CONGAREE NATIONAL PARK
Congaree was our first official National Park while on this trip. Most people don't know about Congaree, and I understand why. It is a tiny spec of a park in the eastern part of South Carolina, only encompassing about 26,000 acres of land. It is one of those parks that isn't necessarily a big tourist or recreation destination, but it is preserved because it is a one of a kind American landscape that is worth protecting.
This small park is a large old growth low-land hardwood forest, one of the largest forests of it's kind, with the largest broad leaf hardwoods in the world. It sounds incredible, and it is on a specific scale, but to the common visitor in the dry season, it is understandable why this park is somewhat underwhelming.
I hate to admit it, but after hiking most of the park, Eric and I both agreed, it was a bit lack-luster. Not that it isn't something to be preserved, again it is a part of the American Southeastern landscape, but I think it is a place best visited in a specific season. And with a kayak. We both agreed that Kayak camping would be awesome out here, as most of the park can only be traveled by non-motorized boat.
We did enjoy the variety of the southern flora, however, and it had awesome birding! We finally got a shot of a Piliated Woodpecker close up, which I have been after for a while (Eric is always making fun of my grandma-centric interests.)
One of the days we hiked the River Trail out to the Congaree River, “the life blood of the swamp,” and well, it was a wide flat river. On our way back we saw a wild hog and two piglets, which was a first for both of us.
We camped in Longleaf campground (site #10) and really enjoyed our time at camp, when it wasn't freezing. It has been so freaking cold. We are prepared for a few nights around 15 degrees on the east coast, but are most comfortable around 45 at night. It has been in the low 30's with constant wind, so it makes it difficult to want to hang out at camp. We also were surprised how much it sucked to carry our gear out to the site, which was a walk in rather than a car campground. Eric is now pushing for a little wagon for these situations....and he'll probably win that piece of gear after carrying a full cooler over mud for a quarter of a mile.
When it was comfortable, we started the best camp tradition to come from this trip yet; Listening to audio books together in the hammock. Particularly, we have started listening to LeVar Burton Reads, a podcast of LeVar Burton reading some of his favorite short stories (Reading Rainbow for adults) and it is incredibly relaxing. A glass of wine helps, too. I hope to carry on this tradition even when we stop traveling.
All and all, Congaree was worth visiting, but we both agree we wouldn't seek it out for a repeat visit. If we happen to be in the Southeast with a kayak and some time to kill, maybe, but I have to accept that some parks will be a one and done.
8/10 would visit again (if driving through South Carolina anyway.)
Song: LeVar Burton Reads Episode 1 - Podcast