Laura and I wanted to get out and about this weekend, and we decided we would visit the Congaree National Park. We drove down Friday night so that we could get and early start the next morning. We had a nice dinner in Columbia’s Vista neighborhood, then spent the night in one of the rattiest hotels we’ve ever stayed in.
The next morning we headed on down to the swamp. We had been here only once before, back when it was only a lowly National Monument. To be honest, I don’t remember much about that visit, so I couldn’t really compare the changes since it got promoted to National Park status. There is a nice new visitor’s center, and the boardwalk trail is supposedly new, or at least updated. I loaded up with gear and we headed out on the boardwalk.
We started the opposite direction of a nature walk tour that was just getting underway so that we would have a quieter walk. Even so, a couple of loud groups came blustering by as we were trying to watch birds. We decided to leave the boardwalk and take the Sims Trail, which was less traveled.
Out on the trail, we heard lots and lots of birds, but had difficulty spotting many of them. I certainly wasn’t having any luck photographing them. Laura spotted a barred owl, and I was able to one quick shot as it was flying away from us.
The Sims Trail eventually brought us back to the boardwalk trail. We walked around to Weston Lake and watch the turtles and listened to bird, then decided we would be a bit more adventurous and take the lake trail. This turned out to be a nice, level trail that winds through the swamp, and eventually down to Cedar Creek. The trail was a couple of miles long, so we did quite a bit of walking before we got back to the boardwalk.
Back on the boardwalk, the crowds began to pick up. It was now after lunch, and folks were coming down from Columbia for an afternoon hike. Even with the large number of people, we still heard bird songs. However, they remained elusive. We spotted a few, but still weren’t able to get any good shots.
Eventually we found our way back to the visitor’s center. It had been a long hike – nearly five miles – but we had an enjoyable morning out in the swamp. I still think I prefer Beidler Forest, but this is a good alternative when we don’t want to drive that far. I’d like to bring the kayaks down to paddle Cedar Creek before the water levels drop to the point where it is impassable.
The few pictures that I did take in Congaree Swamp can be see in my Flickr set here.
On the drive home, we took a circuitous route that wound westward, then north. We went through the towns of St. Matthew, North, Perry, Wagner, Monetta, Ridge Springs, Saluda, Coronaca, and Hodges. I would have love to have stopped several times to take pictures of interesting old buildings, but we were trying to make it back before nightfall. At least I know of several more targets for our photo travels.
[tags]Congaree National Park, swamp, photography[/tags]