Hike 2
Congaree National Park Hike 2 -- September 24, 2005
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This hike in the fall was totally different from the one earlier in the year. As usual, I was staying up on I-20 at
the Holiday Inn Express at the Clemson Road Exit. I already knew that tomorrow (Saturday) was going to be a
long day because I had decided to try the River Trail that goes all the way down to
the banks of the Congaree River.

After checking in, I took up my usual position by the window, broke out my laptop, and started watching the
world go by my window as I sipped a few cool ones.  After doing more searches on the hike the next day, I
ordered up some pizza and then watched the sun go down.

Feeling very tired, I crawled up into the bed to watch some TV. The next thing I knew my alarm was going off
and it was 6AM. The gate at the park opened at 8:30 and I wanted to be there first in line so that
I would have the maximum amount of time to be on the trail.

I had a good breakfast there at the hotel and before I knew it, I was at the park waiting in line to enter
and then ready to go hiking.  
Lots of color today --
Butterfly followed me a
long time.
Cypress "knees" -- made
lamps out of these when I
was in high school.
Look like a futuristic "city" -- all
made out of wood.
Cedar Creek. Look at "brown
mud line" up in trees ... that is
how HIGH the water gets at times.
Cedar Creek water level gauge.
On the trail ... spider webs out
at every place where sun
would light up trail.
More color.
Fungus -- if found in your yard,
you can break off, write on them
... becomes hard as a rock.
Love this color.
Finally made it to loop part of
River Trail. I went to the right. I
placed a quarter on top of sign
... still there 4 hours later when
I struggled back.
Watched a bird try to get this
berry ... no idea what it is.
Favorite color.
Right after this sign, the trail to
the left is old road bed and 100
yards down it was "Daddy Hog"
and babies.
Old logging machinery left
behind ... hidden under limbs.
When I looked up from taking
this picture, I saw the "hogs."
Down on the river -- huge
sandbar. Fresh water clam
shell is about 8 inches long!
Sandbar is about 300 yards
long and maybe 20 yards wide.
Looking straight across the
Congaree River.
All the "shinny" things are
aluminum cans -- enough to
start a recycling center with!
More cans.
Looking "up river" (towards
Columbia). I came out of woods
just past the trees at end of sand.
This sign in on River Trail and is
about 100 yards from the river
and sandbar I was just on.
Back to the start of the "loop"
on the River Trail ... finally. This
point is about 3 miles from
Visitor Center.
Yeah! -- my quarter was
still there!
More trail, more spider
webs spun across the trail...
Back at Bridge "F" -- start/end of
River Trail. Loop part, where quarter
was, is 1.3 miles behind me. Another
half mile ahead of me is Cedar Creek,
and then another 1.2 miles on back to
the Visitor Center and the soft seats
in my truck.
Soon, I was all suited up -- backpack on, GPS unit out and attached to pack straps, and already locked onto the
satellites positioned high above me.  The unit I used is a Garmin Marine unit, meaning it has all the coastal sea
buoys included, etc., and it uses 12 receiver channels  (can track 12 different satellites at once) which really
helps you keep your position plotted while hiking in forest, etc.  

The first part of the hike was of course along one side of the elevated Boardwalk Trail. It felt good to be back
in the swamp and seeing the simple but magical beauty of the huge cypress trees and the rest of
the plants that surround you.

From the Visitor Center to the river and back is about 11 miles. Once you leave Bridge "F" and head for the river
on the River Trail, your roundtrip back to Bridge "F" is about 6.3 miles on a beautiful but
very lonely and isolated trail.

About 1.3 miles after you leave Bridge "F" you are greeted with a trail sign that indicated that the trail will now
form a huge loop. I knew from studying the trail map that this part of my hike would be about a 4 mile roundtrip
back to the sign. I placed a quarter on the top of the loop sign and took the right fork and headed for the river.

The trip was long, lonely, and filled with excitement as I ran into some wild feral hogs and "Daddy Hog" -- all
400 plus pounds of him -- who was not too excited about me running two of his precious 50 pound babies out
of my way.

He scared me so that I forgot I even had my camera with me.  I stopped dead in my tracks, knelt down on one
knee, and stayed low to the ground. I could see his two huge curved tusk-type teeth clearly -- even
at 100 feet away.

Without an escape route or protection, an attack by hogs this size, especially one that might be ticked off or
feel threatened, are (can be) extremely dangerous.  

After pawing the ground and snorting and huffing at me for a while, he wandered back off into the woods.  I
waited five more minutes before I stood back up and slowly walked down the trail to past where he had been
standing his ground.  Seeing no sign of him, I headed for the river.

My goal for this hike was to find a huge sandbar on the park side of the river at the center of the big
bending curve in the river that I had read about and seen pictures of it, including satellite views. Finally,
after a long and sometimes muddy hike -- complete with lots of feral hog sightings, overgrown trails, and lots
of spider webs spun across the trail -- I was rewarded with locating the sandbar trail.

The loop trail I was on travels parallel to the river along here and I kept searching for a sign that I was told
that would point the way to the sandbar about a 100 yards away. I could see through the trees lots of bright
light close to the ground and knew that I was close to the river and the clearing it naturally made
in the heavy tree cover above me.

Just a I thought I might have missed the sign, I spotted it and immediately started following a barely
discernable trail through very high grass and made my way down to the river’s edge. Because the Congaree
River water level was so low on my hike this day, I was greeted to a sandbar that was huge -- at least
300 yards long and maybe 20 yards wide.

Other than the obvious huge size, I was impressed by two sights -- the size of the fresh water clam shells
and the amount of garbage buried in the sand. I've seen fresh water clam shells before but these babies
were huge – some looked like they exceeded 8 or 9 inches in length.

Trash – lots of it – is buried in the sandbar. I was amazed at how much stuff had been carried by the river
and deposited here for all to see. Every where you looked, you could see dozens of aluminum cans that were
buried in sand.  When you looked a certain way, the sun reflected off the sand polished aluminum and it made
the sand twinkle and glitter. For a split second, it was beautiful until the truth of what you were
observing snapped you back to reality.     

Anyway, I found me a place to sit on the sandbar and sat down to enjoy my lunch and to give my feet a rest. I
took off my boots and socks and let my feet dry out in the warm sunlight. It was so peaceful there on the
sandbar.  Even though it was late September, it was quite warm – actually hot – so my time on the sandbar
was not as long as I had intended it to be.

After a leisurely lunch, I put fresh, clean socks on, gathered up all my gear and started my way back to the
Visitor Center -- about five long miles away.

After reaching the sandbar trail sign, I turned right and continued on the loop part of the River Trail. After
more than 4 hours on the loop, I finally made it back to the loop trail sign and was pleasantly pleased to
see that my quarter was still sitting on top on the sign.

I was not sure why -- maybe the slippery trail at times -- but I was starting to hurt in my legs. Did I
mention hurt bad? I knew that I still had 3 miles to go before I could reach the safety and comfort of the
Visitor Center, so I took my time and tried to walk without favoring one leg or the other. If you start
limping, you will feel it even more later when the overworked muscles start screaming at you,
"Enough already … quit leaning and walking!"  

I limped into the Visitor Center about two and a half hours later. I was worried that if I lagged too slowly
on the trail, I would get back after they had locked the gate to the park and would have been locked in.
I made it back with 30 minutes to spare.

At that point in my day long hike, the only thing I had on my mind was that in my truck was a heated seat --
bottom and back. After reaching my truck and the comfort of the warm, soft seats, I headed out
of the park and back to my hotel.

As the heated seat warmed and soothed my aching legs and back, I immediately began to relax and reflect
on the fantastic time I had on my hike this day.  Even with all the spider webs I had to constantly knock out
of my way, the crazy encounter with Daddy Hog, the searing pain in my right leg as the miles slipped by, I had
a fantastic time and could not wait until I could do it all over again.

Back at the hotel, I immediately started filling up the Jacuzzi in my room with water and when filled, I
slipped in with two cool ones sitting close by and let the hot, swirling waters soothe my tired, aching body.
I finished off both beers and begrudgingly got out of the tub – feeling renewed and refreshed.

I closed out the day propped up by the window in my corner room that allowed me to watch the sun go down.
I felt so relaxed and so blessed to have had such a wonderful time enjoying such a beautiful day.
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Picture/Images Rules:  All images are Copyright (C) 2005, 2016 by Michael T. Bailey Sr., Marietta, Georgia.  All rights reserved. Reproduction,
adaptation, or translation without prior written permission is prohibited, except as allowed under copyright laws.  
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