We spent the night in St. George. It was far enough away from the Charleston and coastal areas for us to find a room, but fairly close to our morning destination. The plan was to hit Beidler Forest as soon as it opened at 9:00 and spend as much time as possible there.
We had planned to visit yesterday, but when we checked the calendar on their website we saw that three fifth grade classes were going to be visiting. I’m sure it was going to be a great visit for the kids, but that meant it would probably be too noisy for our tastes.
Laura and I have been coming to watch birds at Beidler for many years now. The 2 mile boardwalk winds through an area of Four Holes Swamp, and one of the main attractions is the bright yellow Prothonotary Warbler. We hoped to spot a few, as well as some other birds on our visit today.
As we pulled into the parking lot a family with teens and pre-teens unloaded. The kids were loud, and we feared the worst. However, as soon as they got on the boardwalk they got quiet. Their parents had told them that if they hoped to spot any wildlife they would have to walk quietly. Even so, we took the boardwalk in the opposite direction so as to maximize our chances of seeing something.
It was still quite windy and chilly, but much sunnier than yesterday. However, that meant that the birds stayed in the treetops in the sunshine, and didn’t venture down to the swamp area that much. We could hear the birds, but it was frustrating that we couldn’t spot them.
We continued along the boardwalk, spotting some interesting bugs and lots of spider webs. We pretty much had it all to ourselves. It wasn’t until we reached the back stretch of the boardwalk that we started to see spots of yellow.
We also saw several yellow-rumped warblers, but I wasn’t able to shoot any.
We continued until we got to Goodson Lake, where we just hung out at the observation tower for awhile. There didn’t seem to be much activity there, but it was a nice rest.
By this time the crowds were starting to pick up, and some were noisier than others. There was a class from The Citadel, and there were several “serious” photographers with long lenses. I use quotes because one loudly complained about not being able to photograph the local barred owl, or one particular woodpecker. Laura and I both thought that if he would just shut up we might see something. I was able to get a photo of the downy woodpecker long before he did.
This last stretch also brought us closer to some reptilian wildlife. There was one bright green lizard, and a large cottonmouth. I thought the snake was dead, but Laura insisted otherwise.
By this time it was well past lunch and we were tired. We headed back to the car and made our departure from Beidler. However, we weren’t done with interesting stops.
As with the trip down, we decided to avoid the interstate as much as possible on the route back. I also asked if we could make a couple of detours. The first place I wanted to visit was the old Indian Field Methodist Camp Meeting, which was in between St. George and Reevesvile.
Nearby Indian Fields Methodist Church was founded in the late 1700’s, and an annual camp meeting was established shortly thereafter. The current camp meeting site was constructed in 1848, with updates and revisions over the intervening years.
A central open air tabernacle is surrounded by a ring of “tents”. These are basically primitive cabins, each with its own outhouse behind.
The tents are private property and most have been passed down through generations of families.
Because they are privately owned, each tent is slightly different. Some look like they have been updated more recently. Even so, accommodations still seem quite primitive.
For some reason Laura didn’t like the vibe from the place. She said it struck her as “cultish.” To me it just seemed historic. However, the new bright green tin roof on the tabernacle seemed a bit out of place with the weathered boards of the tents.
When I saw that our route would take us through Bowman, SC, I knew we would have to make one last stop. I was finally going to get to see the infamous UFO Welcome Center.
Jody Pendarvis started building his UFO in the back yard of his mobile home in 1995. He started charging $1 for tours of the odd building. In 2003 he added an upper structure, and with the rise in popularity, so did the admission prices, reaching a peak of $20 a person by 2005. Roadside America now indicates a $3 per person charge.
We didn’t see if Jody was giving any tours, but just contented ourselves with views from the outside. That was probably for the best, because the structure looks like it’s crumbling. There are sagging sections, and bits of debris ringing the UFO. Right now it doesn’t look very space-worthy.
I don’t know how much longer this thing will stand, but I’m glad we got here in time to see it.
We continued our trek on the back roads of South Carolina, eventually reaching Columbia. From there we hit the interstate and headed on home. It had been an interesting weekend, and we had certainly seen some new things.