Monday, March 21, 2011

Lake Wateree State Recreational Area 3_11_2011 to 3_13_2011 (3 days)

Directions from Work



881 State Park Rd.
Winnsboro, SC 29180
Phone: (803) 482-6401
Fax: (803) 482-6126

Total Miles ~43 miles
Total Travel Time ~ 47 min.
   





  • I-20 E
  • SC 277 N
  • I-77 N
  • Exit 41 to Winnsboro
  • Left on US 21
  • Right on Hwy 101
  • Left on State Park Rd.
Tools used on the trip


My Picnic Table
  • Mini Hachette/hammer~cut firewood and stake tarp down
  • Amsteel rope ~tarp tie offs
  • Wood Gas Stove~cooking and campfire
  • Ski mask~mornings and sleeping at night
  • 0 degree sleeping bag~sleeping
  • Waist backpack~Trail hiking
  • 5 in1 whistle
  • FireSteel~starting campfire and stoves
  • (3) Flashlights and a headlamp~for nighttime and early morning
  • Camouflage gloves~cooking, morning warmth and gathering wood
  • Survival Knife
  • Aluminum tent stakes
  • Lighter~to burn end of ropes and start campfires
  • Vaseline cotton balls~tender
  • (2) Soft Shackle Carabiner~ used to hang Warbonnet Blackbird Hammock
  • Camp stool~campfire & Trail seat
  • Titanium plate & spork, salt-n-pepper shaker
  • Warbonnet Blackbird Hammock~sleeping, napping and relaxing
  • Toothpaste & toothbrush
  • Deodorant
  • Sponge~washing dishes
  • Camouflage hat
  • Aluminum cup~cocoa sipping
  • Rain fly & Tarp
  • 6 pack of AA & AAA batteries
  • 2 days change of cloths

Food Supply


 


  • (2) Instant cocoa
  • Instant rice
  • 1 MRE’s (“Meals Ready to Eat”)
  • 1 bag of peppermint candy
  • Nekot Cookies (2 pack)
  • Marshmallows (Chocolate and Vanilla swirl)
  • PAM cooking spray
  • Can of Mandarin oranges
  • Can of Pineapples
  • Can of Corn Beef Hash
  • Bacon Spam

Paths Hiked

Me
If you want a map of the park so that you can follow the trails that I have hiked, follow this map link. Or you would like more information about the park, camping or fishing, visit the Park Website.


Cost per night to Camp = $21.00
Park Entrance Fee = $0.00


Saturday
  • Campsite to start of Desportes Island Trail  ~ .4 miles
  • Desportes Trail Loop ~ .7 miles
  • Desportes Trail Start to Campsite ~ 0.4 miles
  • Total hiked~ 1.5 miles
    Total Hikes Miles for the Trip 1.5 miles

    TIMELINE

    Day 1, Friday, Feb. 18, 2011

    2:30 pm ~WEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! I am free from work! On to Lake Wateree! 
    3:23 pm ~ I arrive at Lake Wateree State Recreational area. I am headed to the Visitors Center to check in.


    Park Visitors Office/ Bait Shop
    3:29 pm ~ I am all checked in. I am at my site. Site #25. Now its time to hang my Warbonnet Blackbird hammock. Video 1   Video 2   Video 3
    My Site Number

    My Car and Site

    Hammock spread out

    One side of hammock up
     4:00 pm ~As I get the hammock up. I am spoken to by my next door neighbor. His name was Richard. He was retired military. He said that he was from North Augusta and that he worked in electronics when he was in the military. I informed him that I worked in computer electronics in Columbia. Richard then proceeded to ask me if that my tent that I was setting up. I informed him that it was a hammock. He looked at me and with a serious look on his face said, " And you are going to sleep in that?" As I respond yes to him, he follows with a, "You are a Brave Man!" As we laugh about it for a few moments, he departs and lets me know that if there is anything that I need while I was there, he would be next door and glad to help.

    Hammock up and ready









    My Complete Hammock Shelter
    6:09 pm ~ As I sit back and take a look at my hammock site, I have the feeling that this is going to be a nice weekend. The park, weather and hammock site seems to all be awesome. As stated by the lady in the front office that checked me out, seems like this weekend is going to be packed. There were kids everywhere.
    Kids on the Camp Loop
    6:14 pm ~ The camping area of the park has what they call "Comfort Stations." There were 2 of them. I was told that these "Comfort Stations" have bathrooms with showers. As I head to see one of these stations, its kind of cool and convenient.   Video 4

    6:40 pm ~ As I return to my site, I reflect on the detour I took from the comfort center. I decided to take a walk around the camp loop. I saw loots of neat campers, RV's and different size tents. Some huge like a cabin, some small like a room, but I was the only hammock camper out there. Makes me feel like a pioneer.

    Tents at Campground

    Camp Loop Rd.


    Campground Wilderness

    In the picture below, I also saw these folks camping as I was on my way to my camp. They are the Special Military Active Retired Travel Club (S.M.A.R.T.). They are a recreational vehicle (RV) social club for active, retired, and honorably discharged military veterans (and spouses), including reservists and National Guard, from all the uniformed services. You can read more about them at their website.




    S.M.A.R.T
    RV Campers

    RV camper campfire

      Festive RV camper
      6:50 pm ~ As I rip open my MRE dinner, which included Beef Ravioli, roasted peanuts, an oatmeal cookie, apple pieces in spice sauce, toffee rolls and a lemon lime beverage I am reminded again of the walk I just took around the camp loop. As I was coming back to my campsite from that walk, I ran into another camping neighbor that was walking with her little girl. She was very nice. They saw me picking up sticks as I walked to have for my wood gas stove campfire later. They stopped, said hi, then stated that they noticed me picking up firewood and said that if I needed to use their fire or wood, not to hesitate to use what they have at their site. Wow, folks are really nice when your hammocking. Well, all my Ravioli is warm, time to eat.

      Friday nights MRE dinner
      7:16 pm ~ Dinner was Yummy!!! My fingers are a little sticky from the applesauce, but that's OK. I decided that what I had in the MRE was a lot. So I decided to just eat the Beef Ravioli in meat sauce, apple pieces in spice sauce and the lemon drink from the MRE. I will place the remainder in my hiking pack and have it as I hike or as part of my lunch at camp tomorrow. As I put everything up for the night, locked away safely in my car, I decide it's time to get comfy in the hammock and call it a night.

      10:01 pm ~ I turn over in my hammock. It seems that I have gotten myself a little cockeyed in my hammock with the sleeping bag. I turn over and readjust myself and get back to sleep.

       Day 2, Saturday, March 12, 2011

      4:20 am ~ It seems that I cannot go back to sleep. I don't know why, I guess I was just tired of sleeping. I was ready to get up and go do things. Let me see if I can lie back down, it is still a little early.

      5:00 am ~ Looks like sleeping is over, I am up now. I proceed to get dressed and head down to the Comfort Center to take care of my "morning business."

      5:25 am ~ I am back at camp. I need to change clothes for the day. So I grab some clean cloths and head back to the Comfort Center. It's still pretty dark outside still and in order for me to navigate in the dark, I have my ski mask on for warmth with my headlight. The way I look reminds me of "Black Ops."As I walk from and to my camp in the dark there was a little dog named "Ziggy" around campsite #12 that was the only dog that barked at me in the dark every time I passed his campsite. I can't blame the little fellow, he was protecting his territory. GOOD JOB ZIGGY!

      My "BLACK OPS" look
      6:23 am ~ I get back to my hammock site and open my hammock up on one side so that it is in "porch mode". It's time to get ready for the day and breakfast. I put my lawn chair back up in the sitting position and get my wood gas stove ready for cooking. For breakfast, I had oatmeal, cocoa, cornbeef hash. I was a little hungry while waiting for the water to boil for the oatmeal so I decided to open up the cornbeef hash and start eating some. I ended up eating half the can while waiting and cooked the other half of the can. Cornbeef hash not good cold, but not that bad either. Because of the morning dew, all the wood I was cooking with was a little wet. That made for some difficulty in keeping the stove lit. As a result of this the stove smoked a lot, but the food did get cooked and was Yummy! Speaking of dew, it's a good thing that I slept with my tarp over me last night because if I didn't, I would have been wet in the hammock when I woke up.

      Camp Cornbeef hash
       7:22 am ~ I finished up breakfast. I started to clean up camp. One of the cool things that I could do with my camp was I had what I called and Fishing Shore / Kitchen. It was located right below my camp and it had little mud steps that lead down to the water. I had to be very careful though. Because of the morning dew, the mud was very slippery. I went down here to wash my dishes in the lake. Gotta love convenience!   Video 5

      Fishing shore / Kitchen Stairs
      As I wash my dishes from breakfast, I turn to head back up the hill and I see something bright out of the corner of my eye. Only a true fisherman could have spotted this. I'll just add that little guy to my collection.

      Fishing Lure
      7:32 am ~ A boater floated by my campsite. I have seen a few of these guys this morning. As he passed he waved and I waved back. He asked me a question, but I could not understand him. He asked me what "MOS" was I? I was not sure what he meant, so I asked him to elaborate. I believe since everything at my hammock site was camouflage and I was not in a tent or RV but sleeping in a hammock, he must have thought that I was or have been in the military.

      One of many Boaters
      8:19 am ~ As I sit in my lawn chair and enjoy my campsite view, a boat passes by my site again. I make the decision that I will not be doing any fishing this weekend. I wanted to but getting all fishy was not on my list of things to do this weekend. I would rather enjoy, relax and take in the peace that Lake Wateree has to offer. 

      8:56 am ~ I just completed breaking camp down in preparation for my morning hike. I head to the Comfort Center one last time before I head out to hike the Desportes Island Trail.

      9:15 am ~ After coming back from the Comfort Center with my jacket on, I decide that it may get a little warm on the trail with my leather jacket on, so I head back to camp to put my jacket in the car. Desportes Island Trail, HERE I COME!!!

      9:24 am ~ I reach the Desportes Island Nature Trail.

      Trail Sign
      The Trail
      On the trails that I have hiked so far in my journeys, I have noticed that all trails have some sort of marker that indicates that you are going and are on the right path. It was a little different from the Congaree blazers and a lot farther apart, but this is what the trail markers looked like.

      Trail Marker
      One of the coolest things I saw as I was on this trail was the direction that some of the trees chose to grow.


      Can you find the spider in the web?

      As I hike along the trail, I see that the trail pulls off the main section and goes down to another section of the water. I follow it. When I get to the end I see another peaceful spot. I called it the "Gateway of Serenity." I sat here for a while, thinking that this almost looks like a gate to something.

      "The Gateway of Serenity"

      10:11 am ~ I stop halfway on the trail where there is a bench nicely placed. This will be my break spot. As I have a quick snack of some peanut butter crackers, I reflect on the beauty and peace of Lake Wateree. 

      Trail Bench
      10:21 am ~ As I get to the part where the trail goes back into a loop, I pass a Nature Trail sign. This part of the trail goes out to the edge of the water and even loops back around some of the swampy area of the trail. Yes, Lake Wateree has a swamp.

      Trail Loop
      I pull of the main trail and follow a little path that empties out into the water. Its looks like a prime spot that many anglers such as myself have spend a lot of time at. I decide to setup my camp chair and enjoy the view of the Lake.


        As I sit out here, staring off into the ripples of the water, I say to myself, nothing else at this time matters. None of the bad stuff, things that I couldn't control is on my mind now. I can't put my finger on it, but its like the water subdues me and clears my memory. The water has a calming effect that is beyond anything that you can purchase or manufacture.

        Open Lake View
        Personally, as I sit here and think about it, the scenery that is in front and all around me is what life is about. Life is supposed to be about enjoying what mother nature has offered us. Just sitting here, in front of the open water, the boats going by, the water splashing against the shore from the waves sets a certain calmness and serenity over me. I don't have to worry about anybody calling or bothering me, there are no problems or issues. Why can't life be more like this? Why can't life be more like water?
        Side Lake View
        As I stated earlier, Lake Wateree does have a swamp, not very large but it does exist.

        11:27 am ~ As I make it back to camp #25, I pull out my Wood Gas Stove so I can have some noodles for lunch. Time to boil some water!

        Boiling some water

        12:08 pm ~ As I finish boiling my water for my noodles, I realize that green pine needles burn wonderfully. They are a great way to re-ignite a campfire. Oh well, time to combine hot water with noodles and enjoy my lunch!

        Instant Noodles for Lunch
        12:37 pm ~ Lunch was good. I head over to my Blackbird to "open the porch." I decide to lie in the hammock and possibly take a nap on the lake.

        Relaxing in the Blackbird
        2:23 pm ~ I am awaken by the surge of Mother Nature. I get up from my nap and head to the Comfort Center so that I may....."Drain the Lizard."

        2:47 pm ~ I return back to camp and decide to sit in my lawn chair and munch on the Toffee rolls, dried peanuts and a oatmeal cookie from my MRE Friday night. Turns out the Toffee rolls are just Tootsie rolls. NEAT! This is just and intermediate snack until dinner as I sit on my back porch in front of the lake.

        3:25 pm ~ After sitting in my lounge chair for a while, I felt sleep coming over me again and decide to get back in my Blackbird and take "part 2" of my nap. Figured that I would get a little more rest before I have to get up and cook my last dinner here at Lake Wateree State Recreational Area.

        Final Snack before I nap...again
        Part 2 of my Saturday Nap
        5:09 pm ~ I am up from my nap, and to the Comfort Center I hike. As I return back to camp I pull out my Wood Gas Stove so that I can start on preparing dinner. I think tonight I will prepare my newly created camp dish, Camp Chunk Chicken and Rice.  I will mix up some Lemon Berry Squeeze Hawaiian Punch to wash everything down. For dessert, I will toast some camp swirl marshmallows.

        6:00 pm ~ Dinner is done. Time to eat!

        Camp Chunk Chicken and Rice
        6:11 pm ~ Just finished dinner. The chicken with the rice was a great idea. Time to clean up camp and get the Wood Gas Stove ready for a nice campfire with marshmallows.

        6:26 pm ~ My Blackbird is all setup for the night. Got my sleeping bag in and all the additional cold weather clothing is all packed away and ready for tonight. Headed to the Comfort Center to address "Mother Nature" and then its back to camp to start a campfire.   Video 6

        6:58 pm ~ Back at camp. I got my campfire started. Time to roast some Marshmallows.

        My Wood Gas Campfire
        Roasting Marshmallows
        7:13 pm ~ Just sitting by the campfire enjoying the lake as the sun goes down. While I take in the experience of my last night here at Lake Wateree I lock in on the sounds of the evening that comes with this beautiful place.  Video 7

        8:41 pm ~ The campfire is all done. Seems like I burned the campfire for hours. You kind of lose track of time when you are relaxed and completely enjoying yourself as I did this weekend. I get my night cloths ready for sleeping tonight and head to the Comfort Center to change.

        9:36 pm ~ Back from the Comfort Center. I am comfy in my Blackbird with my ski mask, long sleeve shirt, sleeping bag and my plastic camp pillow. The pillow works like a champ as long as you don't blow it up completely. Leaving a little air out of it gives your head a little cushion. I should be a little warmer than last night. To sleep I go.

         Day 3, Sunday, March 13, 2011


        6:28 am ~ I am up from a GREAT night's sleep. I slept completely though the night. I LOVE HAMMOCKS AND I LOVE SLEEPING IN MY BLACKBIRD HAMMOCK! I slept like a baby last night. I was very warm. As I put on my shoes and put my jacket on, I search around camp to make sure I have enough wood for my breakfast stove cooking. I am headed to the Comfort Center to change out of these sleeping cloths.

        7:35 am ~ I have the stove burning and after spraying some PAM on my camp frying pan, I sliced up and threw on the Bacon SPAM to fry up. Tasted pretty good.

        Bacon SPAM
        Started and finished the water for the hot cocoa. As a morning treat, I added a can of sliced pears as a topper to a great breakfast. Thought, since I still had a pretty good fire going after cooking breakfast I would have a morning campfire while I started to cleanup camp.

        8:02 am ~ Cocoa is all done. Time to start cleaning up camp. Get everything packed away and in the car as I get ready to leave Lake Wateree.

        8:34 am ~ As I come back from the Comfort Center for the last time this weekend, I continue to break down camp. I have to be out of the campsite by noon.

        10:00 am ~ I make one last round of my cleaned campsite to make sure I have everything and have not left anything. I say my goodbyes to the lake and get in the car and pull away.

         My Final Xtreme-lution

        In closing, I would like to say that Lake Wateree State Recreational Area has it own beauty. Because it has only on hiking trail, I cannot compare it to Congaree, but the one trail was everything I expected it to be. The people were nice, the scenery was great and the most important factor, Hammocks are welcome! I definitely look forward to coming back!

        I have placed all my pictures in a number of places for readers, friends, co-workers and family of this blog. If you have a Facebook account you view my pictures of the trip on my photos tab if you are a Facebook friend of mine. For those of you viewers who are not a Facebook friend, you can still view my Complete Trip pictures or you can check out my YOUTUBE Channel that will have all the videos from the trip. Just look for the videos that begin with "Lake Wateree State Recreational Area".
        If anyone has any questions in reference to any information that I have provided related to this trip, please feel free to type in your comment at the bottom of this blog and hit POST COMMENT. Ask as many questions as you need to know. I can answer any questions to which I have experience in to answer related to this trip. In addition, if you have any tips or tricks of the camping, hiking or hammocking trade, please feel free to share them with me. This is the 1st of many monthly trips that I will be taking. So anything that will make my stay more welcoming or comforting will be more than welcomed from the readers of my blog. Hope you enjoyed March's 2011's camping posting. 

        As always, Stay Cool and Stay Outdoors!!!


        I am XtremeKatfishn, and I am OUT the DOORS!!!
         

        Sunday, March 6, 2011

        Congaree National Park Trip 2-18-2011 to 2-20-2011 (3 days)

        Directions from Home 

        100 National Park Rd.
        Hopkins, SC 29061
        (803) 776-4396

        Total Miles ~ 34.3 miles
        Total Travel Time ~ 46 min.
        • US-378W
        • Left on HWY 263
        • Left on McCords Ferry Rd.
        • Right on Reynolds Rd.
        • Right on Bluff Rd.
        • Left on Cedar Creek Rd.
        • Right on Old Bluff Rd.
        • Left the National Park Rd.
        Tools used on the trip

        • Super Glue~to repair glasses
        • Mini Hachette/hammer~cut firewood and stake tarp down
        • Nylon rope~hammock and tarp tie offs
        • Wood Gas Stove~cooking
        • Collapsible Stove w/camp fuel~cooking and boiling water
        • Ski mask~mornings and sleeping at night
        • 0 degree sleeping bag~sleeping
        • Waist backpack~hiking
        • 5 in1 whistle
        • FireSteel~starting campfire and stoves
        • (3) Flashlights and a headlamp~for nighttime, but only one worked
        • Camouflage gloves~cooking, morning warmth and gathering wood
        • Survival Knife
        • Aluminum tent stakes
        • Lighter
        • Fat lighter wood & Vaseline cotton balls~tender
        • Carabiner~ used to hang backpack and other item off the ground from critters alike
        • Camp stool~campfire sitting
        • Titanium plate & spork, salt-n-pepper shaker
        • Hammock~sleeping and relaxing
        • Hand sanitizer
        • Toothpaste & toothbrush
        • Deodorant
        • Sponge~washing dishes
        • Camouflage hat
        • Aluminum cup~cocoa sipping
        • Rain fly & Tarp
        • 8 pack of AA & AAA batteries
        • 4 days change of cloths
        Food Supply


        Oatmeal
        • Instant oatmeal
        • Instant cocoa
        • Walnuts
        • (4) bags of jerky
        • Box of poptarts
        • Instant rice
        • Can of grilling beans
        • 3 MRE’s (“Meals Ready to Eat”)-only used one
        • 4 candy bars
        • 1 bag of candy
        Paths Hiked


        If you want a map of the Park so that you can follow the trails that I have hiked, follow this map link

        Cost per night to Camp = $0.00
        Park Entrance Fee = $0.00



        Friday
        • Elevated & Low boardwalks~2.4 miles
        • Camp to Visitors Center~0.5 miles
        • Visitors Center to Camp ~0.5 miles
        • Total hiked~3.4 miles
        Saturday
        • Camp to Visitors Center~0.5 miles
        • Visitors Center to Oakridge Trail (Roundtrip) ~6.4 miles
        • Visitors Center to Bluff Campground~0.9 miles
        • Bluff Campground to Camp~1 mile
        • Total hiked~8.8 miles
        Sunday
        • Camp to Visitors Center~0.5 miles
        • Visitors Center to Kingsnake Trail (Roundtrip) ~8.7 miles
        • Visitors Center to Camp~0.5 miles
        • Total hiked~9.5 miles   
        Total Hikes Miles for the Trip 21.7 miles

        TIMELINE


        Day 1, Friday, Feb. 18, 2011
        • 6:00 am ~ I am up and moving. I shower, dress, say hello to my dog Abby and eat breakfast (Reese’s Puffs cereal).
        • 6:23 am ~ I am putting on my shoes and taking my Timberland's (although, I did not use them) with me as I pack the car for the trip.
        • 6:27 am ~ I am on my way to my storage unit 10 minutes away. I need to pick up a few things for the trip
        • 7:12 am ~ As I open the storage unit, I am picking up some fishing stuff. Well, actually, I didn't get out of the car at the storage unit until 15 minutes later. I had to listen to Rickey Smiley Frontpage News. HILARIOUS!!! As I gather my fishing tools for the trip, I picked up some weights, hooks, different lures, lots of drinking water, a fishing pole and some some extra pens to write with. I did not want to miss scribing any of this trip.
        • 7:38 am ~ As I leave the storage unit I then head to McDonald's for some additional breakfast since the one I had at the house was a little light. 
        • 7:42 am ~ I head in to order something light and quick. I order 2 sausage burritos. 
        • 7:47 am ~ In and out and back in the car. There seems to not be much sausage in my burrito. But what can you expect for $2.20. Well, its on to Congaree!!
        Harry Hampton Visitor Center
        • 8:29am ~ I arrive at Congaree National Park as I head to the visitor center. The Visitor center was awesome!The ranger on duty, William, was very informative about the park and a pleasant person to talk to. He seemed a little on the young side, but was very much in the know.
        Ranger William
        • 9:18am ~ As I ready myself to head out for the self guided tour on the low boardwalk I am thinking about how much the staff has impressed me here at Congaree National Park in just this little bit of time. I am seriously thinking about volunteering to do trail maintenance. I am also thinking, " I am so glad I am not here in the height of the summer time. Because the sign below makes me wonder.....
        Visitors Center Pest Meter
        • 9:38 am ~ My "ButtPack" as Terry would say,  is packed and I am ready to hit the trail.
        The Self Guided Boardwalk Trail

        The following pics and info are related to the different biodiversity that I came in contact with while taking the Self Guided Boardwalk Trail. Each One of these spots have numbers that relate to a certain historic feature of the park. All the numbers were actually not there, but I tried to get all that I came across.

        • As I get started on the boardwalk I ran into a University of South Carolina Art student painting the forest on the boardwalk. Over the course of the Boardwalk trip, I saw a few students like this and their teachers working diligently on their art education. 

        USC Art Student
        • #2 ~ The mud you see in the photo is called Muck. It is essential for breaking down pollutants into harmless ingredients.
        The Muck
        • # 4 ~ So you may not be able to see it here, but if you look closely at the trunks of the Tupelo trees on both sides you can see where the moss and the brown color end on the each trunk is the "water line" of the previous flooding.
        Floodlines
        •  #6 ~ This hollow tree  may have heard the chatter of a 1000 Evening Bats inside the trunk. A variety of bats live in the Congaree and since there are no caves found here, the bats must live inside hollow trees like this one.
        Hollow Bat Tree
        • #7 ~ Few plants grow in the diminished sunlight on the forest floor. Spanish Moss droops, lands and hangs from the Bald Cypress trees due to the rich soil.

        Spanish Moss



        •  #8 ~ The low water you see is called a gut. The gut scours the mud near Weston Lake, but never reaches the lake itself. Guts and sloughs in the park help disperse water when the Congaree Rivers flood.
        The Gut
        • #9 ~ This fallen Loblolly Pine possibly lived for two centuries before Hurricane Hugo knocked it down. Because it fell across the trail I am walking on, it was cut. An inspection of the rings in the trunk reveals stories of forest fires, droughts and years of abundant rainfall.
        Fallen Loblolly Tree
        •  #10 ~ It is unusual to find pines growing in the wetland areas, however, these Loblolly Pines can tolerate living in wet conditions better than any other pines.   Video 1
        Bottom of Loblolly Pine Tree
        Top of Tall Loblolly Pine
        • #11, 10:36 am ~ I have hiked all the way up to the Weston Lake pier. This is a lake full of lots of fish and turtles and the park does not allow fishing. That sucks for me, "The Angler." As I sit on one of the pier bench seats, next to me are 3 men talking what I believe to be philosophy. They have what look to be textbooks so they must also be USC students. The conversation went something like "What is the world really about?" Weird. As look out into the lake, I am consumed by its beauty. The boardwalk trip has been great so far. As I enjoy a Fiber Plus bar snack I am overwhelmed by the very calming, serene and peacefulness that Weston lake has to offer. 

        Weston Lake Pier
        •  #14 ~ The Palmettos you see here are a close relative of the Cabbage Palm that is our state tree. They are called Dwarf Palmettos and will grow no larger than you see here.
        Dwarf Palmetto Trees
        • 11:08 am ~ I am currently passing the #14 landmark on the boardwalk self guided tour trail. A drop of water falls on my hand from the tree canopy above as I sit down to write this section. I have the feeling that I could almost live out here. The breeze is cool, the sounds of the woodpeckers and other birds are giving me a spectacular display.  
        One of the many Boardwalk bench's
        • #15 ~ you can see it better in the second photo, but bootleggers found a unique way to earn a living. The iron box in the background was a still used to make liquor. What better place to hide a still than in the forest of tall trees?
        Bootleggers Still
        Bootleggers Still (closer)
        • #16 ~ Hurricane Hugo left it mark on the Congaree. Small tonadoes tore through the forest leaving large open swaths in the canopy. The forest renews itself with the small tree you see here.
        New tree growth from Hugo
        • #17 ~ The low growing evergreen plant on the ground is known as Dog-hobble. It got its name from the dogs of bear hunters in the mountains. Their hunting dogs could not run through this dense shrub while the bears could lope through it easily.

        Dog-hobble plants
        • #19 ~ The standing dead pine trunks in the next 2 photos are called snags. Their bare trunks and leafless branches resemble a skeleton among a forest of green. They team with life like termites, beetles, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, mushrooms and ants.
        Snags (bottom)
        Snags (top)
        •  11:23 am ~ I am on the elevated boardwalk and I just passed #19. As I walk past the sign, I hear a startling sound in the leaves below me on the boardwalk. It turns out it was a squirrel running past me under the boardwalk. I'm not sure who was more startled, me or the squirrel. As I continue to walk, out of the corner of my eye I see something that looks like it was frozen in time. There is another squirrel on the tree. But it looks like he is a statue carved into the tree. Yes...he was that still. 
        •  11:48 am ~ I have completed the entire boardwalk trip and have made it back to the Visitors Center. After a quick potty break and a drink of water, I head back to camp to move into my campsite and rest.
        • 11:55 am ~ Apparently not many African Americans at my age come out here to Congaree to hike and camp out. I ran into older black guy as I was going back to my car. He agrees with me that this is a beautiful place to be at no matter your age, color or creed.
        • 12:25 pm ~ After passing all the campsites before mine, I arrive at mine for a much needed relaxing sit at the picnic table. The weather is beautiful and the breeze is blowing oh so slightly between the trees. I will soon be heading back to the Visitor Center to do the "Tree Trek" they are having at 1:30 pm.
        My Camp Site #8
        • 12:45 pm ~ After walking back to the car a few times preparing the camp, I think I will stay at my camp (#8), setup and enjoy the rest of the day. No "Tree Trek today. I got the hammock put up and the Tarp placed down as a floor so I would have something to walk on under my hammock so my socks and feet wont be so dirty.
        My Hammock and Floor Tarp
        • 4:29 pm ~ As you can tell from the difference in time, I had a little nap in the hammock. Well, its time to gather some wood for a possible campfire later. If I feel up to it. Better yet, I am going to cook with my collapsible stove stove tonight. Before I took my long nap, I tried the hammock pad that I got from Sportsman Warehouse, but it seem to bind up a lot. I will either sit down one day when I have time and modify it for my hammock or give it to someone for tent camping. Time will tell. Well, its time for me to head back to the car to get my stove so I can cook.
        My Collapsible Stove w\Camp Heat
        • 5:05 pm ~ I am trying to boil some water for my rice. My Firesteel would not light the wick on the camp fuel. I had to use a lighter. How "unsportsmanlike!" I need also clean up camp a little before I hit the sack tonight.
        • 5:19 pm ~ So while my rice is cooking, let me tell you a funny hammock story. So earlier today, I had my hammock all setup and I lay back in it. Its Comfy! So I take my glasses off and put them on my lap. Then I realize I want to sit in the Hammock like a chair. So I wiggle & move & it took a minute to get comfy. I went to adjust my glasses and ...... they are not there. I look between my legs & half the glasses are sticking out. DAMMIT!!! I broke my glasses for the 6th or 7th time. Since I have broken then so many times, I seem to have stop counting. I wonder why? Luckily I packed super glue in my repair kit. 3 hours later, my glasses are as good as old! 
        • 5:27 pm ~ The rice is ready, time to eat. 
        Pepper Rice! Yummy!!!
        • 6:14 pm ~ Dinner was yummy, I am ready for bed.
        • 9:37 pm ~ As I am sleeping soundly, I am awaken by a slight chill. WOW! The temp got that much cooler in just a few hours. I was sleeping with just my shorts pants and a t-shirt on. So I got up with my flashlight from Harbor Freight to find out the flashlight was a "PIECE OF CRAP!" It kept going out and I had to do the "beat the crap out of it" thing to get it to work. So I finally got the sleeping bag in and was surprised at how little effort it took to get "snug as a bug." Off to sleep I go again.

        Day 2, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011 

        • 1:19 am ~ I am awaken by the feeling of the ground scraping my back. No, my hammock did not collapse on me. But I was pretty close to lying on the ground. I acrobat myself out of the hammock and after close investigation it seems the hammock straps have slipped. So I raise and tighten the hammock straps and tied good knots to hold it from slipping. Man! Its cool out here! You should have seen me, I look like a worm above ground exposed to sunlight, wiggling from a bird as I was trying to get back into my sleeping bag. But I got it done and now its back to sleep.
        • 6:38 am ~ I am awaken by the morning light from my sleep. Minus the interruptions, I slept like a baby. I start unpacking things and get ready for breakfast (cinnamon oatmeal, cocoa & 2 poptarts). I start with the cocoa. While the water is boiling, I go back to the car to change cloths and get a "Jacket." Thanks TERRY! I bring back some more bottled water to find my cocoa water is boiling. MMMMMMM.... Hot Cocoa!!! As I sip the cocoa, I start the water for the oatmeal. So I am sipping cocoa and eating a poptart while talking to a fellow camper from campsite #1. He says he comes out here a lot and is usually the last one to go to sleep and the first one up . He says he stays up looking to see if he can catch a glimpse of deer. I could not remember his name but he said he was surprised that he saw no animal tracks this morning. He states that usually would see a bobcat or two at my campsite and a lot of other animal tracks. That's a little scary. Guess it was the Spartenburg Boy Scouts that packed the woods with there noise that kept the kitties and others away.
        • 7:52 am ~ The oatmeal water is ready! CRAP!!! Too much water! Well, it must be mixing time. So I mixed Red Gravy  & Country Ham and Cinnamon oatmeal. Not bad, but not good. Well, I have had breakfast. Time to clean camp and hit the trails.
        Saturday Breakfast
        • 9:32 am ~ Use deodorant...check!, brushed teeth.....check!, sanitized and washed hands....check! Packed up everything but the hammock and the floor tarp......check! To the car with my camping pack.
        • 9:37 am ~ The car is packed and my vitamins are taken. I picked up my IPod so I can take some video and more pictures on the go as I hike.  Mostly because my cell phone battery was getting a little low.
        • 10:37 am ~ Just finished the .05 mile hike to the Visitors Center. Potty break and now it off to the Oakridge Trail. I decided to pull out the IPod and do a little moving documentary on the Oakridge Trail. I was simply amazed at the beauty of Congaree. 
          video


        • As I was hiking on the Oakridge Trail, this vine scared me and blew my mind!!! From a far it looked like a real snake!
        video

        • One of the many things you will see as you hike on any trail in the Congaree is the trees or logs that have fell across a designated path that had to be cut to preserve the ease of the hiking trail.
        Altered Path
        •  As I finished up the Oakridge Trail, I was tired. I took a quick rest, a potty break and a refill of water. Once I got my breathe back, I headed towards camp. I figured that I would detour and take a look at the backwoods Bluff campground. Pretty cool once I got there. People were camped in the woods and all over the place. They were even out in the field playing tag football. Its 2 miles from anything but man is restful back here. Video 2   Video 3   Video 4
          Bluff Campground (left side)

          Bluff Campground (Center)

           Bluff Campground (right side)
          • 4:35pm ~ So when I get back to camp, I came back to a mystery. My camp looked completely different. There was a Camouflage Rainfly attached to my hammock and all my knots that I tied to the hammock where untied and retied. A series of other more efficient knots and toggles where used. It looked like a professional job had been done. There was also wood that had been gathered for a campfire next to my fire ring, beef Jerky left and attached to the hammock line like someone was expecting to come back. I immediately thought that someone had moved in on my campsite while I was gone. So I called the Visitors Center and they sent out law enforcement. While I was waiting for the Officer to arrive, I went around other campsites around asking had anyone seen anything strange at my campsite while I was gone hiking. No one had seen anything. When the Officer got there I proceeded to tell him the story and explain to him that nothing had been taken but things had been added and changed. He then proceeded to ask me if I knew of anyone that would have done this for me. I thought……very few people knew I was out here (3 maybe) nope, no one that knew I would come out here and take the time to come out and do this for me.  So I thought! The officer then said he did camping permit check that morning about 10:30 am and when he came to my site he saw a guy at my site. He asked him if this was his site. The guy said no, but he was setting up for the person that was camping here. The person then gave the officer my name and described me the only way that anyone camping would know it was me…because I was the only one out there. He was setting it up for a “Short, black guy”…… (smile) That’s me!!! The officer said he was concerned that if maybe it was a person that moved in, that they would be back and there could be an altercation while I was sleep. He stated that he would check on me in the morning and he left. After the officer left I was pretty, sure it was a nice fellow at campsite #1 that I have been friendly with since I started camping Friday. Later that night I spoke with him and he said that he was not the person that did it but he has done things like that and just faded into the background. I was sure it was him. To make a long story short, when I went to work that following Tuesday, I found out that it was my friend and co-worker Terry. Thanks Terry!! But next time, remember to leave a note.(smile) Video 5
          The "Rain Fly Mystery"
           7:23 pm ~ So after all that excitement, I figured no better time than now to start a campfire. Given Terry had already gathered the wood for me, I am not gonna let it go to waste. Once the fire went out, I had me an MRE and hit the hammock. Video 6
            The Campfire


            Day 3, Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011

            • 7:00 am ~ So its Sunday morning and I am awaken by the crisp morning air. I am all wrapped up because it was a little chilly this morning.
            Chilly on Sunday morning
            •  So I decided to use my new wood gas stove I got off of eBay. It worked like a champ! It heated my water fast and got me to eating really quick. I am thinking that this is going to be my dedicated camping stove. Video 7   Video 8    Video 9
              My "New" Wood Gas Stove
              • So after my Wood Gas Stove breakfast which was an tasty...of course, because it was cooked by me. So I proceeded to clean up the camp and head out for my hike of Kingsnake Trail.This is going to be challenging hike because it is not a round trip. It is a one way, which means that I have to hike it up and hike it back.   Video 10
              • 11:30 am ~ So as I hike to the Kingsnake trail, I am about 30 minutes into the trail and I run into this breathtaking spot, seems to be the first spot that opens up to Cedar Creek. It looked like a perfect fishing spot because there was a ledge right below the opening that you could stand out on and fish if you wanted. But after a little looking around it also looked like a prime spot for a alligator to make a sneak attack. I move on...(smile).  Video 11   Video 12
              • 12:00 pm ~ So the first bridge that I reach is bridge "J". I decided to take a break and have some lunch. As I look around me I am surrounded by beauty. I have water at my front, swamp at my back and woods at my side. I am so ready to live out here.  Video 13   Video 14
              Bridge "J" break

              • As I continue on the trail, my next bridge is Bridge "K", which is about 1.2 miles away. On my way, I come across two intermediate bridges that come before bridge "K". At one of these bridges I happen to catch a little brook rumbling below the small bridge. One of the many peaceful things I have seen on this entire trip. Wow...peace is the Congaree's middle name!   Video 15
              • As I am headed to bridge "K", I see some cool stuff. The bushes you see below went on for like a half a mile. I called them Ambushes. Can you tell me why?  Video 16

              Ambushes
              Fuzzy Vine

              Branch Trail Archway

              Fungus on Stick
              • 12:30 pm ~ I finally reach Bridge "K". One of the things that I noticed was the change in the hike from Bridge "J" to "K". The ground became softer and muddier. This is mainly because I went from being surrounded by forest to being surrounded by swamp. Kind of scary but cool at the same time. In order for me to finish the trail I have to hike another 1.2 miles to the end of the trail and then all the way back. I decide to have a break and decide whether I turn around now or do I finish the trail and come back the whole stretch. Video 17  
              • 12:35 pm ~ I decide that I just don't have the energy to get to the end and come back. I have hiked a lot since Friday. It seems that my Ipod and my phone batteries are about to go dead. So I have no choice but to turn back and cut the trip short on account of low energy and batteries.   Video 18   Video 19 
              • 3:13 pm ~ I finally make it back to the Visitor Center. I am seriously pooped. I filled up on water, leaked the lizard and headed back to camp.   Video 20
              • So as I am heading back to camp, I am starting to think to myself. This weekend has been great and what a better way to end the trip than on a great Sunday such as today. Also, because I have Monday off from work and laundry is calling my name. So I decide to make tonight my last night. So cook up some Grilling Beans and bring the trip to an end. Video 21
               My Final Xtreme-lution

              In closing, might I just reiterate how awesome of a trip this was. If anyone has any questions about Congaree National Park camping, hammocking, hiking or site seeing, let me say you cannot go wrong. This was a trip that was done in place of vacation that I so very much needed. If you love the outdoors and all its bliss, you will love Congaree National Park.

              I have placed all my pictures in a number of places for readers, friends, co-workers and family of this blog. If you have a Facebook account you view my pictures of the trip on my photos tab if you are a Facebook friend of mine. For those of you viewers who are not a Facebook friend, you can still view my Complete Trip pictures or you can check out my YOUTUBE channel that will have all the videos from the trip. Just look for the videos that begin with "Congaree National Park".


              If anyone has any questions in reference to any information that I have provided related to this trip, please feel free to comment and ask as many questions as you need to know. I can answer any question to which I have experience in to answer related to this trip. In addition, if you have any tips or tricks of the camping, hiking or hammocking trade, please feel free to share them with me. This is the 1st of many monthly trips that I will be taking. So anything that will make my stay more welcoming or comforting will be more than welcomed from the readers of my blog. Hope you enjoyed February's 2011's camping posting. 

              As always, Stay Cool and Stay Outdoors!!!


              I am XtremeKatfishn, and I am OUT the DOORS!!!