Dodging more rain!?!?!

Trip Start Apr 20, 2012
Trip End Sep 01, 2012

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Flag of United States  , North Carolina
Monday, May 14, 2012

After a lovely night's sleep in a king-size bed we woke up to freshly brewed coffee and a complimentary continental breakfast in the hotel lobby. Despite the fact that the bagels and muffins came in individually wrapped plastic, we enjoyed ourselves and did manage to score some travel-sized jams and jellies for the road. We borrowed the Porter's luggage trolley and managed to make it back to our car in one load. The rain started to bucket down once more about 10 seconds before we finished loading the car and, vaulting inside, we headed back to Congaree National Park.
As we drove there, we travelled in and out of the torrential rain, but were fortunate enough to get to the park under one of the only patches of sky that was only lightly spitting.....Heck, there were even the odd patches of light as the sun attempted to pierce the cloud cover. We quickly grabbed the raincoats and started off on the 2.5 mile boardwalk track to get down to the lake. Eli was clearly on a mission as he had heard there was a chance of seeing otters! We cruised through the cypress forest and were struck by the primeval and primitive feel of the place. The exposed roots of the cypress trees that stuck up were very unique and we later found out that they were called 'knees'. Their exact function is unknown but it is thought that they may help the tree to 'breathe' and to anchor them in the wet and muddy ground. 
As we walked, Tim surmised that this sure seemed like good pig country, but he was scoffed at by the rest of the family. As we walked down closer to the lake we heard dogs barking and felt annoyed that someone had ignored the 'NO DOGS' sign and had brought their dogs down to the lake. However, the barking was followed and punctuated by loud squeals. A couple of dogs had caught and proceeded to deal to a wild pig. There was no hunter or human in support and the dogs appeared to be wild and working on their own. We made it to the lake and while we sadly did not see any otters, there was a large collection of turtles off the end of the viewing platform. Probably another exampled of people choosing to feed the wildlife despite signs telling them not to!!!! We finished the walk and made it back to the Visitor Center where we told the ranger on duty about the dogs and the pig. She told us that she went backcountry camping all the time and the thing that most frightened her was the packs of wild dogs that roamed the area.The kids handed in their Junior Ranger workbooks and earned their third badge of the trip!!!!
We left Congaree and headed to Asheville North Carolina, a neat artsy and alternative town on the outskirts of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. More torrential rain and thunderstorms greeted us yet again so we enjoyed walking around the funky little town, the kids bought some books and Tim had his best coffee of the trip so far. We found a great little organic grocery store and booked into another Extended Stay Hotel. Another great find at a very reasonable rate. We had barbecued chicken and couscous for tea and now we are off to bed in order to wake up early and tackle our fourth National Park tomorrow. Bring on some sunshine and more tent time!!!
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