Quick Trip to Donnelley and Beidler

Alligator B&W
Alligator at Donnelley Wildlife Management Area

I did it. I pulled the trigger on a new super zoom telephoto lens for my camera. I have a very old Celestron C90 telescope that I can use with my camera and a T-Mount. The magnification is amazing, but it’s almost impossible to focus properly, and I have to put my camera in full manual mode. That makes it difficult to use for wildlife photography.

Nikon D50 attached to Celestron C-90

About this time last year I had rented a Tamron 200-500mm lens and we made a rainy trek down to the ACE Basin and Beidler Forest. Even though it rained most of our trip, I got some great shots that weekend, and enjoyed using the longer lens. I started saving my pennies so that I could get one.

I didn’t get the Tamron, but found a Sigma 150-500 that I liked that also had image stabilization. It arrived last week.

New lens - Sigma 150-500mm

Since it was the start of Laura’s spring break, we decided it was time for another Lowcountry birding trek to get the new lens a trial run. We repeated our trip almost exactly except without the rain, visiting the Donnelley Wildlife Management Area in the ACE Basin on Monday and the Francis Beidler Forest on Tuesday. Continue reading “Quick Trip to Donnelley and Beidler”

Paddling to Columbia

Alan at Shoals

I’ve always been intrigued by the Broad River, especially the stretch starting at the Peak trestle. It looks like it would be a great paddling venue, but unfortunately public access points are few and far between. The next access point downstream from Peak is Harbison State Forest, near Columbia. Alan wanted to do a trip for Memorial Day weekend, and it looked like the perfect opportunity to hit this stretch. It turned out to be the longest single-day trip I’ve every attempted, but it was another great day on the water.

The SC Trails website describes the Peak to Harbison stretch as a 22-mile paddle. This site lists the put-in about a mile upstream at the Highway 213 bridge. The route also describes paddling down to the I-20 bridge, then back up for some reason. I had been down to the 213 put-in, and it was a very rough drive down, and a difficult launch. The new access point at the trestle seemed much better, and would shorten the trip a bit.

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Even so, I knew it would be a challenge. However, I was hoping that a strong current would make it easier than if we were doing a flatwater trip of the same distance. All the same, I wanted to get an early start. In addition to Alan, my brother Houston and his two friends Steve and Jeannie Boyette would be joining us. The plan was to meet at the put-in at 8:30 am, run the shuttle, and get on the water by 10:00. Continue reading “Paddling to Columbia”

Sparkleberry Perfection

Sparkleberry Landing Panorama

A second Saturday in May, and time for another Lowcountry Unfiltered trip. This time our group was heading back to Sparkleberry Swamp, and we had perfect weather and water levels for it. Unfortunately, because there was perfect weather, many of our group had other places to be. So, only four brave souls ventured further into the swamp than we’ve ever been. It was a nearly perfect day in the swamp. (Have I said the word “perfect” enough?)

Lowcountry Unfiltered at Sparkleberry Swamp

I got up early Saturday morning and made the drive down to the Sparkleberry Landing put-in. Initially I had the place to myself, with only a few boat trailers. As I unloaded the boats I brought, a couple of guys came up to me and asked about kayaking. Continue reading “Sparkleberry Perfection”

Old Dorchester and ACE Basin

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I’ve been able to take off on a few excursions over the last couple of months, but Laura really hasn’t had a chance to get away. With her mom in Florida, and since we had at least one day in common for this spring break, we decided to escape down to the Charleston area. However, we weren’t interested in the city itself, but the outlying areas to do a bit of bird watching. Our goal for the first day was the ACE Basin, and Beidler Forest for the second day.

Driving no the interstate was pure madness. It seems that everyone was out for a weekend away. We decided to get off of the interstate and explore some of the side roads. Laura’s comment was that “South Carolina is much prettier once you get off the interstate.”

We drove into Orangeburg, then headed south. On Highway 61 we saw a sign for the community of Sixty-Six. I’d never heard of it before, so we decided to check it out. It was an old railroad community that didn’t turn out to be much. I may have to do some further research. We did drive through Branchville, which has “the oldest railroad junction in the world.” Laura wasn’t sure about that claim, though, so I filled her in on the history of “The Best Friend” of Charleston, one of the first railroads in the US. Continue reading “Old Dorchester and ACE Basin”

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.

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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”

ACE Basin

Donelley House

Our visit to Beidler Forest only took up half of the day, and we were ready to see more wildlife. Therefore, we cut across the country down toward the ACE Basin and the Donnelley Wildlife Management Area. Donnelley is only one small section of the ACE Basin. To the east is the Ernest Hollings National Wildlife Refuge. However, we prefer Donnelly because it’s a bit easier access, and it tends to be a bit quieter.

We entered from Bennett’s Point Road and immediately got turned around. We were taking a different direction, but eventually wound up where we wanted – at the old farm house that serves as a landmark for the rice field hiking trails.

Continue reading “ACE Basin”

Holiday Update

It’s hard to believe that it’s already Christmas Eve. The year has been a busy one, and it seems like it has flown past. So this Christmas Eve we find ourselves doing some last-minute wrapping, tracking Santa on NORAD, and watching Ghost Hunters and the Dragnet Christmas Story on Hulu.com. So a quick update that … Continue reading Holiday Update