|It had been quite a while since I had hiked by myself and I was really looking forwards to my "getaway weekend" |
in Columbia so I could hike in the Congaree National Park.
I checked into my favorite hotel there, the Holiday In Express at Exit 80, and as promised, the manager had
reserved Room 317 for me. I love this room -- it is HUGE and has 4 sets of windows that allow me to do all the
"kickback and watch the world go by" activity that I desire.
A beautiful sunset foretold of a great hike the next day and I could not wait to begin. Up early the next
morning, I ate breakfast at the hotel and got ready to head for the park about 25 miles away. I had my SPOT
(Satellite Personal Tracking device) with me so I turned it on in the parking, sent an OK message to test it and
once my cellphone beeped that it had received a text message, I switched to tracking mode and was off.
When I got to the park, there were just a few people there (it was only 9 AM) so I knew that I could get a head
start on the hikers and be by myself on the trails. I had all intentions of hiking slowly and quietly so that I
might have a chance to spot some wildlife that was up and about and looking for their breakfast.
The swamp looked dry (much less water showing than when I was here back in March) and I was glad for that
since I was planning on hiking the Oakridge Trail today. A few squirrels followed me for quite a while -- probably
looking for handouts. I kept seeing very large birds way over in the swamp -- blue herons and one huge white
crane that was determined to find something to eat.
Soon I had left the lower elevated Boardwalk Trail and was headed for Bridge "B" that crossed over Cedar
Creek about 7/10s of a mile away. I couldn't get over how dry the trail was. It seemed like the last 3 or 4 hikes
here have been done on slippery, muddy trails. I was looking forwards to not having to constantly look for
a safe place to walk and not slip.
I arrived at the open area (about an acre in size) where the Sims Trail ends at Bridge "B". This trail comes down
a different way from the area up near the Visitor Center and if you have a dog with you, it is the only way to get
to the other trails in the park as dogs are not allowed on any of the elevated boardwalks.
I used the huge clearing area to make sure my SPOT device transmitted a tracking location message and when I
saw the transmit light come on, I headed across Bridge "B" and made for Bridge "F", a half mile away where I
would find the start of the Oakridge Trail.
At Bridge "F" I waited until I could verify (watch) that the SPOT transmitted a location message and then I
headed east on the Oakridge Trail. It had been many years since I had hiked this way and it was a pleasure to
almost see it brand new again. In fact, other than the bridges I knew I would cross,
I remembered almost nothing of this trail.