Second Saturday of the month, and once again LowCountry Unfiltered is back on the Edisto. This time we did the section from Stokes Bridge down to Mars Old Field Landing. We had done this one once before, so we were covering somewhat familiar ground. This was by far the largest group we’ve had, with fifteen kayaks on the water.
It had rain most of Friday night. Saturday’s forecast called for a 50% chance of rain. I picked up Bob Donnan and we headed south in the early hours of the morning, with fog followed by cloudy skies once the sun came up. The clouds stayed with us for most of the day.
There was a slight delay as Bob and I went to the take-out instead of the put-in, but soon we rendezvoused with the rest of the group and got launched. Before we even got underway we had one spill, the first of three for the day.
Barely half a mile below Stokes bridge we cam to our first delay. The last time we ran this stretch there was an exposed marl shelf where the group earned their moniker, “The ADD Paddlers”, from Alan. Even though the shelf was covered with two feet of water, that didn’t stop them. The group stopped for nearly an hour at the shelf looking for sharks teeth and other fossils. They did have some success.
Bob and I weren’t really into fossil hunting, so we explored further downstream, then came on back. The guys were still hunting fossils, so we pulled out a Frisbee we had found on the river last trip and started tossing it between the kayaks.
Eventually, the group did get underway, albeit at a very leisurely pace. Cigars and homebrew beer were passed around, and at this point I think the only difference between our group and the float bubbas we tend to demean was choice of flotation and slightly better maneuverability. Not that that’s a bad thing.
Speaking of Float Bubbas, we saw none the entire trip. This stretch of the river tends to be more isolated and remote. There are few houses, and most of the land is owned by Westvaco tree farms. We only saw two other groups, and both of those were small groups of kayaks. One of these groups had spoken of downed trees along the way. While there were some trees down, these didn’t block the route. However, I could see them being hazards for inner tubes.
The river was much, much higher than when we did this in August of last year. That mean some of the side channels were also more open. Bob found one little opening through trees that turned out to be an incredible side diversion.
The stream was much narrower, and was overhung with moss and enormous cypress trees. It was a dark, but intriguing pathway, and we felt compelled to keep exploring.
In addition to Bob and myself, only one other boat was visible. I wasn’t sure if the rest of the group had followed, or if they had headed on downstream. I wasn’t too worried, because I knew they would stop somewhere else and we would catch up.
My GPS indicated that we were traveling northeast completely away from the main river. This was no oxbow that would bend back, and if we continued along this route, we wouldn’t reach our destination. So, we turned around and headed back after venturing a half-mile into the swamp. We encountered the others either coming to meet us, or hanging out at the entrance to the swamp. They decided to go ahead and have a floating lunch since they didn’t know how long we would be.
While eating lunch we heard the first rumblings of thunder. It still seemed a ways off, but we finished up our lunch and continued on downriver.
We didn’t get far. Around a bend there was what appeared to be a perfect tree for a rope swing. Although one was not in place, we came prepared. John Ring had brought a rope with a handle. The guys climbed out on the tree, but for whatever reason couldn’t get the swing set up correctly. They found that diving straight into the water, or using an existing vine tended to work better.
Having had limited success with this rope swing, we continued downstream. As usual, I was armed with water guns. By now, so were most of the others. We had a massive water fight with our cannons. Since I was involved, I didn’t take photos, but have to rely on these from John Ring:
It continued to rumble overhead, but that didn’t keep us from stopping on various beaches to relax. Of course, there were more water fights. The Frisbee became a skeet target.
Then, suddenly, it appeared – the perfect rope swing. The veterans of the group declared it to be the second best swing on the river. Almost everyone stopped to try it. That is, almost everyone except those of us concerned with the lightning flashes we were starting to see. Here are more photos from John:
Soon, though, the dark skies did beckon us on down the river. We arrived at Mars Old Field landing nearly 8 hours after setting out from Stokes Bridge – covering about 1 mile an hour. Got got the boats loaded on Brian’s trailer and made it back to the put-in as the storm threatened even more. Bob and I just made it to the Interstate about the time the bottom fell out, and the rains hit.
I keep thinking that with a good current, we should be able to make the entire 21-mile run from Colleton State Park to Givhans Ferry State Park in one day. I may have to attempt that sometime, but it will need to be with a group that isn’t as easily distracted. However, it’s the distractions – the rope swings, the side channels, and the fossils – that make this group what it is, and I wouldn’t change that for anything.