My, how time flies. Back in 2008 I spotted a couple of guys online on Flickr that posted photos similar to mine. They were planning a trip down the Edisto and invited me to tag along. That turned out to be an epic adventure. Seven years later and we’re still going strong, taking an adventurous trip somewhere the second Saturday of each month. These guys have become some of my closest friends, and it seemed right commemorate this auspicious occasion.
The “Rope Swing” part of the title should be obvious. Our ADD paddlers tend to stop at just about every sandbar, especially if it has a rope swing. As for the “Beer Commercial” part, that comes from various home brewers in our group, most notably James Brown, trying out their wares on our group. It’s not a serious paddling trip – basically a party on the river with kayaks as the mode of transportation.
This year we had some additions to our group. Joining us form the Upstate would be Gregg Davis, art teacher and pop culture expert; Larry Easler, geocacher extraordinaire; and Jeff “Rhino” Bannister, resident carnivore and TV personality. Larry and I have paddled together before. This was a first time for both Gregg and Jeff. Jeff’s son, Reese “Diego” would also be joining us.
Gregg and I met at our Gray Court home place, then headed on down to Clinton to meet up with Jeff, Reese, and Larry. We caravanned down from there to our put in at Mars Old Field Landing. We ran the shuttle and met the rest of our crew at the take out at Messervey Landing. We would be paddling ten miles today.
It was hot, but the water was cool. The river was very low, but was still doable, and there was a good current. We took our group portrait, then got underway. In all, twelve of us were making this adventure. There were five of us from the Upstate, two from the Midlands – Marc and Jerry, and five from the LowCountry – Matt, John, James, Scott, and Sean. We had the state covered. Matt’s beagle, Lucy, joined us for good measure.
After we had gotten underway Gregg paddled up to me and said, “I don’t know why you don’t do this every day.” He had a point. I can’t think of many other ways I’d like to spend my time.
We had one minor incident as Jeff spilled on the first bend. It’s claimed other first timers, so it’s nothing of which to be ashamed. He recovered with no problem, and we continued on.
There were ample chances for the rest of us to get wet, as the best rope swing on the river was just around the next bend. The water was down, but it was still deep enough for a good swing. Several braved the swing, but I did have to break into my first aid kit to treat a couple of rope burns.
Despite the heat, it truly was spectacular out on the river. We paddled along leisurely, making pretty good time. However, these are the ADD paddlers we’re talking about here. We hardly made any headway downstream when a sandbar beckoned. We pulled out a Frisbee, water guns, and moonshine.
This pattern repeated throughout the day. In fact, I seem to have an inordinate number of photos of middle-aged men whose heads are just above water posted to my Flickr stream. Regardless, it was relaxing, and was a blast.
We weren’t alone on the river. Several groups of tubers came by. However, there weren’t the massive bank-to-bank flotillas that we have encountered in the past. I think law enforcement efforts have diminished the wild, massive parties, which is fine with us. These folks were friendly, and we often engaged in good-natured water gun battles as we passed by them. The onslaught from our kayaks was often a welcome relief from the heat. Usually the other groups were armed and fired back.
Lunch time came and the perfect sandbar presented itself. There was no “five minute rule” in effect here. (The five minute rule states that after having stopped for lunch, a much better stopping place will present itself five minutes further down the river.) There were No Trespassing signs above the high water mark, but with the low water we had plenty of sand to enjoy. We had our traditional communion of bratwurst, sauerkraut, and beer. Cigars capped off the repast, with more floating and bobbing heads.
The pattern continued – paddle a few miles, find a sandbar and relax, pass a few tubers, repeat. After awhile, though, the heat was starting to get to us. With the water as low as it was, the limestone marl shelves that line the banks were exposed. This made a perfect landing/diving platform. You could paddle onto the shelf and get out of the boat, then jump into the deep, deep water past the edge of the marl. I took advantage of this to abandon my boat and just float along beside it for a large portion of the river. Some of the group tried to find sharks teeth and other fossils in the marl. However, during the trip just about everyone abandoned boats to float at some point.
Soon we were at the confluence with Four Holes Swamp. Usually on this stretch we paddle up Four Holes for awhile. However, with the water this low, the water was murky and stinky. We decided to stick to the main river.
High marl bluffs on the east bank let us know that we are approaching Givhens Ferry State Park. The other tell was the loud sounds of laughter of families playing the water at the park. At one point a young woman grabbed onto my kayak, asking me to tow her down to her friends. I obliged.
Here the river traffic started to pick up. Rather than float the entire distance from Mars Old Field, lots of floaters take the shorter, three-mile trek from Givhens Ferry down to Mersservy Landing. Just past the Highway 61 Bridge there were lots of folks just out enjoying the river.
Here I had a rather strange encounter. A man and his wife were standing in the river near the banks of their riverfront estate. As the first of our group passed, he asked them, “Didn’t you guys paddle Lake Marion?” They answered in the affirmative. He then asked who had written the article about the Ghost Towns of Lake Marion. Even though we had never met this guy before, he had recognized our group from the photos in my article. I stayed and chatted with him a bit before continuing on down the river. Nice folks.
On this stretch, the floats got a bit more elaborate. There were some huge makeshift rafts. At one point we came up on a bunch of inflatable swans.
Soon enough we did reach Messervy. It was chaotic, but not as bad as I’ve seen it in previous years.
We had paddled ten miles, but it took us nearly eight hours. It was a long, but good day. The new guys seemed to make themselves right at home, and everyone had a great time. I’ll leave with this exchange with friend and fellow explorer Ken Cothran from Facebook…
Ken: You know, this picture is good for the soul. With all the ya-yaing folks are doing these days, and the conflicts, and what-not, here are a group of people setting out on an adventure who look like life can’t get any better. Too cool.
A shame, though, you all couldn’t have shared stories on the way, like the pilgrims to Canterbury in Chaucer’s classic. Then again, maybe better not to go in that direction. What a wonderful scene!
Me: Lots of stories were shared, and the tales got taller with each river mile. We decided that, like Chaucer, we should let these ripen before they are ready to be shared with the world.
Perhaps some would say we are over ripe. Regardless, here’s the album from Flicker: