Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May 29, 2016 Hampton Plantation "Happy Trails Until We Meet Again"

And so, I have come to the final trail of my blog, the last SC State Park of the 47.  It has been three and a half years since I started.  It has been an adventure and there has always been a gift.  Sometimes the gift has been an obstacle in disguise, such as getting lost and getting found again.  It is not a real adventure without an ordeal.

Today in the light winds and rain from Tropical Storm, Bonnie.  Eleanor, Mathew and Sergay have come with me, down from Litchfield where we have left Hannah and Liza recovering from the morning's sunburns. We take Hwy 17 over the Wacamaw River and the Pee Dee and Black Rivers, driving through Georgetown with its magnolias, crape myrtles and mimosas in bloom. We continue South on 17, over the North and then the South Santee Rivers. We are then in Charleston County. We turn right onto Rutledge Rd. for 2.5 miles.

There is a 2.5 mile hike through the green woods glowing with rain drops and sun filtering through the leaves. Raised information boards tell the story of the plantation where Carolina Gold Rice was grown by West African enslaved peoples and the original family, the Horry's, became very wealthy.  Horry County, which includes Conway and Myrtle Beach has their name.  There is an archaeological dig where there had been a slave cabin.  We tramped around the perimeter of the old rice paddies until at a deep dip in the path, we are blocked by deep water 5 feet across.  We turned back, occasionally stepping with a crunch on the many small crabs crawling the floor. Black and yellow butterflies floated around us.

We heard the calls of three pileated wood peckers flying from the trees.  Soon we could see their red topped heads and white tipped wings.  I found them on my Merlin Bird ID and played their calls. Immediately they answered back.

The guided tours of the plantation house were over for the day, but we were able to take a self guided tour and ask questions of the well informed Ranger on the porch.  In front of the white house with high porch and columnated Georgian style facade was a massive oak. The plaque says that is it called the Washington Oak because when George Washington visited in 1781, Mrs. Harriott Horry told him that it was blocking the view of her husband, Daniel's horse track. President Washington told her to never cut it down and so it stayed. Mathew and Sergay joggled on a long joggling board on the porch.

We went around to the back of the house and found the Ranger rocking on its back porch. She explained that this side of the house was the original front of the house facing the Wambaw River, which runs into the Santee. This was the point of arrival at the plantation by boat.  The house was built between 1739 and 1750.  Sergay and Mathew asked many questions.  Daniel Horry sided with the British in the Revolution, but was actually a spy for the patriots.  He was of Huegonot descent and married Harriott Pickney.  The family would traditionally go to Flat Rock, NC for the hot and muggy mosquito filled summer months, but Daniel stayed one year to oversee the work on the plantation. He contracted malaria and subsequently died. In the past years, the park has never sprayed for mosquitos as malaria has not been an issue. This year, they will spray because of the zyka virus.

We toured the house and saw a list of over a hundred names of enslaved people who had lived and worked there. Some were named: Harry, Daphne, Grace and Sojo without family names. Eleanor took a photo of the list.  On the site, Sam Hill Cemetery continues today as a burial site for the descendents of the enslaved peoples who worked here.

Sergay asked if anyone had died in the home.  The Ranger told us that the Horrys had a daughter who married a Rutledge.  They were considered a very prominent and wealthy family. The Rutledge son, John Henry, fell in  love with a "commoner" and the family forbid their marriage. John Henry became despondent. They threw a ball to cheer him up with eligible young women attending.  During the ball, John Henry shot himself. He lingered for 3 days while his grieving mother told him that if they had known he would do this, they would have allowed the wedding. His grave is between the house and the Wambaw River.  There is also a Rutledge cemetery farther away from his site.

The last Rutledge descendant to live in the house was Archibald Rutledge, poet laureate of the State of SC.

Mathew asked if we could go into the small house behind the big house. The Ranger said it was off limits now and used to be the kitchen. It had burned down twice in the past, but now it was home to about 70 of the endangered species of Rafinesque bats. She told us that nearby a church had been built and some the same bat species established a home there.  The new church had had to be closed.

I am glad Hampton Plantation was the last park I visited and hiked.  It took us back to the time when Europeans first came to this state, the tragedy of slavery and a place of the Native Americans who once fished and hunted this region of vast riches.

And so, I end with this old song by Dale Evans and Roy Rogers:

"Happy Trails"

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you until we meet again.

Some trails are happy ones.
Others are blue.
It's the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here's a happy one for you.

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
This is the beginning of  your adventure.  Happy Trails.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

May 21, 2016 Faun In the Rushes of the Cottonwood Trail

I has rained for days. The trail has deep puddles of water. The creek is the delicious color of caramel.  Just a few feet off the boardwalk, a tiny faun is nestled in the reeds and rushes, a baby of such perfect beauty with large brown eyes and white speckled brown coat.  It has a complete stillness.  I have the impossible urge to touch it and speak to it in hushed tones, sing it a lullaby.  I don't see it's mother, although I suspect she is there watching.

Native Americans, especially the Eastern Woodland and Plains Indians associate deer with fertility and love.
There is often a duality in the spirit of the Deer Woman of love and death, encouragement and punishment. She gives and she takes away.

Native peoples of the North West believed at the time of creation, that there were Gods who were Animal People. In a later age, the Great Changer arrived to turn some of them into rocks and mountains and bodies of water or trees and plants.  There is a story of Deer trying to stop the Changer and for this, the Changer turned Deer into a shy creature, often the food of man.

Today the earth itself is giving.  All around it is lush and green. Purple flowers bloom in the marsh. Red wild strawberries are along the paths. Blue birds zip through the sky.

I look for Great Blue and suddenly he is there, soaring over the full wetlands.  It is a good day for fishing.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

May 3, 2016 Grief is the Price for Love, the Columbia Canal and Riverwalk

The walk between the canal and the Congaree River reopened two weeks ago after the devastating floods of the fall.

At the entrance I find a new bronze statue of a young woman holding the scales of justice. Below her is a garden for victims of crime. There is a circular walk surrounded by stella d'oro (stars of gold) lilies in full golden bloom and knockout rose bushes of blushing pink popsickle color.  In the brick walk are the names of victims of crime and here and there a brick with messages of love and bible verses.  One brick states "Grief is the Price of Love."

I walk again where I have come so many times before, under the crape myrtles dedicated to  loved ones.  I cross the bridge of the canal and breathe in the cool damp air. The sky is overcast and after I have gone a mile along the water, the clouds open with  a deluge. I stand under an oak tree with a woman and her dog but soon she leaves to go back.  I run for the railroad trestle and highway overpass, soaked and laughing where I meet a Saudi couple and their baby Tameen. The woman wears a long  wet abeyya of pale lavender. Her eye makeup makes one long gray rivulet down her lovely face.  The ranger comes in his truck and offers us all a ride, but no one is interested.  We like the rain which has brought strangers together on this planet. I bid my new friends goodbye and continue on down the trail discovering that the second overpass has shiny new bowed girders reflecting themselves in the water below.
The old bridge abutments that for years stood useless in the water and looked like statues of Darth Vader are now gone.  The rain is over. There are aquamarine breaks in the clouds. The geese are back paddling the river. Birds fly into the bushes and trees which are lush now with the nutrients washed over them by the flooding water.

After a long and beautiful walk, I stop in the rest room and try to dry my clothes in the forced air from the hand dryer.

I visit the Crime Victim Garden one more time and leave with tears and wet with rain.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

April 26, 2016 The Drayton Mill Trail, Spartanburg

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.

This trail 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 the trail where 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.