Whale Watching on a Semi-Anniversary

Breaching Whale

December is a hectic time of year. In addition to all the Christmas rush there is my birthday and our anniversary. Last December 27 was crazy with family and travel, so we decided to celebrate our anniversary six months later. Little did we know that June 27 would be crazy with family and travel, too, but we decided to go ahead with our plans for a special day.

Neither of us had ever been on a whale watching trip, so we decided that would be our big adventure for the day. This being a week before a major holiday, it was tricky finding reservations. Fortunately, Island Adventures in Anacortes had space, so we booked our trip.

It turns out that this is the same company that I used for my kayaking tour last August when I was here. They followed the same procedures, too. We checked in at their main store, then reported over to the marina where we would board. Continue reading “Whale Watching on a Semi-Anniversary”

Rivers, Valleys, and Peaks

Two Sisters Mountain

It was one of those days that the State of Washington would prefer that no one knows about. I think they would prefer that the rest of the US think that it’s all rainy and gloomy. Otherwise, everyone would rush to move up here.

Granted, it was cold when I first got up – in the 40’s. However, I knew it was going to be a good day when I could see the Olympic Mountains over Anacortes to the southwest and Mount Rainier to the southeast.

Anacortes and the Olympics

We had a lazy morning with a few more chores around the house, then I headed out to do some photography and exploration. I drove to the north end of the island and walked down to the beach on Samish Bay. Mount Baker was starting to peak through the clouds, and the skies were spectacular over Lummi Peak. Continue reading “Rivers, Valleys, and Peaks”

Whiskey, Yard Sales, and Herons

Samish Herons-4

It doesn’t matter how good the flight is, the trip from Greenville to Samish Island is always long and tiring. We awoke at 5:00 am EasternTime to head to the airport for our flight, and eventually got to bed at 9:00 Pacific, which would have been midnight Eastern. And because we are so far north, this time of year it stays light until nearly 10:00, then the sun comes back up at 5:00. When I awoke Saturday morning I was feeling the effects of both latitude and longitude.

Saturday was spent getting Laura’s mom settled back into her house. Her place overlooks the water, and the scenery is always spectacular. It’s tempting to keep taking photos of everything. It didn’t help that her yard was a riot of flowers.

Samish Morning ViewCalifornia PoppiesDaisies

Continue reading “Whiskey, Yard Sales, and Herons”

More Obsessions and New Tools

Chick Springs Springhouse and Gazebo

Photo by Flickr photographer markemark4

I have yet another location-based obsession, possibly even several more. First it was fire towers, then old schools, and lately it’s been ghost towns. You would think I’d have enough abandoned historic stuff to go traipsing about the countryside to photograph and document. But wait! There’s still more!

While visiting Laurens County recently we stopped by Stomp Springs, and this past weekend we found the Shivar Springs bottling cisterns near Shelton in Fairfield County. That got me thinking about mineral springs, and where these might be located.

A 2004 Department of Natural Resources report by H. Lee Mitchell (PDF) gives some of the background of the springs and their locations. The report mentions the historical significance of springs, as well as the development of resorts and bottling facilities. These dot the state, but most are located inland of the Fall Line, as indicated by the map in the report (which I’ve imported into Google Earth as an overlay.)

Mineral Springs GE

Continue reading “More Obsessions and New Tools”

Revisiting Eastern Fairfield County

Blair General Merchandise

A couple of weeks ago Glynda and I had been down to see the parents, and had stopped back by Renno and Stomp Springs. On Friday we had made another trip to Prosperity, and decided we would catch a couple more locations on the way back this time. We passed through some truly remote areas and visited a few towns that could just about qualify as ghost towns.

Back in January we had taken the parents on a right through the southwestern corner of Fairfield County, and along the eastern shore of Lake Monticello. This time we extended that earlier trip, with stops in Jenkinsville and points further north on Highway 215.

Shiloh Methodist Continue reading “Revisiting Eastern Fairfield County”

Geocaching on Lake Marion

Lake Marion Paddling

Another second Saturday, and it was time for another epic paddling trip with Lowcountry Unfiltered. This one was truly epic. This time our explorations took us to the eastern part of Lake Marion to do some geocaching around Persanti Island.

Our launching point was Carolina King Landing, just north of the Santee National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a private landing with cabins for rent, and was quite the happening place when I arrived. It turns out that this was the day for the Sparkleberry Poker Run up at the north end of the lake. Lots of camouflaged boats were getting ready for departure.

Lake Marion Geocaching-2Lake Marion Geocaching-1Lake Marion Geocaching-4

Alan arrived, and we entertained ourselves with Cokes, Moon Pies, and conversation with the proprietors of the local shop. These turned out to be very nice folks, and were very helpful suggesting parking and launch spots for the boats. They also had some interesting taxidermy. Continue reading “Geocaching on Lake Marion”

Ghost Towns of Calhoun County

Lone Star, SC

This past week was the first of our four-day weeks on our summer schedule. That meant that I had Friday off, so I decided to take advantage of it. This was also a Lowcountry Unfiltered paddling weekend, so I decided to head down early and check out a couple of places. My trek led me to some true ghost towns in a very remote part of the state.

Since I hit so many places on this trip I’m abandoning my format for ghost town posts, but may go back and revisit those locations. We’ll have to see how closely I stick to this.

The first part of the trip was the non-descript I-26 trek down to Columbia. As soon as I got past the city, though, I was ready to leave the interstate. I took the Highway 176 exit, which parallels the interstate to the east. This led me to the little community of Sandy Run. I paused to take a few shots of the old red general store building on the side of the highway, now long abandoned. Continue reading “Ghost Towns of Calhoun County”

Renno and Stomp Springs

Renno Store

Last weekend Glynda and I headed down to Prosperity to visit our parents, and on the way back we stopped by a couple of remote places in Laurens County. These spots are places our family has visited long, long ago. Back then they were already abandoned, but there was still lots to see. Today, however, the communities of Stomp Springs and Renno are almost completely gone.

Both Renno and Stomp Springs are part of the Jacks Township. This area was one of the first settled in Laurens County, sometime in the mid 1700’s. Nearby Duncan Creek Presbyterian Church is the oldest in the county.

Our first stop was Stomp Springs. This was one of the old mineral springs resorts popular in the early 1900’s. Folks would come to these springs for the purported healing properties of the water from the springs. The water was even bottled and sold around the state. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to find much on the history of the springs, other than a random reference to acknowledge that it once existed.  There is one brief reference in the 1909 Newberry Observer that a teacher from Bush River had just “returned from vacationing at Stomp Springs.” I also came across a couple of references from bottle collectors seeking the rare bottles from the springs. Continue reading “Renno and Stomp Springs”

Teasers and Spoilers

Got lots to write about, but I’ve been too busy to blog lately. I’m hoping to take today to catch up on several posts. These may seem a bit out of sync as to when they actually occurred, but that’s tough. Anyway, here are a few teasers and spoilers of things to come… Kayaking Took … Continue reading Teasers and Spoilers

GNIS Dilemma

The Geographic Names Information System(GNIS) is one of the greatest boons to those of us who love maps. It’s an extensive database of place names created by the US Geological Survey, and includes cities, towns, communities, crossroads, schools, churches, mountains, rivers, etc,. etc. Basically, any place in the US that has a name is in the database. The database includes coordinates, county, and other basic information about that location.

I’ve used and referenced the GNIS data on this blog many times. The raw data is freely available for download, and I have downloaded just the South Carolina data to create my South Carolina Place Names application. If you’ve ever used a GPS or looked up a location on an online mapping system, you’ve encountered GNIS data. Unfortunately, some companies use this freely available data to flood the web with crappy websites that pollute search results and interfere with the ability to do any meaningful online research about an area.

Here an example…

Yesterday my sister Glynda and I drove through the communities of Stomp Springs and Renno on our way back from visiting our parents in Prosperity. It’s a historical area, and we snapped a few photos and looked at the ruins of the old towns. When I got home I wanted to find more information about the area, so I did a quick Google search for Renno, SC. Here’s the first page of results. You’ll want to click to enlarge…

Renno1.png by RndConnections on Aviary

Most of the pages are for “hometown locators” and various real estate companies. There were even multiple websites for various cable companies. This goes on for multiple search pages – basically a spamming of the Internet based on the GNIS data. Continue reading “GNIS Dilemma”