This is the one that started it all – the float to inspire all future adventures with the group known collectively, and increasingly misnamed “Lowcountry Unfiltered.” It was time for our annual Edisto River Beer Commercial and Rope Swing Float. This year didn’t let us down. We had quite the adventure, and not quite the one we were expecting.
This is one of our most popular floats, and generates lots of interest. The “rope swing” part of the name is self evident. It’s also how I gave this group the moniker “The ADD Paddlers,” as they tend to get distracted by any viable rope swing.
As for the beer commercial part, it started as James Brown’s various brewing endeavors took off. Back in 2008 he was just a home brewer with some excellent product, and we would serve as guinea pigs for his new beers. Now he owns Salt Marsh Brewing in Bluffton, and his business has started taking off. Now the float has expanded beyond beer, and several of the group have been bringing various libations to share with the group. This year that included appleshine, moonshine-drenched cherries, and even martinis.
The route is from Mars Old Field Landing off of Highway 61 in Colleton County to Messervy Landing, about four miles below Givhens Ferry. Given the nature of this particular trip, it’s more of one long break interspersed with a bit of paddling.
I mentioned that the name “Lowcountry Unfiltered” was getting to be more of a misnomer. Upstate paddlers now just about outnumber the Lowcountry originals, and our adventures now range all over the state. This time we had seven from the Upstate, two from the midlands Columbia area, and three from the Lowcountry – twelve paddlers in all. This year the Geocaching community was well represented, as Larry Easler had brought three other members of the Upstate Geocachers Association with him.
I rode down early Saturday morning with Jim Leavell. The geocaching crowd had gone down the night before and were staying in a cabin at Givhens Ferry. The rest of the group would meet us at the put in.
We arrived and started getting the gear laid out. The water wasn’t as high as sometimes, but was adequate. I did notice lots of downed trees from recent storms. However, while the trees were still down in the water, limbs had been cut to clear a path. We got things ready while the drivers ran the shuttle down to Messervy.
I always bring at least one of my water cannons. While I Walmart this week I’d seen some thin “water pencils” for less than a dollar each. I bought five of them to distribute. They were cheap, and didn’t look like they would hold up for more than a couple of trips, but they put out as much water as my bigger cannons. Larry had the same idea I had, and also showed up with five of them. We were well armed. I, of course, kept my double-barrelled cannon.
We got underway. The current was good, and it looked like we would have a quick trip IF we kept paddling. That wouldn’t happen, though. Our next stop was just around a couple of bends.
Our favorite rope swing was only a few hundred yards down from the put-in. Looking at the damage, I was worried that it would be missing.
The swing was there, but the tree looked like it had suffered damage. The bank under the tree had been undercut, and it looked like it would fall over with the next big storm. The limb to which the rope was tied had broken just beyond the knot. Personally, I didn’t trust it.
Matt, however, did, and was the first to give it a go. We watched and took photos as others braved the swing.
Eventually we got everybody back into boats and continued on down river. Glancing around I had to laugh to myself. In addition to mine, there were three other GoPros to document this grand adventure. That was in addition to the multiple cameras in the rest of the boats.
It wasn’t long before we reached one of our favorite sandbars. It wasn’t time for lunch, but we didn’t care. Since this was the “beer commercial” float, it was time to share the beverages we brought and enjoy soaking in some water.
James has started canning his brew, and had brought several cans to share with the group. The idea was that we would pour some samples into cups so that we would have a taste. One of our group misunderstood the intent, though. He got one of the large cans and guzzled it. James had asked me to get a good photo of the can, but I couldn’t. With the higher alcohol content, I don’t think he felt too good from that point on.
We paddled leisurely to our next stop. Along the way we shot at each other with water cannons and enjoyed the ride. I did spot a bald eagle soaring above, and a white ibis followed us down the river a bit.
We came to another big bend. By this time it was noon, and a good excuse to stop…again. We beached the boats and Matt fired up his stove with the bratwurst and sauerkraut. It was another chance to soak and chat. We also watched other float parties come down the river. Of course, we shot our water cannons at them.
More paddling after lunch. We caught up with one float group and chatted with them and shot them with water guns. It was hot enough that they didn’t mind.
Another sandbar, and, of course we decided to stop.
The float party caught back up with us, and we decided on an ambush. It was all in good fun.
We got back underway. The paddling was relaxing. Matt and James decided to float along beside the boats. It stayed relaxing…for awhile.
A couple of miles above Givhens Ferry we encountered a couple on inner tubes that were in a bad way. They had gotten separated from their group, which I assume was the larger one we had battled. They were mad. Apparently they had been told that the float would only take an hour, and hadn’t brought water or sunscreen. They had been floating for several hours, and were very sunburned. We scrounged around and found them some sunscreen.
We continued along our way and diverted up the Four Holes Swamp channel a bit. By this time our own group had gotten quite strung out. James and Matt were floating beside their kayaks, hanging out with the large float party. John and Marc had paddled far ahead, and I don’t think anyone had seen them for awhile. The rest of the gang was staying fairly close. Albert and Craig were searching for fossils in the marl banks and cliffs that line this stretch of the river.
We didn’t venture far into the swamp, and when we re-emerged onto the river, the couple in trouble had caught up with us. They were still in a bad way. We found more sunscreen and water for them, and I rigged up a tow line. By this time clouds were building and we could hear thunder. In addition, a ferocious headwind was pushing us all back upstream. It was a challenge.
I towed the couple most of the way back to Givhens Ferry State Park. Alan spelled me for the last segment. If we had been thinking rationally, it probably would have been easier for us to split them up and each take one.
The couple was appreciative, but their fury at their friends made them rather unpleasant to be around. I was ready to cut them loose when we got within a reasonable range, but Alan was kinder, and towed them all the way to the park.
As we approached the park we spotted several of our group paddling back upstream. They had been watching the storm build and thought that we wouldn’t be able to make it to Messervey. Having dragged a heavy couple for a long ways, I wasn’t too disappointed.
The Geocaching Crew had family staying with them at Givhens Ferry, so they were able to drive folks down to Messervey to retrieve the vehicles. There they found John and Marc. They had made it safely. All of our group was accounted for. We pretty much dispersed from that point. Jim and I drove Alan back up to the put-in to retrieve his car, then we headed on back. Despite the threatening clouds, wind, thunder, and lightening, the storm never hit us. We didn’t even get rain on the way back.
I was able to add 6.8 miles to my overall total for the year.
Here’s a time-lapse of the entire trip:
The trip started out pleasantly, and ended with a rescue. It lived up to the reputation of our Beer Commercial and Rope Swing Float in that it was certainly memorable. I think a tamer trip might be in order for next month.