Saturday, April 15, 2017

Lake Moultrie Passage & Sandy Beach Spur Trail 4/13/17

Let me begin by sharing my 50 Days to 50 challenge.
I want to be more intentional about spending time with friends, improving fitness, and getting ready to start the second half of my life in a purposeful frame of mind. I decided to push myself to meet with as many friends as I can in the 50 days leading up to my 50th birthday, May 18, and try to focus on doing lots of walking as a means to this end.
I set aside a couple of days on my Spring Break calendar (I'm a teacher) to go hiking. Suzette Anderson attends Shandon Baptist with me, and she said she'd love to go.  When I posted on Facebook for any takers to join us, Julie Lundy jumped in and joined us. I just met Julie a month or so back.  She also attends Shandon Baptist. The 3 of us headed south of Eutawville for our day hike at Lake Moultrie.

We started our walk on a raised dike overlooking a long pond filled with water lilies and alligators. (We strained to see the gators, but I only saw one here and didn't get a picture.) But the water lilies were like walking into a Monet painting.

Wildflowers peaked out at us throughout our hike.

Gator spotted!  My adrenaline began to surge!  We heard there are some BIG DUDES out here.
 How pretty is that?  This weed/flower is 2-3 feet wide and 3 feet high.  
This was the biggest gator we spotted--and he was across the pond on the other side, thank the Lord. The picture doesn't do it justice.
Sandy Beach--where we stopped for lunch.  It was a beautiful day--high near 80 degrees and a bit overcast.  Most of the passage is in full sun, so this wouldn't be the best trail to take in August.
 Finding Palmetto Trail signs were reassuring.  Google Maps aren't as reliable when one has spotty service in the wilderness.  It would have been REALLY nice if we saw a sign for "Sandy Beach Spur Trail" when we left the Lake Moultrie Passage and headed off on a gravel road.
I love the Cyprus knees poking up out of the water.  These remind me of the Edisto Gardens in Orangeburg.
 We saw/heard lots of birds.  Lovely.

This flood gate is probably used for flooding or draining the lakes in order to plant corn in some of the fields next to the lakes. We saw rows of old corn in the flooded marshes. Ducks love to live in the swampy area under the cover of corn--and it provides a food source, too! I wonder how low the water in those fields goes in the summer.  The water line was definitely high when we saw it.

 More gator sightings.

 This big weed was  gorgeous!  I put my foot up there next to it so you could see how big it was!  I don't know the name of it, but would love it if someone would comment and tell me! Lookie what I just found:   It has a bunch of hikes for viewing wildflowers in April and May!  Next Up List!!! Woo hoo!

 I learned about Cinnamon Ferns--see the brown stalks in the middle?
 And this fella was crossing the path straight in front of us. Julie and I ran past by counting to three! Suzette was a bit more calm and collected.  I guess experience does that to ya.
This bit of fungus looked like a marshmallow rose.  I'm pretty sure it is a fungus because its puffiness reminded me of the smut on the corn. I guess I have more stuff to look up than I originally thought!  And what kind of snake was that, anyway?
 The thistle were nearly always attracting butterflies.

We had a lovely day.  We left West Columbia at 8:30 am and returned home around 4:00 pm. I drove all the back roads because today was a day for beauty and adventure, not speed and stress. After our hike, we spent a bit of time driving through different trail sections in Eutawville and Santee to check out some future hikes. I drove along the Eutawville Passage that I had walked 2 years earlier, and didn't see the first piece of trash the whole way. Sweet. We made new friends, and returned home tired and happy.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Camp Croft AKA Cramped Calves April 11, 2017

Oh what a day! My sister-in-law Fran and I decided to Girl-Scout-It in the woods and take a hike! Spring Break 2017!  Has it really been 2 years since I've hiked on The Palmetto Trail? Goodness how time flies!!
Fran and I decided to go to the Croft State Park--formerly Croft Camp--an Army Training Camp used during World War II.  It is filled with rolling, wooded hills and trails crossing in, out, through, and around.
We stopped in and spoke to the ranger to pick up a map and get some trail advice. There is a 12-mile Palmetto Trail passage at Croft State Park, but Tuesday we decided to shoot for a meandering 6 mile journey.  We both think we'll have to work up to a 12 mile of anything--let alone the big hills! Ranger suggested Rocky Ridge Trail for us. (We should have gone back to this dude and told him to LOOK CLOSELY AT US! DO WE LOOK LIKE WE COULD WALK ROCKY RIDGE EASILY????) It was seriously hilly and strenuous.  We loved it. But came home with cramped calves!
Ranger recommended we use the website  This site would have been helpful if my phone actually would have loaded the site. No luck. It IS a good website, now that I can look at it from the comfort of my Lazy Boy chair.

We took the Fosters Mill Trail, Rocky Ridge Trail, and Whiterock Spring Trail before heading back to the main parking area. 6.75 miles. About 5 hours.
As we hiked, we noticed a little yellow trumpet-shaped flower--we both think it is most likely yellow jessamine.  We looked high and low and NEVER spotted the plant that produced this flower.  A new flower would show up every 50 to 100 feet.
With all the looking up into the trees, we might have missed our long, black friend. I walked passed him, but Fran heard his "rattle". That bad boy was shaking his little butt all over the place to mimic a rattle snake.  His head was up, and he was glaring at us, daring us to come closer.  He was not happy. 

 Remnants of a dam or bridge.  They must have used a pulley system here because those rocks would be too big to lift by hand, even for strong men.

 Ready for a Survival of the Fittest genetics lesson: white moth, black moth.
I love fiddleheads! They are so cute!
When we got to this sign, we were exhausted and pushing ourselves.  We tried to figure out the map and compare it to our location.  We weren't quite sure, but thought we wanted to hike to see the remnants of the old hotel from the 1800's and the Artesian well at Whiterock Springs. We met up with a family hiking behind us--and they opted to turn back to the barn--they were d-o-n-e.
 I do not know what this plant (above) is, but I really like it.  It has needles rather than leaves.  It is low to the ground, about 5 inches in diameter, and grows in shady, moist areas. Its roots looked a lot like its leaves. I've spent a little bit of time researching the internet for it, but am gonna stop so I can get this blog finished.
This next trail--Whitestone Springs--was to lead us about 3/4 of a mile down to an Artesian well and the foundation remains of the old hotel. We were worn out, but determined to find this wonderful piece of history and nature.
 Some adorable soul decorated part of the trail with rocks.  I love it!
 Every once in a while, when the trail would cross a creek, we would catch a glimpse of wild violets. A precious find in the woods!
Here is the WHITE ROCK in Whiterock Springs. It is much bigger in person than you can tell in the picture. We sat down and ate our lunches on the rock and were visited by some big black ants who wanted to share in the feast. The creek has carved a nice, steep ridge in the rock, so wider creek narrows down to less than a foot here--much more deep than wide.
 And then comes the biggest disappointment of all--the ARTESIAN WELL.  It was on the other side of the creek from the white rock we were sitting on, so we didn't actually get to get wet with it. There was a pipe stuck in a log sticking up out of the ground--about 3 feet high.  An amount of water coming from the pipe could be compared to a garden hose on a slow day. If you look real closely in the picture above, you can see the water coming from the top of the pipe.
We don't think we ever saw the foundation of a 4-story hotel.  We saw a rocky foundation of what looked like a 20 ft. by 15 ft. spot next to the well, but surely THAT wasn't where the hotel was?  Overall, it was pretty anticlimactic considering all the huffing and puffing it took to get to that spot. I guess we can just claim bragging rights.  We did it.
SIDE NOTE:  The website says you can take a drink from the spring.  Dr. Fran says, "NO."  She said all the springs in SC have giardia, a flagellated parasite, which will cause seriously painful and stinky gastroenteritis.

I enjoyed seeing the variety of fungi in the woods, too. Cool.

Fran and I will definitely be going back to Croft State Park ($2./person entry fee, btw) and are excited about finding this place (it is about 5 miles outside of Spartanburg). We may find ourselves camping there, too!

For those of you who know my husband Jim, you probably know that he is not fond of ethnic foods. I have to get my variety when I'm NOT at home in West Columbia with him. So for supper Tuesday night, Fran and I ordered MEXICAN from some real Mexicans at El Burrito. :)  I love my sister-in-law!