I sit for a while watching the morning birds streaking through the sky, the little woodpeckers drumming, a red winged blackbird perching over the water on a branch. A gray snake with an orange belly slithers into the muddy tall grass.

There is no one here but me. There is no other creature except the deer, the birds and the gray and orange snake. There is no one else in the universe on this jingle jangle morning.

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan

Hey! Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there's no place I'm going to.
Hey! Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
On that jingle jangle morning, I'll come following you.

Take me for a trip upon your magic swirling ship
All my senses have been stripped
My hands can't feel to grip
My toes too numb to step
Wait only for my boot heels to be wandering.

I'm ready to go anywhere.
I'm ready for to fade, into my own parade.
Cast your dancing spell my way
I promise to go under it.

Hey! Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there's no place I'm going to.
Hey! Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me.
In that jingle jangle morning, I'll come following you.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

May 12, 2015 Conestee Lake Park: It's Almost Like Falling in Love

"What a day this has been
What a rare mood I'm in
It's almost like falling in love"        

The magic of this full throttle Spring day is nearly overwhelming. It is early, moving along on Hwy 296 through Reidville towards Mauldin.  Lush green fields, blooming catalpas, tulip poplars and magnolias along the way before I am in the South edge of Greenville and turn rt on 146, then left on Butler Rd and continue through Maudin until the road becomes Mauldin Road.

The entrance to Conestee Lake Park is at 840 Mauldin Road behind the sports complex and the dog park.
There are 11 miles of trails over and across the Reedy River, through wetlands teeming with plants, birds and animals.  The heavy intoxicating scent of honeysuckle, wild rose and blooming privet fills the air.

I take the Raccoon Run near the dog park.  It is a well marked tunnel through much green bushes and trees at first along the sides of a steep red mud bank.  I come upon a rock floor and then a field and we find a platter sized turtle in the gravel road.  At the top of the rolling ridge, I find more rolling ridges and so we turn back again.  I find later that the Raccoon Run is a loop that would have taken me to Flat Tail trail where I go  now.

From the big entrance saying "Lake Conestee Park", you can look down through the woods and see a bridge over the Reedy River. To the left is a sand beach where people take their dogs to swim.  It is on the near side of the river, so you must take a turn off to the left before the bridge to get there.

I go through Heron Circle, take Possum trail and go to the left at a spot where going forward is blocked.
This is Flat Tail. I find West Bay Observation Deck see before me.  Surely this is the Garden of Eden.
Great Blue flies up into one of the dead trees above a lush sea of Broad Leaf Arrowhead plant (also called Duck Potato), American Black Elderberry, Wild Blue Irises, the Primrose plant which will bloom next month, grasses.

I have met Beverly and her red dog, Lily. She becomes my guide. She and her husband have hiked here for many years and worry about the influx of people who will come when a connection to the Swamp Rabbit Trail is completed from downtown Greenville.  She tells me how to cross the river again and circle around to the Bird Nest. This is a high deck over the wetlands where we can look out again and see what grows and moves.  Here you could see a variety of ducks, perhaps even the Great Egret, a Kingfisher, a Green Heron, an American Bittern and many of the 200 species of birds spotted in the past year by the Greenville Bird Watchers Club.  Recently 82 species were seen on  bird count day.

Going back, Great Blue flies up in front of me, so close I can hear the slow flap if his wings. From Flat Tail, I take Heron Circle, Woodie Walk and then bear to the left to cross the big bridge again.

"It is almost like falling in love."

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

May 5, 2015 Bald Eagle Fledgling and the Indian Drifter

On the porch of the log cabin office are elderly ladies and volunteers.  As this is the county my mother hailed from (as they used to say), I am familiar with these ladies from my childhood.  They are of pale white skin that they have always covered with hats. They have neat gray curly permed hair and they rock gently in rocking chairs after a long day of canning and cooking and feeding the family.

I ask about the Bald Eagles, if the chicks are in the nest beside the wide rocky Catawba River.  "There is one ", says the volunteer, "That one is still staying in the nest, cuddling deep down". If I am lucky, I might see him move or a parent return to the nest.  The Rocky Shoals Tiger Lilies are not blooming yet. It will be one or two more weeks, but their long iris-like stems are waving from the rocks.

The eagle nest is to the right, down the Thread Trail. You go past two benches (not picnic tables).  Far out on the rocks I see Great Blue, so tall that his neck is curved twice. A yellow Goldfinch perches on a branch beside me. I pass a lonely fisherman on the bank, then I meet Frank Ross and his Dad, James, from Rock Hill with their little dog.

They come here often and know the eagles.  There is a little turnoff near the nest and Frank points out the nest of sticks and branches high up in a tall pine.  With my binoculars I can see the chick moving for a moment. Frank takes me off trail to the foot of the pine. He knows it because it is the only place two large pines stand together.  James tells me that once the nest fell down and the eagles replaced it. The pair of eagles came in the 90's and have had their fledglings in February.  Frank says he has found many fish bones at the base of the tree.

Back at the parking lot, I find a sparkling red and black motorcycle parked beside my Jeep. It has a leather seat and studded leather saddlebags. Along its brilliant side is the golden image of a Native chief with full headdress.  A helmet with leather gloves inside dangles from the handle bars.  "Indian Drifter" is emblazoned on the front.

I do not see the rider, but I know he must be the descendant of those who forded the wide river here, those who paddled their canoes down the rivers to Edisto where they built the shell mounds, the ancient conservators of this land which once belonged only to God.

May 5, 2015 N.R. Goodale State Park. The Story of the Star Maiden

Past the Arrant Community Center, the road goes down to the park office and across an expanse of grass, and before you is the startling sight of a wide lake studded with blooming white waterlilies and beyond that the submerged trunks of cypress trees with delicate green leafed branches high above.

As the Native American story goes, there was once a young boy who slept outside under the trees and the starry sky.  A star appeared to alight in the tree's branches and to the boy's surprise, a beautiful maiden stepped down from the star.

She told him she was so enthralled with the beauty of the earth that she wished to take another form and come down from the heavens to reside on earth forever.  The boy ran to the elders and told his story. The elders told him to let her know that she should come to earth as a flower.

The next morning, the boy awoke to find the lake strung with hundreds of white waterlilies.  The maiden and her star sisters had come to earth to live forever in white blossoms floating on the clear water.

There is a 3.5 mile canoe and kayak trail in the cypress swamp where alligators reside. The trail is called Big Pine Tree Creek Canoe Trail, but the lake is Adams Grist Mill Lake. Canoes, Kayaks and a fishing boat can be rented for $7.00 for a half day and $12.00 for a full day.  There are 3 kayaks and 6 canoes and one fishing boat.  Colleen and John kayaked here often before James was born.

I took the 1.7 mile trail which runs off to the left behind the rental boats. This is a great trail which becomes a loop. It's surface is white sand, pine needles and leaves.  The forest is shady all along the way with a ground cover of new green ferns.

This park was dedicated in 1952 as a Kershaw County Park of 2,000 acres. It's history can be read on a monument of pink granite from Flat Rock.  The park was donated to the State Park System in 1973. R.N. Goodale was a local florist and civic leader in nearby Camden.

The park was actually closed today as far as the office being open, but fortunately, a ranger appeared carrying my phone which had been found close by.

I came to Goodale from Columbia taking I-77 North, the I-20 towards Camden (exit 98), passed the Revolutionary War Park on Broad St, the Robert Mills Court house and then right on DeKalb for 3 miles, right again on Stagecoach Rd. and shortly the park is on the right.  Of course, from Charlotte, one way would be to take I-77 South and then I-20.

George Washing to came to Camden on Mary 25, 1791 and proclaimed that "Camden is a small place. It was much injured by the British whilst in their possession". (for 11 months in 1780).

There is no camping and no cabins at Goodale, and the office is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but you can bring your own canoe, kayak or fishing boat, your own gear, your own picnic.