Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Congaree National Park – David’s in heaven

Sunday November 10, 2013
Congaree National Park
South Carolina

 

 

Poor Planning means only one day.

 

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It wasn’t exactly poor planning.  It was really ignorance.  Until David went to Orangeburg for his blood draw, we had no  idea a national  park was this close.  And before he even got back to tell me about  it, Judy suggested it in her comment.  Thank you Judy!  My commenters are wonderful and I learn about so many neat places and cool things from them.

 

We had mostly stopped at Santee State Park for the blood draw on our way to Edisto Beach State Park, but also to stay a few days rather than do another one night stand and perhaps to kayak on the lake.  But when we realized we were only an hour from Congaree, we decided to pass on kayaking the lake and spend our last day in this area there.  One day proved to be not  long enough.

 

I’m singing - “When I was a little bitty baby….”

 

We were out by 8:30 thinking the Visitor’s Center wouldn’t  open until 9 and it was  only in the upper 40’s. We’d read on the web page that the park was open every day of the year other than Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.

 

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We had the roads to ourselves on this Sunday morning and as we drove along we noticed that the cotton, if not  the indigo, of those former plantations now under water,  is still growing in field after field.

 

 

 

 

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We are totally shocked by what we find at the Visitor’s Center.

 

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We arrive at the  park and hustle up to the visitor center only to find this sign. It says OPEN in big letters but there are no lights on  inside.  Reading on, we are SHOCKED! Closed on a week-end day?  A guess their hours fell victim to the sequester and so did the salary of who ever does their web page.  Note to self – always CALL to find out hours.  Do  not trust web pages.

Sorry for the flash it was completely dark inside but I was so shocked at a National Park closed  on  Sunday that I have  to take a shot  of it.

 

 

 

 

But we love the mosquito meter just outside the VC door.

 

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What a bummer.  We don’t get to see the information inside or get my Passport stamped.   But we do get to see the mosquito meter and it is pretty close to correct.  No mosquitoes today so I’d call  it All Clear.  YEA!  I’d sure  hate to be here when it was at Ruthless or War Zone.

 

 

 

 

Can there ever be too many trees to hug?

 

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Thank goodness they do  have trail maps outside.  There are 6 trails ranging from 2.4 to 11 miles.  All of the trails take off from the excellent board walk nature trail.  We hardly get 10 feet down the trail until there are BIG trees to hug.  And more big trees.  Big trees everywhere.  There are too many to hug them all.  We’ve never been in such a place as this.  In the past, if we were lucky there were a few big trees.  Here there are LOTS of big trees.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many big trees outside of Sequoia National  Park and the Redwood forests of the west.

 

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Congaree is just an amazing place.

 

It is 27,000 acres including the  largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the United States.  Because the park experiences wet and dry periods as the rivers flood and recede  with seasonal rains, the vitality of the park’s forest ecosystem depends  on the good health of the rivers.  The rivers flood an average of 10 times a year and cover the park with water.  You can see the high water marks on many of the trees.   The dark color at the bottom of these cypress show how high the flooding gets as does the bottom of the moss growth.

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It’s a forest of champions!

* I must explain my morning hiking outfit.  I’d worn a hooded sweatshirt but it is still  just too cold.  The only other thing in the car is a way too huge Defender’s of Wildlife wind breaker.  Pretty baggy, but it works.  I am nice and warm.

 

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Congaree National  Park is known for its unusual array of giant trees some of which hold state and  national records for size in their species  including loblolly pines, hickories and bald cypress.  As we walk these trails we are  just dazzled by huge trees of such a wide variety every where we look.  The understory in an old growth forest is so open you can stop at a point on the trail and look around 360 degrees and see more than half a dozen HUGE trees.   Everywhere you go, big trees.

 

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We arm measure one tree at 21 feet in circumference.  We think it is a cherry bark oak.  Not only are the trees here enormous in circumference but they are tall.  As much as 185 feet tall.  We are craning our necks all day long trying to see  “how tall  are they”.  We just cannot believe this place.  What a jewel.

 

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Most of the hiking is very easy on trails in the wide open understory.  But there  is this one spot.

 

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We hike about 7 miles today on  a combination of the Boardwalk trail, the Weston Lake Trail and the Oakridge Trail.  At one point we have to make our way through a blowdown.  Such giant trees are subject to blow down just due to their size and at such size, many are also at the end of their lives.  It is sad to see these fallen giants on their sides.  They are majestic even in death.  We find this one after we crawl through the giant branches.

 

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We see other fallen giants on our way.  Their size is just amazing.  David is 5’ 10”.  I’m 5’ 1” on a good day.  

 

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And lest you think we see nothing but fantastic trees today, here is a lovely lady anhinga who poses for us as we stand overlooking Weston Lake. The lake was once a bend  in the Congaree River but is now an oxbow lake.  Left alone those rivers move around and  have a mind  of their own creating beautiful natural  places of all kinds.

 

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These giant trees stand firm on the Earth with their arms open wide  to the heavens.

 

As we walk, we become ever more mindful of the wide bases and broad “feet”  of these large trees.  They seem  to be standing wide at the bottom and reaching their leafy arms  up and out wide to capture the  sun’s light.  Some  of their canopies are simply amazing in size.  No way to get a picture of that but here are some mighty fine feet holding on tight.

 

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Sadly all wonderful days must come to an end and we  have an  hour drive to make before this early dark time.

As we are leaving the park so sorry we don’t have another day to hike and even another to kayak the water trail, we are ushered out by a barred owl calling repeatedly just over our heads as we near  the visitor center.  Looking up trying to find him, we gather a minor crowd.  David thinks it looks pretty funny so he takes this picture of us.  But I think the owl is bidding us farewell and issuing an invitation for us to return.

 

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We are in awe of this place.

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The overall height of the forest canopy and the number of national and state champion trees, as well as the presence of a well-preserved, biologically diverse, and dynamic river floodplain ecosystem make Congaree National Park another special one of the salvation success stories that are our National Parks.   I am never more proud to be an American than in these places.

What a wonderful Sunday we have spent in such a magnificent cathedral.   We really felt that we were in a holy place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone who commented yesterday that we would love this Congaree, was spot on!   You can bet we will be back here by design not by happen stance.

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28 comments:

  1. What a lovely park. Never heard of a national park having a closed visitor center on a weekend, though. And that's how you want the mosquito meter to look!

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  2. Your headline made my heart skip a beat.

    Then I read the blog and saw the pretty pic's of those grandiose trees.

    Happy to hear all is well and the skeeter indicator is funny!

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  3. Okay, how tall are you on a bad day??? :cD

    Glad you hugged all those trees, they looked like they needed it!

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  4. Never heard of that SP, but looks like a dandy!

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  5. LOVE your trees always ... and wonder who's in charge of the skeeter meter... someone like Judy comes along and tends to it? Hahaaaa .... skeeter meter duty

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  6. It seems the park sign is sort of a symbol for the whole Federal Govt:(

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  7. What a lovely, lovely spot!! The barred owl...guess what Oregon has decided? Well 1st stat with the spotted owl, which was the demise of logging in Oregon, now, they have decided that it was NOT the loss of old growth trees that was the knell of doom for the spotted owl, they would move to another, always knew those little owls were not stupid, BUT the barred owl that is killing the spotted owl and maybe we need to do away with some barred owls so the little spotted owl has a chance, really?? Geez, who comes up with these things?

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  8. Such magnificence to walk thru, and hug. Hard to believe the water line. Do the boardwalks float? I'd never heard of this park. A shame the visitor center was closed. Probably sequester.

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  9. Knew you two would love that little GEM of a National Park!! It is a best kept secret...never anyone there:o) I am sure all those trees were really glad to get all those hugs;o))

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  10. dang, not sure how we ever missed this park...

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  11. Congaree is one of the newest National Parks which might be the reason many had never heard of it. I've never known anyone who visited that didn't leave with the same impressions you did although many have said steer clear during that dreaded mosquito season and if you have any sort of snake phobia, best to visit in the dead of winter and in South Carolina, although in South Carolina, you'll never be completely assured of not seeing that sort of wildlife! As for the Visitor Center closure, am surprised at a NP Visitor Center closed on a weekend, but one of my pet peeves (and we've run across it often in our travels) are community, region, attraction Visitor Centers that are closed on weekends! When exactly do they think MOST people are going to need their info/services? Duh!

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  12. How wonderful! Dad might have been in heaven but so were you ;) You are great at waxing eloquent! Those trees are mighty soldiers standing tall through the years-holding to the earth and reaching for the sky. Truly magnificent! So glad Judy alerted you to that park's existence. But how frustrating that the visitors' center was closed :(

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  13. I'd never heard of this park. I think this is probably the best time of year to visit!

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  14. I found this info on their site:Congaree National Park is open 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. The park's trails and campgrounds are always open!

    The Harry Hampton Visitor Center is open 9:00 am-5:00 pm, 7 days per week through October 5, 2013.

    Beginning October 6, 2013, the Harry Hampton Visitor Center will be open 9:00 am-5:00 pm Tuesday-Saturday. The facility will be closed on Sundays, Mondays and all Federal Holidays.

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    1. Nancy can you send me that link. I looked on their website and did not see anything about the closing on those two days and holidays

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  15. I am also surprised it was closed on a Sunday, but at least you got to go for a nice hike. Now, you'll have to go back.

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  16. Jerry wanted to pick some cotton...we've seen tons of it. Like to see it being harvested!

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  17. What a beautiful place you've found, added it to our list. Closing visitor centers on Sundays and federal holidays seems strange, when do they think most folks will visit, at least you were able to enjoy the trails.

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  18. Wow! Absolutely beautiful! I am a huge fan of trees as well. I'm sure that it was amazing actually being there.
    The bird is lovely. I bet she loves living there. Have fun! XXXOOO

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  19. robinkwalton@gmail.comNovember 13, 2013 at 10:50 AM

    What wonderful trees..I can't believe that the area floods like that and that the trees have enough earth around their bases to stand firm! They are beautiful and will have to mark that as a keeper to visit.

    Robin

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  20. I like that last picture of the tree hugging you back -- so sweet. Love the mosquito meter! A lot of visitor centers could use one of those.

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  21. They must need more volunteers if the visitor's center was closed on a Sunday. Glad you got to visit and enjoy it though.

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  22. I was amazed at the diversity of trees here, so many I could not identify. It is awe inspiring to see what wonders Mother Nature will create if we could just let her be. That would not happen were it not for the National Parks and the efforts of preservationists around the country. Another huge thank you to John Muir.

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  23. I've heard of Congaree NP but really never thought much about it as I don't travel that way very often. It looks like a beautiful place.

    I'm not totally surprised at the VC being closed on Sunday, and it's similar to my trying to see Eleanor Roosevelt's cottage a few months ago and finding that budget cuts had reduced the days they were open. So even since the shutdown is over, the Parks still receive less for their operating budget than in former times.

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