Hike 5
Congaree National Park Hike 5 -- March 3, 2007
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This hike was one of the times "I went into the swamp" when it was flooding.  The park, from just past the
Visitor Center and all the way down to the river where the actual "swamp" is located, floods about 10 times a
year. Sometimes the water is very high and even the lower boardwalk is completely flooded.  

Today while I was there, it had not yet reached that height.  I stood at one place along the lower boardwalk
after I had sloshed through about 2 inches or so of water over the walkway and sat on a bench and just watched
the swamp all around me.

It was dead quite and eerily beautiful to see the flood waters slowly moving all around me and to "just be there."
I watched leaves and other floating debris float quietly by me -- like they were in some sort of mysterious
"natural parade" and I had been given the special privilege to just watch
and wonder about their journey.

I made a few mental "water-level measuring" points on things close to me and within 15 minutes, they were all
under water.  Seeing that was reason enough for me to backtrack and get back up on the higher elevated portion
of the boardwalk and head for Weston Lake that way.

The overall experience -- seeing SO much water in the hardwood forest -- was wonderful and totally different
from when you can come walk through this same area and see it during a "dry spell."
The forest floor was very wet
on this hike. The rangers had
already told me that I could not
make it on any of the "ground
trails."
Everything looked wet.
A very long section of the
lower boardwalk showing
lots of water.
“Water, water everywhere
and not a drop to drink." Yes,
Miss Osteen, I do remember a
few things you taught us in
High School:-)
The water all around me had
many floating patterns ... stains
from wood, soils, and acids
leaching into the waters.
Glad I am up on the boardwalk!
It just keeps getting worst.
First sight of water coming up
over the boardwalk. Normally,
the ground level is about 18
inches below the railing.
Reflections in the water ...
showing tops of trees over a
hundred feet above my head.
Reflections of the sun in the
water ... trying to break out
from the clouds.
It just never ends...
More lower boardwalk flooding. I
sat down near here and watched
the water rise ... knew it was time
to go back.
If you think the water is high
now ... just look up about 5 feet
and see the "flood line"...
This dead tree is over a 100
feet tall ... and home to birds
and other animals and insects.
Here are six Pileated
Woodpecker holes ... up around
the 80-foot level. This bird is
about 15 inches tall full grown.
And three more up around
the 100-foot level.
Caught sight of a
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
picking away on the side of
this tree.
All three of the downed logs
went back to the same "stump."
Dwarf Palmetto shrub ... "water
logged" to say the least.
I am now up on the high
elevated boardwalk, headed
towards Weston Lake. Still lots
of water.
Whole "colony" of Dwarf
Palmettos submerged in water.
Up close view of "Sabal minors"
up to their necks in water.
The flood continues ... and the
floating "stains on top of the
water."
Small hardwoods soaking
in water.
Beautiful spring splash of red
color (new hardwood leaves,
buds) against 130-foot tall green
Loblolly Pine tree.
Closeup up of same "red
against green"...
Looking back from where I
came ... long, lonely, elevated
board walk ... surrounded by
water on all sides...
Turning back round and facing
the walkway ahead of me ...
still lonely and surrounded by
water.
Lightening strikes on trees
can leave horrific scars.
This strike probably made
the pine sap "boil."
If you look down, you can see
the trail markers for trails I
usually take. Not today!
Close up of same signs. Water
level here now about 2 feet
deep above the trails.
Lonely water turtle at edge of
Weston Lake ... I do not think he
cares that the lake level is 2
feet higher than normal.
Weston Lake ... end point of my
hike today. Turnaround here and
retreat back to Visitor Center.
Not sure what this is off in the
woods. I guess it is another one
of those secret "CIA things."
The marker ranks right up there
with last picture ... some secret
marker about 200 feet out away
from the boardwalk.
Fungus growth on a dead log ...
beautiful.
Just about back to Visitor
Center when I spotted this
child's shoe. Seeing it upside
down in the flooded waters
gave me chills...
Then close by, was this
beautiful collection of spring
blossoms ... probably from a
maple tree ... floating quietly
through the flooded swamp.
Out of the swamp (and park)
and down at the edge of the
park at the US 601 "Bates
Bridge" crossing the Congaree
River.
Flood waters all around the
dock out into the river ...
couldn't even get out to it.
Typical capture of floating trash
in the bushes (now covered by
flood waters).
Congaree River -- flood waters
-- WAY out of their normal
channel (out past the tree line).
Young family with kids who
only want to "fish."
Monument marker on US 601
that tells history of "Bates
Bridge" and the man who first
operated a ferry at this crossing.
Back safely in my hotel on I-20
near Columbia. All the flags
were at gas station next to
Holiday Inn at Clemson Rd.
Even the hotel had her "flags out."
To an old warrior, the view could
not have been better after a long
day in the swamp.
"X" marks the spot! Planes
from Columbia airport, I
reckon, marking up the sky
with contrails.
Then the view from my room
started to really get better ... a
gorgeous sunset was in the
making.
Weird play of lights in the clouds.
Now the show was really
starting ... beautiful.
Striking colors ... little on the
grey side ... but beautiful.
Oooooooo ... getting darker?
Wow ... now it looks like a
"burst upwards" of grey strokes
of clouds ... like a fan.
HERE we go ... "Big Guy"
getting his color brushes
out now!
WOAH! .. Look at it now ...
talk about color!
I sat there in my room and
quietly cried tears of joy as God
showed me the last rays of
another beautiful day I had been
allowed to view ... from sun up,
all the through the swamp, and
now here...