Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park is in South Carolina near Columbia. It became a National Park in 2003, but has been a National Monument since 1976. It looks and feels like a swamp, but it’s actually a floodplain. It’s the largest area of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in America.  In other words, there are lots of enormous trees.

It’s not a swamp, but it does have some swampy characteristics. In the summer, it’s hot and humid and full of mosquitos. Fortunately, in the fall it’s pretty nice! We had temperatures in the 50s-60s and very few mosquitos. Unfortunately for me, we had huge spiders and snakes.  Brian, of course, was thrilled.

There are no roads through the park, so the best ways to see it are hiking or paddling the Cedar Creek. The creek had too many downed trees from Hurricane Mathew in 2016 to be passable right now, so we did a couple of hikes. The most popular thing to do in the park is walk the 2.5 mile boardwalk loop, so that’s what we did on the first day we visited. It’s a pretty walk though loblolly pines and cypress trees. There are 15 record-holding trees in this park, the largest of their species.

Another day we returned and did the 10 mile River Trail. It was long, but very flat. It was not too challenging, but at times, when a tree was down and the ground was covered in fall leaves, it was easy to lose the trail while going around. Most of the downed trees were huge! The roots are really shallow, so every hurricane or big storm that comes through takes down a few.

I was leading, and walked right up to a wiggly dark branch on the trail, only to back right up when I realized it was a snake! It was probably a black rat snake about 4 or 5 feet long. Even though I squeal when I see a tiny gardener snake, I managed to keep my cool. I guess I learned that my desire for photos outweighs my repulsion of snakes!

The snake was not even as icky as the spiders. We saw at least a dozen huge orb weavers.

A couple miles of the River Trail followed the river, but there were only a few glimpses of river, the forest was too thick to see it the rest of the time, even in fall.

We hustled to make it back before dark, but we didn’t quite. It was a nice long hike through the woods.

We spent over a week camping at Sesquicentennial State Park, near Columbia, South Carolina, about 35 minutes from Congaree. We only visited Congaree two days, so we had plenty of time for other things. One day we made homemade energy bars, which were really delicious for our first try.

When we left Asheville to come to Columbia, we had problems with our power tongue jack. It wouldn’t work at all, and even the manual override wouldn’t work. Brian was able to use the scissor jack from the truck to hitch and unhitch the trailer. We called Husky and they sent us a new one. It seems like water got into it and fried the circuit board. When we got the new jack, Brian installed it and we also got a cover so hopefully this one won’t fry, too. It’s frustrating that after 14 months we are on our third tongue jack!

Day 421| Mile 44,381


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