Wednesday, November 18, 2015

November 15, 2015 Calhoun Falls State Park: Alons Enfants de la Patria

Down the I-85 pipeline between Charlotte and Atlanta, there is little traffic on this Sunday morning, except for the Highway Patrol searching cars on the side of the road.

I take the exit for Highway 81 South, the Heritage Corridor, through the upbeat small city of Anderson where there is a big AnMed Hospital, Colleges, restaurants, parks, gentle tree shaded neighborhoods.

In Star and in Iva, hulking against the white cool sky are the monoliths of the past-- the abandoned Owens Corning plant, huge, empty, like a great pyramid from the Egyptian desert and beside it, bizarrely appropriate, an acres wide cemetery open to the winds, bare of trees and shrubs, but tended with plastic flowers by those who have not fled.

In little Iva, the Lydia Mill lies in ruins and is said to be haunted. Comfortable old two story white houses of the Southern type with wrap around porches are scattered here and there.

I drive 30 miles to the Calhoun Falls State Park.  "There are no falls" the ranger warns me. "There was a shoals before they built Lake Russell."  Lake Russell lies along the great rip in the earth that makes the border between South Carolina and Georgia, the seaward path of the Savannah River with powerful dams and lovely lakes full of fish along the way.

Docked beyond the Ranger's office on the lake are a dozen house boats and pontoon boats. "They lease a space for a year and pay $100 a month" the Ranger says, "Only Dreher Island has a similar docking for lease on the lake."    There are restrooms here and big stainless steel tubs with hoses to clean your fish.

The Nature Trail is in the Day Use Area across from the tennis courts.  Into the woods, we go into a world of evergreen, cedar, pine, brown and orange.  The 1.75 mile trail is fortunately well marked with blue blazes as the ground is well covered with leaves and pine needles.  Sometimes you can glimpse  silver shinning Lake
Russell, an optical illusion of a higher plateau.  In the sky above, a brace of tiny birds folds together in the wind like a sail and is blown away out over the water.

The dog and I are alone here. The ground is covered with bright green moss and pale green lichen which reminds me of my grandmother's dish gardens, made with moss, a wild violet tucked in and sometimes a little statue of Chinese mud people bought from the Five and Ten.  Once after the trail loops back to the same path we began on, I leave it onto a dirt road, but Boofa pulls me back in the right direction, a good tracker.

Leaving the park, we are immediately in the tiny town of Calhoun Falls where we turn left onto Highway 72. IF you go to the right, you cross the water into Elberton, Georgia.
The abandoned Westpointe Stevens Mill looms  beside the road.  This little town with the historic name feels abandoned as well.  Only the inhabitants know where inside the lights are warm, the scents of cooking are comforting and life goes on. My brother, the fisherman, tells me that not long ago, there was a large plantation  house here, a little motel where he and his buddies would spend the night, a restaurant where they would eat a big breakfast and in the evening enjoy steaks cooked on the grill, baked potatoes and salad.

On the car radio, there are constant reports of the 129 Parisians killed by Isis on Friday night, the Russian plane sent down in flight over the Siani Desert with 224 persons inside, again by Isis.  France has closed its borders.

On 98.9 there is Christmas Music, the Trans Siberian Orchestra's Pacobel Canon, like a dirge.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

October 12, 2015 Columbia

"...they give us those nice bright colors
they give us those greens of summer
makes you think all the world's a sunny day
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So, mama, don't take my kodachrome away..."    

Kodachrome by Paul Simon

Today, homes destroyed by the floods are being totally taken down and leveled.

Colleen and her neighbor, Liz are gathering photo collections from the ruined houses and attempting to preserve and reclaim them from the waters which have drenched them. (Colleen teaches photography and Liz restores documents for the library at USC).

I have seen some of these snapshots of graduates in their robes holding their diplomas, new babies stretching out on their blankets, yearly Christmas celebrations, the same people getting older, new ones joining, some disappearing, sweethearts hugging in front of their cars, family chronicles beyond value.

Friday, October 9, 2015

October 8, 2015 The Columbia Canal

"I have known rivers
I've known rivers ancient as the world
and older than the flow of blood in human veins"

   Langston Hughes "The Negroe Speaks of Rivers"

Now where I have so often walked between the Columbia Canal and the Congaree, the canal has broken and flowed over its banks in two places. The banks of the canal where the bodies of the Leetmen workers are burried are exposed and bare. The canal flows into the water treatment plant and is the source of drinking water for half of Richland County. Workmen have tried to shore up the banks unsuccessfully so far and are making efforts to force some of the Congaree flood into the water treatment plant.

Those  fortunate ones on higher ground who have not been evacuated have been forced to stay home from work and school are boiling their water and and having neighborhood cookouts. The children think it is fall break and are playing with the friends.  There is a communal spirit of survival. From all over the state and far away, clean water is being shipped in.

It is not over. The flood waters are moving quickly down to the Low Country. Georgetown is bracing for the flow of the Pee Dee  and Black Rivers into the Waccamaw. Wynyah Bay will be flooded.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

October 2,3,4 Columbia, the One Thousand Year Flood

"All the springs of the vast watery deep were broken and he floodgates of the heavens were opened"

Lying in my bed on Friday night, I listened to the pouring down of water, pouring, pouring, pouring, not driven by the wind, coming straight down in torrents. During the day on Saturday, the downpour lessened, but again on Saturday night, the pouring continued, lessening again during the day Sunday but continuing into the night.  On Monday afternoon, there was a space of blue sky and on Tuesday, the rain stopped and the sun appeared over the soakened ground.  Across the road from my house, the Lawson's Ford roared over its banks and crashed down the spillway.

The rivers of the Upstate and the mountains are carrying the vast flood to meet in Columbia where they have had two feet of rain.  I dreamed that the ghost of my sister came to help with the flood that is enveloping Columbia where Michael and John and their families are staying home, boiling their water and under curfew from 6 pm to 6 am.  John takes shifts with the Emergency Staff meeting 24 hours a day in their office near the Farmer's Market on 321.

The watersheds of the Edisto, flowing to the South and The Great Pee Dee flowing from the North are carrying the water to the sea and flooding the towns along the way. Manning is underwater.  19 dams have broken.

The Edisto at Givhans Ferry is calculated to crest on Sunday at 16.5 feet.

In recorded history, there has not been a flood like this in South Carolina.  The devastation is worse than Hurricane Hugo

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

September 21, 2015, Baker's Creek, the International Day of Peace

From Pauline to Clinton, I am listening to Beethoven's last movement of his 9th symphony, the Ode to Joy.
(It takes about 25 minutes).  Leonard Bernstein directed this symphony in Vienna in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall and changed its name to the Ode to Freedom ("I am sure Beethoven would support this", he said).  The words were written by Friedrick Schiller and here is an exerpt:

"Joy, joy, moves the wheels
In the Universal time machine
Flowers, it calls forth,
From their buds,
Suns from the firmament,
Sphere, it moves far out in space
Where our telescopes cannot reach
Joyful as his suns are flying..."

It is a call to brotherhood on this day of Peace.

Baker Creek State Park is past McCormick, SC for 4 miles on the Huguenot Hwy or 378. Soon on Oct 1, it will close for the winter.

At the office, I meet a young man moving picnic tables, wearing a brown State Park T shirt.  He is the maintenance employee.  He tries to find me a trail map and tells me the story of his abcessed tooth which was extracted, his jaw that swelled so badly, that a friend lanced it, how the infection has spread into his ear and throat.  I think he should go to Self Regional Hospital in Greenwood and have himself admitted but he thinks he is recovering.  He goes to the maintenance shed and brings back a map. Meanwhile I meet a couple from Lexington with their Blue Heeler, who are visiting all the state parks.  The man tells me that he is from the Pee Dee area and as a boy rode his bike, sleeping bag on the back, along with his friends into Little Pee Dee State Park and would sleep on the ground, spending the night or the weekend.

The Ranger comes along and tells us that the 10  mile trail is partially unmarked now. He has just bush hogged a long part of it.  He tells us that last year he had cleared the trail at Hickory Knob and found that someone had turned the trail marking arrows all around to the wrong directions and he could even see a little trail hikers had made into the woods in the wrong direction.  He fixed the arrows.  He advises me to take the Nature trail which loops around the camping area.  I do take this trail and it is pine needle covered and well marked following Thurmond Lake for a while and then rounding back to the campground.

A man at a trailer tells me he comes here to hunt and fish with his nephew. Down on the lake are two pontoon boats and on the shore a table with 26 fishing rods.  The host couple at their trailer tells me they come in March and stay until the end of September.  There is good fishing and it is peaceful and quiet.

It is beautiful. There is the sound of crows and blue jays, another chortling bird call I don't recognize.
The lake is the deep deep smooth green of old wine filled bottles.

I meet a man dressed in blue walking with concentration on the hilly roads. "I walk for exercise on the hills and for thinking and stress relief". His name is Eric. Eric from McCormick.

I return up the Huguenot Hwy and stop at Earth Connection Outfitters (864-993-0109 no one is home at the old house festooned with kayaks of pink, blue, purple and orange.  I discovered from posters that there is a Savannah Valley Railroad Trail nearby, opened in 2011.  (864-378-77032 or 864-852-2835).

At the MACK artisan shop and Katura, fronted by a path of blooming vincas, I am greeted by Belinda Ramsey, coordinator of the fiber workshops at the McCormick Art Council where women are making quilts.  She tells me about the Elijah Clark State of Georgia Park, just over the Savannah River Bridge down 378 past Baker's Creek.  Katura was the old hotel frequented by railway engineers and staff.  Fannie Kale's Country Inn and Restaurant is next door, not doing so well now, she says. Again there is the ubiquitous quilt patch painted over the doorway.

In Greenwood, at the Subway with the deck overlooking the lake, a small, blond pony tailed girl makes me a "Flatizza" while telling me that she has been a vegetarian for the past three years. "I have become anemic, but I love animals". Medics from MUSC have parked their ambulance outside and are waiting in line.
"Try Indian food", I say, "Beans and rice make a whole protein".  The medics and I sit on the deck and enjoy the view while eating our lunch.

Time to go home now.  I pass the church nearby with the sign that says: 'How Can I Tell If I Hear the Voice of God or Satan?'

In two days, it will be officially Fall.

September 19, 2015 On the Edge of the Pisgah Forest

It is the last weekend of summer, the last gasp of heat, of swimming in pools and ponds, of watermelons and ripe tomatoes, of sitting on porches in the dark listening to the chorus of cicadas, crickets and frogs. I am going to a log cabin overlooking Rocky Creek, that flows into the Toe River in Yancey County North Carolina.  It is not so far up I-26 East, joining Hwys 19 and 23 to Burnsville, the county seat, passing by a billboard for Zen Tubing, "Find Your Inner Tube", past fields of cosmos and zinias now fading, past Mars Hill  ( where my grandfather went to college) and Bald Creek.  I am in the unreal mountains, blue and green and astonishing as they stand across the sky.  There is an exit for Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi, where in the Spring, bicylists ride their bikes from Spartanburg in South Carolina to the top in the Assault on Mt Mitchell.

In Burnsville, I find restrooms beside the visitor center just off the square where there are historic buildings, antique and gift shops,a coffee shop "Java",  the Nu Wray old hotel still in business with a restaurant, the Monkey Business Toy Store, the Menagerie, down the street, Stonefly Outfitters.

There are now trees turning yellow and red among the evergreens.

Highway 19 meets 80 South in the Micaville Loop. Now the side roads are:
Bear Wallow, Gold Knob, Boone Hill, Grizzly Bear, Bowditch Bottom, Mudslinger, Roaring Spout, Morning Glory, Locust Creek, Moccasin Flower, 7 Mile Ridge, Everlasting, Wild Cherry, Goodtimes, Passional, Powderhorn, Stillhouse and Hardscrabble, Lookout Rd and Heavenly View.  I am on the Quilt Trail, displaying traditional quilt squares on the sides of buildings, houses and barns.

At Blivens Farms, I buy grits from Boonville,  Bear Berry Jam (blueberries and blackberries) and Frog Jam (figs, raspberries, orange and ginger), a big red mountain tomato and a rustic bark bird feeder.

Soon I have traversed windey roads until I reach the beautiful log cabin perched over Rocky Creek.  Inside there is every modern convenience. Ken, the owner, built this cabin himself. There is an antique iron stove and a modern gas stove, heat, stained glass windows, a shower with a mosaic tile wall patterned with a cabin in the mountains.  There are decks surrounded with mountain laurel and rhodendron.  There is even a little cabin set apart as a reading library.

We set out for a swinging bridge over the Toe River, where looking down, we see trout swimming among the rocks.  We hike up to a waterfall which splashes down over level after level of rocky stairs.  We see many small dark gray juncos flitting through the trees and bushes.

At night, the water stops running in the faucets, but we have buckets to flush toilets with water from the creek and bottled water to drink and brush our teeth.

We are packing up when a neighbor walks by with his stick. He says for years, he has spent the winter in Florida and the Spring, Summer and Fall here in his house on the Creek.

"This year," he says, "I am going to try to make it through the winter here."

Sunday, September 13, 2015

September 12, 2015 Lake George Warren: Apparitions from A Walk for Your Life

Lake George Warren State Park is diagonally all the way across the state of South Carolina and nearly to Savannah.  It is a fine, cool dawn with a low sky like a folded white blanket, as if a white sky were painted by water color pushing the brush along the seams with a transparent gray paint.

I take Hwy 56 past the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind where horses in a green pasture behind a white fence are munching their breakfast.

I get gas at Pauline General Store ($1.79.9 the cheapest in 11 years).  There are porch rockers with little cypress knee tables  between them. Farmers are going in and out with steaming cups of coffee in one hand, a newspaper in the other shaking off sleep from their eyes.  Inside is a tub filled with iced soft drinks, tables, a bar and grill with a variety of homemade warm flakey biscuits filled with sausage, ham, eggs, cheese and bacon.  For me, it's a sausage with grape jelly which I eat in the car.

Along the way, the deep green trees stand silently with the expectation of the fall to come, an inner knowing of the beginning of the autumnal equinox to be, that will change them.

Near Bobo's Taxidermy, there is a fluffy tailed fox in the road which vanishes into the bushes. Beside the road there is yellow mullen, black eyed susans, wild yellow indigo. On the radio a haunting voice is singing Ave Maria from the 9-11 Memorial of last night in New York.

I pass by Belfast Plantation in Newberry County and just afterwards the Little River-Dominick Presbyterian Church established in 1761. The building is red brick with blue stained glass windows. Little River flows nearby.

I get Hwy 39 at Chapells where the Fire and Rescue is having a Barbeque today, drive over the Saluda, past the Centro Cristiano Pentecostes Vida Abundante Church (pastor: Jose Gonzales) in Saluda, listening to country music on the radio:
"He's a Heartache Waiting to Happen"

I am on the Uncle Bill Eargle Memorial Highway. A Farm has Brahmins.   Tall purple ironweed grows on the side of mowed down corn fields.  The morning glories everywhere are pink.  In the Upstate, they are usually purple, rose and sky blue. At Ridge Springs the Derrick John Deere Store has dozens of bright shining green tractors. There is a sidewalk sale today in town. There are antique stores, The Nut House pecan store, Dixie Belle Peaches.  This and the next towns are set in pecan groves, cotton fields and peach orchards. Over I-20 I am on the Old Ninety Six Indian Trail. There is the New Holland Memonite Church and I am going through  Salley, "Home of the Chitlin Strut".  After Springfield there are four or five bridges; the middle one goes over the South Fork of the Edisto River.

I hear on the radio, that people were walking on the Haje to Mecca when a crane collapsed, killing many.
On the Camino de Santiago, a young American woman is missing from her pilgrimage, leaving behind her belongings in a back pack.  Across Europe, thousands of refuges are walking, floating on rubber rafts, running, jumping on trains, suffocating in trucks, drowning, searching for freedom for themselves and a future for their children, escaping from wars in the Middle East and North Africa.

On the radio, Judy Collins is singing the  Leonard Cohen "Hallelujah".

I have finally come to Denmark where the Nelson's have the best bakery in South Carolinna, maybe in  the world and I buy donuts which melt in your mouth. Besides this world class Memonite bakery, Denmark has the Dane Theater converted to a Cultural Center and Voorhis College and Denmark Tech.

Soon, I think I lose Hwy 39 and stop at Bulldog Cycles where they are having an open house. I ask directions from a group of tatooed, black leather vested senior citizens who kindly show me the way and soon past Gifford, turning onto Hwy 363, I find Warren Lake and the entrance to the State Park.

The Williams Family, wearing bright red Tee shirts which declare "Family is Everything" and "Williams", are having a cookout and even putting up a big inflated bouncy house on the athletic field for the kids.

Coming up from the children's play ground and  leaving the Nature Trail which goes down near the lake, is a group of people, four young men and two women, who startle me by looking like apparitions of the Syrian and Iranian refugees who are fleeing into Europe.  One woman wears a long traditional subtlely flowered dress with yazma head scarf.  But they are smiling and well fed. They give me directions to both trails.  They are from Lebanon and will soon be U.S. citizens.

I take first the little Nature trail, only .3 mile and then the Fit Trail. All along the way, there are exercise stations-- "A good walk ruined" as Mark Twain once said of the sport of golf.
Then I take 1.5 mile trail which is extremely well kept and marked.  Growing there are pink Butterfly Pea vines with little flowers and floating through the forest air is a beautiful brown butterfly (could this be the Wild Indigo Dusky Wing?).  On a pond float Fragrant White Water Lillies  ( Nymphaea adorata).

Going home, I take 321 up to Columbia. On the way in the crossroads of Neeses is the gargantuan  Piggly Wiggly, which  has a pharmacy, a florist and even a large restaurant inside.

Nearing home, there is a swath of blue peaking out over gigantic cumulus clouds piled on the horizon, the kind of clouds that have a silver lining, at least that is the way I see them.