Columbia SC and Transit to Jacksonville

Today’s post starts with a Pro Tip™. Always make sure that the restaurant you were planning on visiting is open on the day you’re planning to visit.

We were stopping by Columbia SC for 3 reasons…first to visit our friends Bill and Linda, second to visit Congaree National Park, and third to visit Hites BBQ. We (Connie) found this place in a magazine article and it’s supposed to be one of the top BBQ places in SC…so naturally we wanted to eat there. We arrived late Friday afternoon after a 300 mile travel day…and I gotta tell you that I-40 east of Knoxville and then I-26 through NC has to be the steepest and most curvy interstate highway we’ve ever been on…and we’ve been on a lot of them including out west and Alaska. 40 is just hilly…but 26 curves through a mountain pass for probably 40 miles and has many curves marked at 40mph as the safe speed. It wasn’t dangerous…but instead of an easy 300 mile freeway day…driving on freeways is normally pretty mindless and doesn’t require intense concentration on the road…that 100 miles was really more concentration-required-wise like driving on a narrow 2 lane country road with no shoulders and ditches on both sides. Neil was really exhausted by the time we arrived…so we decided not to eat out and just have leftovers instead. Saturday we were out the door early for the 110 mile drive over to Bill and Linda’s house…after a great steak dinner…and naturally a little working on Bill’s New Horizons…we got back home about 2100 and hit the sack. Sunday afternoon we had a nice nap as we had gotten up really early both Friday and S Saturday. Monday we headed over to Congaree National Park…this was established as a National Swamp Monument back in 1976 and upgraded to Park status in 2003. We watched the movie at the visitor center…excellent as with most Park Service movies) then did the 2.5 mile boardwalk through the park…which is essentially a coastal lowland hardwood bottomland that floods completely for 3-4 months per year.

After our hike we looked up Hites…and were all set to go there for dinner…until we found out that it’s a part time only place and is only open Friday and Saturday for takeout only. Bummer…we were really looking forward to some good BBQ.

As an alternate…we decided to try Maurice’s Piggie Pork BBQ…a local chain. Looking at Yelp…the reviews ranged from “outstanding, best BBQ ever” to “why would you want to eat here, the owners are racist and the food is terrible’. We decided to give it a try anyway as the only other place with good reviews was like 30 miles away on the other side of the city of Columbia so more like 45 miles to drive there and skip downtown. We went into Maurices (a take out only location but the food comes from the main restaurant on the other side of town). We got a couple of takeout dinners…chicken for Connie and brisket for Neil…and headed home to eat. Long story short…Maurices has terrible BBQ and don’t eat there.

Congaree National Park has 26,000 acres and is the last remaining large stand of old growth Loblolly Pine trees. These used to blanket pretty much the entire southeast coastal area and are one of the largest pine trees…with the largest one measured at over 160 feet tall and a base diameter of about 6 feet. The park sits at the junction of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers and was originally owned by a lumberman named Francis Biedler. Logging in the area turned out to be pretty much impossible due to the soft terrain and frequent flooding so it was never heavily harvested. Before the Civil War it was a prime hiding place for runaway slaves who lived here in small communities to escape slave trackers. The park is filled with what the locals named guts and sloughs. During high water season (5 or so months each year) guts fill first and create small ponds or lakes in the park. Sloughs fill and become creeks, creeks flow rear round, and when water reaches it’s maximum depth the entire park is pretty much flooded creating a wide, very slow moving fresh water river very similar to the Everglades. Large stands of Cypress and Tupelo trees dominate most of the forest with the Loblolly Pines on the higher ground…although higher in this case means maybe a foot or two, not anything significant. 

The ground next to the boardwalk. It’s a mix of clay and decayed vegetation and is about 8 feet thick. It’s known as Dorovan Muck and filters the water to keep the floodplain healthy. Most normal people…well, we just call it dirt.

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 Looking down the boardwalk…it was actually very greenish under there due I guess to the leaves overhead…so I left the photo colors uncorrected.

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A couple of spiderwebs across the way…and a shot of just the spider who was right over the boardwalk. Not sure if it’s the same type of spider in both shots…but the webs were very similar in size, shape, and attachment technique…and only about 30 yards apart so since they were in the same micro-habitat and since spiderwebs are generally species specific they’re probably the same.

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Cypress knees…these are thought to be part of the root support structure…there are 10s of thousands of these throughout the park but they’re concentrated at particular elevations. Go another 50 yards down the boardwalk and let the elevation get a foot higher or lower and the Cypress trees and knees just stop to be taken over by Tupelo trees or Loblolly Pines.

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A Cypress tree with a large hole in the side…growing sideways from the base…along with a close up of the hole area. Neil thought it was a neat looking tree.

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Wild turkey…a group of 5 or 6 of these crossed the boardwalk about 50 yards in front of us. This was the best shot I got…didn’t have the bird lens on the camera and the light was really low.

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Connie standing by the base of a Loblolly Pine…pretty good size tree, huh? The next photo is a vertical shot of the same tree…Loblolly Pines only have branches at the very top and generate a two tiered canopy in coastal lowland forests…Loblolly’s at the top, Cypress/Tupelo in the middle and Palmetto at the bottom. I thought I had a shot of the Scrub Palmetto…the state tree of SC…but apparently not so you’ll just have to take my word for it that they were there.

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Wildlife was sort of scarce on this hike…so I tossed in this lizard Neil found at the visitor center…it’s about a foot long.

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We stayed at Weston Lake Recreation Area which is part of Fort Jackson Army base in Columbia in site 17…great site, nice concrete pad and pretty easy in and out. Two problems with this Fam Camp though. First…water pressure is really terrible, only about 25 psi. That one would have been easy to work around but since we only had 4 nights we didn’t bother to just fill the tank and use our water pump instead. Second problem was power…although it seemed pretty good we had this strange transient in the campground Sunday night when power went out and back on. Normally our inverter picks up the load off of our batteries but in this particular case whatever it was caused the inverter to reboot which made our DirectTV receiver reboot on loss of power…first time that’s ever happened in 4 years. Everything came back, fridge, A/C, etc and all seemed good until Monday morning. We had something else happen early on then…some sort of transient that while not rebooting our inverter did make our microwave come up with an EEPROM error on the screen which wouldn’t clear. Neil was going to troubleshoot that when we got to Jacksonville…until he found out we had no power to our Bigfoot jacks…so he spent an hour troubleshooting that and trying to figure out why we had no 12v power. Battery was fine, our inverter indicated it was charging, no blown fuses. He ended up opening and shutting our 12v circuit breakers again and completely powering down our inverter and then everything came back up including the microwave. Problem solved…but he has no idea what was up with it. Anyway…because of the power and water issues we probably wouldn’t stay at Weston Lake again.

After completing our electrical fix we were hitched up and on the road by about 0930 Tuesday morning and arrived in a hot, hazy, and humid Jacksonville area 315 miles later. We checked into the park and were given a choice of 6 back in sites…there were 6 or 7 of the waterfront pull through sites empty. Neil asked about those and all are booked for Friday and Saturday nights. The lady in the office told us we could have one of them but would have to move Friday and back into it on Sunday…since one of the pull throughs is on the second row we decided to pass. We’ll still have views out to the water until Friday and then again starting Sunday when the weekenders move out…and we have a couple of palm trees to shade us during the morning and the rig to shade us during the afternoon/evening from ursine 26. Neil got utilities hooked up and we sat under the palm trees for a couple of hours before a well deserve shower and dinner…which was leftover grilled Italian chicken from over the weekend mixed with a package of Zatarain Caribbean Rice. Neil tossed in a little extra cilantro and a quarter cup of cream to make the rice creamy rather than drier…so it ended up more the texture of risotto instead of rice…and it was quite excellent.

Site 26

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Looking from our doorway out to the water…almost exactly towards where the shot above was taken from.

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Connie relaxin’ with a frosty adult beverage.

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Our plans for our time here in Jacksonville are…sit in the shade, drink beer, eat at the local Irish pub, eat at the local seafood place, and eat at the Chief’s Club here on base. Other than that…we’re doing nothing.

Connie was originally going to officially retire from her part time job with NVCC at the end of the year when she’s eligible for Social Security. She got an email from her boss a couple of weeks back that had all sorts of hours limitations for the transition period to the new person taking over…she was unhappy about the treatment she was getting as she got close to leaving…and when she combined that with her ongoing frustration with trying to work while she has her eye issue she decided to go ahead and leave early and will be leaving as of Aug 31…so she’ll be officially retired as of then.

Connie’s working this morning…and we’re mostly doing nothing for the next 8 days before we head out on the last leg of this year’s travel season…although depending on how the eye thing goes we might go ahead and head back up to our previously last scheduled stop at the Low Key Hideway in Cedar Key the last 10 days of October.

Interesting things on the net this week.

Not a political statement…just an acknowledgement of what might happen if liberals achieve all of their goals.

The British Are Coming

Laziness level…expert.

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The Gestcher Belvedere Hotel halfway up a mountain pass in Switzerland. This would be a neat place to stay someday…but not in winter unless it’s not snowing and the road has been plowed.

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Cyas.

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About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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