Conagree via Charleston

Trip Start Feb 15, 2010
Trip End Feb 14, 2011

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Where I stayed
Wal-Mart (Charleston, SC)

Flag of United States  , South Carolina
Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I woke up early this morning, partly because it's getting quite a bit colder at night again as I move north and partly because I had a boat to catch.  I made sure to get over to the National Park Service Ft. Sumter Visitor's Center to catch the first boat over to the Fort.  The boat ride also encompassed a narrated tour of the Charleston harbor area.  Once at the fort we looked up to see six flags being flown overhead.  I was one of the only people that recognized them all (thanks to my Civil War crash course from Ms. Nayumi Young of Knoxville, TN).  Flying up above were the current U.S. flag, Major Anderson's Union National Flag, the Confederate National Flag, the South Carolina State Flag, the Confederate Battle Flag, and the Union Battle Flag.  Once inside the fort we listened to a history of the fort given by a very knowledgeable park ranger, and we learned about how the fort withstood relentless battering from artillery from both Confederate and Union forces at different points during the Civil War.  The fort was also modified and built up for possible use during World War II; although, the fort's walls were never rebuilt to their original 55 foot height.  We were then free to roam for about 40 minutes before we had to board the boat for our return trip.  The grounds held the remainder of the original fort walls which were five feet thick and constructed of slave manufactured bricks (rifled parrot gun shells could still be found embedded in the walls), a number of cannons that were excavated from the fort's ruins, and a small museum that explained more of the fort's long history of service.

After the boat trip back, I drove west to Conagree Swamp National Park.  It is one of the youngest national parks in the system, and it's primarily comprised of an old growth hardwood forest and cypress tree swamp.  Through its history it has held many state and national champion trees, and is known for having one of the highest forest canopies in the country.  I set out on one of the trails that made about a 4 mile loop.  The first and last stretches met up with a separate boardwalk trail (ground level on the swamp side and four feet raised in the woods), while a wilderness trail (often muddy or flooded) made up the rest of my trek.  It was easy to see what a constant job maintenance on the boardwalk would be.  Numerous times I observed stretches of boardwalk with lumber that was markedly newer than the surrounding boards.  There never failed to be a large freshly fallen tree directly underneath this newly constructed portion.  I never did have to trudge directly through the water, as there was always another way around for the observant and sure-footed.  The sheer volume of fallen trees in the park was more than I had ever seen.  Apparently past storms had done quite a number on the park and I'm sure the wet loose soil doesn't do much for the trees when high winds arrive.  I didn't see anything more than a few dozen fox squirrels, but there was the constant knocking of woodpeckers resonating through the woods, often followed by a few low hoots from the native owls.  The other-worldly scenery and amazing acoustics were what really got me about the place.  It was possible to hear other groups of hikers remarkably well through the trees.  Given the relative lack of underbrush and the high canopies, sound is free to just bounce around between the trees.  I kept wondering what a string quartet would sound like out there.  Hauntingly beautiful, I'm sure, like the owls. 

After leaving Conagree, I drove a little bit further west to Columbia, SC where I started searching for dinner.  I had a craving for Indian food, but after discovering two of the locations my GPS found were closed (one with a Sheriff's notice on the door) I decided to switch regions and go for Mexican.  My next stop was to a nearby Flying J, and I was up until about 4am working on photos and catching up on this blog and other e-mails.  Around 1:20 I called the local police department to report four gunshots that I had heard a few minutes earlier.  They were all fired quickly and evenly right after one another and sounded like they were about two blocks away.  It sounded like the shots were all from one handgun, but having lived in places where occasional gunfire is a part of the normal audio scape, I didn't get particularly worried.  At first, I figured someone else would probably have called the police already; then I realized they probably all thought the same thing, so I went ahead and called.

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