Return to Church Island

Paddle to Church Island with the Tri-County Blueways Paddlers-061

Several weeks ago I received a Facebook friend request from Deb Mims. Deb and I had never met, but she had read several of my posts here. I’m usually very cautious when I get a request like this out of the blue. However, Deb had some interesting things going on, so I accepted. I’m glad I did, as it led to an excellent kayaking trip and the potential for more exploration. Continue reading “Return to Church Island”

Exploring the Old Santee Canal – Part Three, Moncks Corner to Santee

Pineville Chapel

So far I’d had a great day out exploring. I had an interesting visit at the Old Santee Canal Park, and the next day I’d be paddling part of the canal from Lake Moultrie. Now, however, the afternoon sun was sinking and I had to get to my night’s lodgings. Along that route I found some more cool bits of history. Continue reading “Exploring the Old Santee Canal – Part Three, Moncks Corner to Santee”

Mid-Week in Sparkleberry

The Cathedral-1

Last week Dwight sent me a message asking if I’d be up for a mid-week paddle. Laura would be out of town with family, so I thought it would be a great chance to head down to one of my favorite paddling venues, Sparkleberry Swamp.

The sky was a bit overcast and there was a chance of thunderstorms for the afternoon, but it looked to be a good day of paddling. Laura had an early flight that morning, so I dropped her off at the airport and headed on down to rendezvous with Dwight and his son Adam. Continue reading “Mid-Week in Sparkleberry”

A Bridge to Nowhere

Sparkleberry Swamp Altered
Sparkleberry Swamp

Somehow I found myself taking one last course for certification this summer. I’m taking one of the PBS Teacherline courses online. The course is on Dynamic Media and Digital Storytelling, a subject with which I’m already quite familiar. However, I just needed the course credit.

The course itself is been…so, so. There’s been more time spent on “Educationese” and gobbledy-goop catch phrases that I used to detest, than on actual digital storytelling.

Even so, I did manage to put together a decent (in my opinion) project. My digital story was entitled “A Bridge to Nowhere”, and it’s a summary of a previous blog post about the controversial Briggs-DeLaine-Pearson Connector, a proposed bridge from Lone Star to Rimini across Lake Marion.

The 12 minute video summarizes the history of the Santee Cooper area, and briefly touches on the controversy. I used photographs I’d taken from several paddling trips to lakes Marion and Moultrie, coupled with GoPro video. I filled in with a few maps, newspaper clippings, and historic shots to complete the video. Continue reading “A Bridge to Nowhere”

Lone Star Barbecue, Mercantile, and Ghost Town

Lone Star, South Carolina
Lone Star, South Carolina

We have a tradition of looking for a good barbecue place after our paddling trips. This was no different. Our target for this outing was Lone Star Barbecue and Mercantile. However, this was a two-fer – lots of good food and a chance to explore one of South Carolina’s ghost towns.

Lone Star, the Ghost Town

It started with a bit of miscommunication. The rest of the guys had never been to the town of Lone Star, and thought that the barbecue place was in the town proper. So, once we loaded up the boats, they set off, with me following, toward the town. What they found was the ghost town that I knew. All that is left of Lone Star is the old freight depot, moved from its original location, the large brick Masonic building, and two dilapidated stores. Across the tracks was a small convenience store that may or may not have been open. No barbecue anywhere in sight.

Lone Star Freight Depot
Lone Star

Continue reading “Lone Star Barbecue, Mercantile, and Ghost Town”

From Swamp to River to Lake to Creek

LCU on Lake Marion-071

This year’s weird weather has wreaked havoc with our normal paddling schedule. The second Saturday of July was supposed to be our infamous Beer Commercial paddle on the Edisto River, AKA the Rope Swing Extravaganza, AKA “Hey, Ya’ll! Watch this!” Yet, even the daredevil nature of Lowcountry Unfiltered had to bend to the forces of nature, as the Edisto swelled from its banks with the excess rain. On our way back from Florida we stopped by the put-in, and found it completely flooded.

Flooded Edisto - Mars Old Field
Flooded Edisto – Mars Old Field

The situation did not improve over the week, so come second Saturday we decided to postpone the trip for a week to see if matters improved. They did not. So, with water levels cresting at nearly 14 feet, 4 feet over flood stage, we needed to find a new paddling venue. It seemed that a lake might be better than a river, so we looked to our favorite location, Lake Marion. Continue reading “From Swamp to River to Lake to Creek”

Black Friday Paddling at Low Falls Landing

Low Falls Lake Panorama3 Redynamix

I really despise the term “Black Friday” in reference to the day after Thanksgiving. The thought of battling crowds just to save a few bucks seems silly to me, so I like just about ANYTHING other than shopping. A paddling trip seemed in order, so Alan agreed to meet me at Low Falls Landing on Lake Marion. So, while others were getting up at 4:30 to head to Walmart, I was getting up at the same time for the 3 hour drive down to Calhoun County.

When I arrived at Low Falls I found a parking lot just about as crowded as one at any mall. Every boat trailer place was taken, and boat trailers lined the approach road to the landing. I managed to find a “car only” slot. The boat ramps themselves were in constant motion with duck hunters arriving from their daybreak hunt, and fishermen heading out for the day.

Crowded Parking LotLow Falls Landing-2

Alan arrived shortly and was able to find another car only space. We unloaded the boats and opted to launch from a beach area next to the boat ramps, rather than try to compete with the boat traffic. Continue reading “Black Friday Paddling at Low Falls Landing”

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”

Sparkleberry Swamp

Sparkleberry Channel

I had been wanting to paddle Sparkleberry Swamp for quite awhile, but always seemed to miss opportunities. I had a solo trip planned for a couple of months ago, but had to cancel when my cat suddenly got ill. I did Jocassee instead. Another trip was planned for a month later, but we canceled because one of our paddlers got ill (we did Jocassee instead.) Several of the Greenville group were staying over after the Pinopolis Lock paddle and heading up on Sunday to paddle Sparkleberry, and this time it didn’t look like anyone was going to get ill, and we were nowhere near Jocassee, so I finally got my chance.

Sparkleberry Swamp, also known as Rimini Swamp, isn’t a natural swamp. It was formed when Lake Marion was created and the forests of the upper Santee River were flooded. Its boundaries are nebulous, depending on water levels and who you ask. Even though it’s not a natural swamp, it has all the characteristics of one. If you picture in your mind what a southern swamp is supposed to be, it probably looks a lot like Sparkleberry.

I spent the night in the town of Santee in a dumpy little motel that deserves its own blog post. Maybe, after therapy, I’ll write that one up. Our group met at the local Bojangles for breakfast, then crossed Lake Marion on I-95, then headed north along the east shore.

This part of the state is about as desolate as it gets. It’s on the lower edge of the Carolina sand hill region, so pine forests and sandy soil are the norm until you reach the actual swamp. We passed through the towns of Summerton and Rimini, which I didn’t even know existed.

When we got to Sparkleberry Landing it was already sweltering. The water was high, and even at the landing the scenery was fantastic. We unloaded the boats and were soon underway.

One of our group of seven had been to the swamp several times before, and served as our guide. It was a good thing. I would have followed the more open channels either north or south, and would have missed the real path through a narrow stand of trees. I was glad I had a functioning GPS and spare batteries. Continue reading “Sparkleberry Swamp”