Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Congaree National Park

 Our second stop in our road trip of the south was Congaree National Park! This was Mike & I’s 8th National Park together (there are 59 total) and we were excited to spend time here. This park is located just 35 minutes outside of South Carolina’s capital, Columbia. Despite its easy access, I don’t think we saw more than a dozen people on the trail the first day we were there. We had originally planned on spending the night in a hotel in Columbia, but ended up opting for one of the park’s walk-in campsites. At only $10 per night for the site, it was our cheapest night of the trip! The campground is primitive, and I should note there was no running water (although there is water at the visitor’s center about 1 mile down the road), only two vault toilets, and the sites are walk-in (meaning there’s a good 2-4 minute walk to get to the sites). The campground was beautiful, quiet, and clean. We had a great time and loved our visit!  

We loved this little campsite! Perfect for a quick one-night stay. 

Congaree has a 2.4 mile boardwalk trail that loops through groves of  Cypress trees and then closer to the Congaree River. The park is in fact not a swamp, but a floodplain. When the river swells, it spills over in to the park. It makes for a very unique ecosystem and landscape.  

 Cypress "knees" pop out of the ground - they make a good spot for a snack too I suppose! I thought they looked fun and whimsical. 
The wildlife in Congaree was great! We saw various species of birds, snakes, lizards, turtles, raccoons, and even a Barred Owl!  

 A highlight of the visit was watching a Barred Owl hunt in the forest! We watched him fly around the trees for almost forty-five minutes before we moved on.

 We could hear the drumming of woodpeckers throughout our walk, but only got one glance of this Pileated Woodpecker. 


 The next morning we got up early to do a longer hike around the lake and down to the river. However, our plans were soon thwarted.. 

 The park rangers had warned us of rising waters, but it was incredible to see how far up it had come overnight. The day before we could have walked this path, less than 16 hours later it was covered in water! Sadly that cancelled our plans for a longer hike, so we enjoyed walking part of the boardwalk a second time. 
 We walked over this about 15 hours before. Two girls braved the water and said it was up to their knees!

We really enjoyed our quick stop in Congaree and hope to get back one day. Our only regret was not being able to kayak or canoe on the river - next time we'll bring the boats. If you're ever in Columbia, it's definitely worth a drive out!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Weekend in Hershey

 For one of our wedding gifts, dear friends of ours gave us a gift certificate to go to Family Life's "A Weekend to Remember". It's a retreat for couples of any age designed to help strength your marriage. We decided to go a little early on Friday and do a few activities in the area before it began. If you know me, you know I often choose outdoor things.. but it was February and cold, so we toured Troeg's Brewery! 

 We got to sample a couple of different types of grains.

Grains wasn't the only thing we sampled (although let's be real, Mike drank 90% of this haha). The tour was about an hour, included three different "samples", and we each got a souvenir glass! Not bad for $5/person. 
 They have a sweet cafe & dining area, so we enjoyed an order of Poutine (not very authentic, but still good).

 Most of Saturday was spent inside while snow fell outdoors. The next morning I woke Mike up for sunrise (bless him) and it was so pretty!

 After the retreat was over on Sunday, we spent a few hours exploring the Hershey Gardens. Although there wasn't much to see outside (although the snow was pretty), the indoor butterfly garden was pretty incredible!

   All in all, Hershey was a lovely place for a quick weekend away for the two of us. It was nice because it was close and we really enjoyed the marriage retreat. 
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