Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July 29, 2014 Barnwell State Park: Water Lillies with a Possibility of Alligators

A bright green day with temperatures much cooler than the season and low humidity as well.

I loaded up Boofa, water, dates and apples and put oil in the car at Kangaroo Station.  There I found legal moonshine for sale in flavors of apple, peach, strawberry and clear.  The attendant told me that the clear was terrible, the peach so so and the strawberry fairly good.  Not today.

It was 9:00 am before I was driving down the back roads (hwy 56 then at Chappells 39) as the crow flies in the green green of the height of summer. Impossible smooth green meadows stretch for acres to forests of deep dark green trees. There is not a leaf stirring.  The trees stand magnificently and quietly knowing that the work of the green fuse is done now.  I pass cattle farms with signs for Limousin, Brahman and Poled Hereford bulls.

On the Laurens/Newberry County line, Belfast Plantation is on the right (settled by John Simpson of Ireland in 1786) and on it's land a Wildlife Management area.
Later I pass the Jacob Odom house where George Washington spent the night on his trip north in 1755.

I cross the Spearman Bridge over the green Saluda and into Saluda, past the Saluda county Courthouse and a mural on the side of a downtown building for the Saluda Old Town Treaty in 1755 with the Native Americans. I turn past the Saluda Pool Hall, cross over the Little Saluda River, on past fields of Sun Flowers, small crops of okra and fields of cotton blooming with white and red blossoms, signs for Peaches at Cone Farms, Dixie Bell Peaches.  In Wagener, a truck of watermelons is parked in the town median.
In Sally (home of the Chitlin Strutt) I get gas on Walnut St. The station is manned by friendly Southeast Asians.   Nearby a group of men sit in the shade of a giant oak, passing the time.

The welcome sign for Springfield is beside a cotton field and a lonely Palmetto Palm. Nearby is the South Edisto River.  I stop at the Morgan Pharmacy for directions.  It sits in a lovely corner building on the downtown Festival Trail and it has one of the last soda fountains in South Carolina, maybe the world.  They tell me to take Hwy 3 ( the Solomon Blatt Hwy) on to Blackville and then shortly to the park on the right.

This is a beautiful small park, another gem, somewhat the size of the Chester State park, with original work by the CCC. There is a park office (open 11 to 12 and 4 to 5) in the old bath house building with a women's bathhouse on the left and men's on the right.  At the office there is a humming bird feeder and a trap for carpenter bees.   Beyond is the upper pond with 5 children swimming in the roped area, their mothers in black T's and shorts sitting on the shore.  The 1.5 mile Nature Trail runs off to the right and circles the ponds, graced with blooming lilies.  There are a few people fishing, one paddle boat, signs warning the possibility of alligators "a fed gator is a dead gator".  Up in the woods nearby, there are 5 round cabins with landscaping by local garden clubs. Inside I see a nicely appointed kitchen, two bedrooms, a large living-dining area with table and chairs, modern upholstered chairs in front of a flat screen TV.

Leanna McMillan, ranger, tells me the story of the Rosses who were rangers here, she for 24 years until 1979 and he, the husband for 10 years before.  Ranger Ross died of a heart attack on the night he went to the aid of passengers in a car that wrecked at the entrance to the park.  After his death, Mrs. Ross became the park manager and it was she who was able to arrange for the building of the 5 cabins with the help of Solomon Blatt, legislator from the area.

On the far side of the lake, my friend, Great Blue (heron), stands on the edge of the field of water lilies.
The trail has jetties through the woods, one out into the lake for gazing and fishing. Nearing the end of the trail, I come to the spillway with the sign, "Do Not Walk on the Spillway" and see a small path down to and around a little pond.  This is not the way to go. It is passable but covered with branches. A little farther back off the trail is a trail to the road, so that you can walk along the road for a few yards and then come onto a bridge which takes you back to the office.

Leanna McMillan tells me that an Eagle Scout is building another trail in the forest across the road which will connect to the loop trail.  Leanna has come two months ago from working at Hickory Knob where she cleared the trail for a Triathelon last year.  She tells me about the Civil War Battle History site at Rivers Bridge where I plan to go next.

The swimming spot in the lake looks so inviting that I plan to start packing a swim suit and towel on my next hike.

I drive up the road through Blackville, which has a dark green Public Library in a signature Victorian style with cupola.  I get gas at an immaculate station run by our Southeast Asian Highway Guardians.  It has a Subway restaurant and a Blue Bunny Ice Cream stand and anything else you might need on the way.  In the small towns on Hwys 39 and 56 there is always one or two great old mansions with shaded porches with wicker or rocking chairs.  Who sits in those chairs now?

In the small leafy town on Monetta, there is a peach orchard where the ripe peaches lie rotting, ungathered on the ground.

Three deer leap across the road.  The sky is filled with high cumulous clouds in a blue blue field.

I am on an oxygen high with the radio playing "Cecelia, The Lion Sleeps Tonight and Blackbird".

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

June 15, 2014 A Bad Day at Redcliffe Plantation, Beech Island SC

The day began with a wonder of wild flowers along the back roads:  Mimosa, massive clumps of blooming viburnum, orange day lilies sprouting up from the green ditches, fragrant ligustrum, brilliant orange butterfly weed, Queen Anne's Lace.  On Hwy 56, I crossed Little River, Mills' Creek and then the wide green Saluda.  I crossed under I-20 and passed through Aiken with it's lovely old houses and gardens, then a  fleeting glimpse of the nuclear plant.

Redcliffe Plantation was the retreat of James Henry Hammond, once Governor of South Carolina, slave owner and political proponent of slavery.  The home was restored in 1973 by his descendant, John Shaw Billings, Editor of Life Magazine. Billings brought journalists and even the photographer, Alfred Eisenstaedt to the home to photograph it.

Tours of the home are at 11:00, 1:00 and 3:00.  I arrived at 2:00 and missed the 3:00 o'clock tour because I was lost in the woods.

Doug, retired military officer and now park ranger told me that in February of this year, there had been a furious ice storm and that the two mile trail had been severely damaged by falling trees, branches and debris.
He and another ranger had just walked the trail and found the first quarter mile rough but passable and then "down near the pond" extremely overgrown and difficult to even find the way.  He advised to just walk in a quarter of a mile and then turn around and come back.

I walked in a way, over fallen logs and branches and kept going, looking for the pond. I was thinking of turning back when a startled long-legged white spreckled faun lept just in front of me.  In a state of wondrous awe, I followed it into the deep woods.  At last I was lost. At one point, I could see the trail going up a far off ridge and I started down in that direction, but soon came to a small body of water surrounded by brush and had to turn back.  I kept going through brush, brambles and black berries  hearing the stamping hoof beats of hidden deer and wishing I had a machete until I gave up and headed for the sound of cars.  I found a road and began walking in the searing heat from the macadam.  Hitch hiking appeared not to be an option.

Finally, I got a ride back to the site from a man named Tommy Snell in his black truck.  I washed up at the park office restroom and revived myself on the porch, drinking water and collapsing in a rocking chair until I saw the tourists coming down the hill from the plantation house.  They greeted me saying that the ranger had them looking out for me when I didn't appear for the tour.

I do not recommend getting lost and then walking on a highway in 95 degree heat, but the house must be interesting and I did make it up the Atomic Highway to the home of my childhood friend in North Augusta who led me to the shower and put me in a bed with clean cool linens for the night.

I dreamed then of the people who slaved in the unbearable heat on the plantation, bending and chopping, seeding and sowing with no cool shower and clean linens to comfort them.

Monday, June 9, 2014

June 8, 2014 Keowee-Toxaway State Natural Area: The Wild

The rain came down over the mountains last night and this morning there was fog and light rain,  a pleasant cool temperature in the 60's.  Up through Moore and Duncan on 290, then through Greer with it's mammoth churches, a quick left onto Wade Hampton Blvd in Greenville and then a right for several miles merging into Hwy 25 which goes to Asheville, but a left onto scenic highway 11 of the Cherokee foothills which travels along the escarpment.

Soon the fog is lifting, but still over the mountains water filled clouds linger as the sun fills the sky.

I am near the Table Rock entrance when to the left from a narrow driveway in the woods I see a big fat black bear, huge and beautiful, it's front legs with claws gently swaying as it meets the highway and decides to turn and mosey on back into the forest.  I am astonished at this glimpse into the world of wild nature not far from Aunt's Sue's across the road where tourists gather on the porches.  I pass Heaven Hill Rd on the left.  This is where the big bear lives, on the hill of heaven.

I continue up highway 11, pass the entrance to Sassafras Mountain and finally the entrance to Keowee-Toxaway on the right.  The ranger station is open from 11 to 12 and later from 4 to 5:00.  The ranger, Kevin, tells me to take the two trails, clockwise making a big loop.  Here I buy a carved and finished walking stick.  I have passed up so many until this one which I can't resist.

I take the Natural Bridge Trail from the parking lot to the right.  I pass over a rock which forms a bridge over Poe Creek where the cool rushing waters flow under it.  Soon there is a sign which tells you that the Raven Rock Trail goes to the right.  I take it up the mountain to where there are boulders of two or three stories high reaching into the heavens, smoothed by the progress of time and partially covered with moss.
Raven Rock trail curves around and up and down  until it reaches Lake Keowee where at the bottom of the jade colored waters lies the remains of an ancient Cherokee village.  I take time to search for arrow points near the stumps of uprooted trees but find none.  Here and three the trail runs along the edge of deep ravines and where it curves along the lake, there are rocks jutting out with  sharp and deep drop offs. At one place, the trail has completely fallen through and Boo and I crawl across, me holding onto a tree root.

The trail turns back into the mountain forest and later connects  with the Natural Bridge Trail in its upper loop.  This trail runs along Poe Creek again until you come to a rock crossing.  There is a big quartz shaped rock perched on top of the large rocks in the stream.  Later a ranger tells me that they found the rock in the woods and placed it over the rocks in the stream to make it more passable.  From here it is .72 miles back to the ranger station.

Both Boo and I are exhausted.  The ranger station is closed.  My legs have rubbed against poison ivy at many points and so I stop at a grocery store and wash my legs, face and hands with lots of soap and water.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

June 3, 2014 Snake at Sundown

I found a big desiccated snake on the trail, not a skin, but a complete animal with head and tail down to the tiniest point, flattened and in the condition of jerky.  I picked it up and put it in a plastic bag I had in the car.

A young man came along to examine it and declared it a black snake.  He did not think the head was diamond shaped and discounted the patterned scales.  He said he had heard that you must cut the head off the body or it will find its two separated parts and rejoin them.  I had heard somewhere back in my childhood that if you kill the snake, you  must bury it before sundown to make sure it is really dead.  Of course I did not kill this snake.  Probably a passing car flattened it and somehow it got off the road onto the trail.

A woman ran by and asked me if I had bought the snake at Steinmart as that was the logo on the plastic bag.

I am taking the snake to Matthew on the weekend.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

May 25, 2014 The Magic Hour

It is the magic hour.  I am on the dock  at sunrise.  It is the moment when the tide reverses.  The marsh is full and the water of Scott Creek is full, the colors of mother of pearl, as smooth as old glass.  The early birds are twittering and tweeting, a few cross the pink and blue sky where there is a sliver of a moon

A man named David comes down to catch flounder, but catches a sting ray.  I give him a knife to release the creature.  He says he saw two falling stars the night of the Cameleopardalids meteor shower.  We got up at 3:00 am but saw nothing but the sky strewn with stars.  David leaves to fish in the sea at the Edisto 40 and 60 reefs.

Now the waters of the creek are dappled with  tiny silvery waves turning slowly out to sea again.  There are fingers of clouds reaching above from the pink horizon.  High up, morning gulls fly.  Far away a lone dog is barking.  Do I hear the sea rolling?

Suddenly there is a large dolphin turning through the waters. Behind him, another smaller dolphin follows.  She has a baby dolphin close at her side, their movements in  perfect harmony.

Friday, May 23, 2014

May 22, 2014 Owl, Who Searches Through Darkness

It is twilight on the Cottonwood trail when I hear the loud  "hootoooooo" and perched 20 feet up in the branches of a tree is the beautiful Barred Owl.  He shows his mysterious face, his black close set eyes, his curved beak, then suddenly lifts up, spreads his wings and flies through the forest.

Owl sits on the hand of Pallas Athene, goddess of wisdom.

Monday, May 12, 2014

May 12, 2014 The Trail Whisperer

I meet the great eight mile walker, Betty,coming towards me in the bright sunlight.  She is wearing a T-shirt and black pants and long silver earrings.  She shows me where yesterday on Mother's Day she fell off the trail and rolled down a sharp slope into a ravine.  She has only a small gash on her wrist.

"Bouts of dizzyness", she says.

"I have nerve damage from the shingles." She points to the right side of her head.

"You don't want to get shingles.  It was worse than cancer and I have had cancer three times.  The first was 'carcinoma'.  It goes straight down. And then colon cancer.  The last time, it was liver cancer".

"My daughter asked me not to walk today, but I am"

"Yes, keep on walking", I say.

On the path, at our feet, there is a dried up snake in the shape of an 'S'.

In the air, the unbearable sweetness of honeysuckle.

Boo is eating ripe mulberries that have fallen to the ground.