Pattison on Wheels

Saturday, April 5, 2008

4-5-08: The King's Road

Up and at ‘em with no real plan for today except to get into a motel and process some of these photos. There is always a tension wondering if I really got something or not. Also I want to go to Congaree National Park but they are first come first serve and it’s Saturday so Sunday gives me a better shot at getting a campsite. As it happened, there was a huge thunderstorm this afternoon and I was glad I wasn't stuck searching for a tent site somewhere.

I stumbled on a little nature walk where highway 17 crosses the Edisto River and took it. Interesting history of the area in the little pamphlet and displays. Rice farming, logging, railroads, two different major roads from Savannah to Charleston (one, called The King's Road predates this nation by a century and went to the then Charles Towne), phospate mining, barge canals, all leaving their traces. Now mostly just nice swamp with flowers starting to bloom and the canopy is closing in with new leaves though still with an early spring green filigree quality. I saw no one else on the trail.

I checked into the motel, sorted through the winners and loser photos, published some bloggish notes, got Chinese food and went to a meeting. A good day.

4-4-08: Searching For Wood Storks

The fog was still lingering on the salt marsh so I took a walk while my oats were simmering.

After some decision problems I chose to stay another day. This gave me a second shot at the storks. I did find the preserve but got quite lost in the swamps. The trails were well marked but let into the water. I wandered around taking beauty shots of the wetlands.

When I tried to pay attention to everything—all—I could feel that my death would be pleasantly informative and not at all ugly. At least not to me. The fog lifted, the hawks called and the butterflies led me back to my car for lunch.

While I was finishing lunch a woman emerged from the woods and I asked if she knew how to get to the storks. She did. We chatted for a while about the state of the planet.

Storks! Wood storks to be precise. As I suspected this is what I misidentified as immature white Ibis on my flickr stream.

I took lots of photos. I observed the nesting action. It was very like the egrets yesterday. And again very deliberate and unhurried. There are alligators aplenty here. I’m beginning to feel more watchful. I’m remembering how to act as a prey animal. I am usually lost in my loud thoughts—blundering through the woods. No wonder everything runs away.

I sat and paced and took photos from a deck at the end of a long boardwalk extending into a large open pond. It was pretty warm out there with no shade. I perspired lightly even when clouds occasionally covered the sun. One small tree that stood in the water about 150 feet away had three stork nests. Many more were in the newly leafing forest around the pond. Most of the water was covered with bright green duckweed. Little chirping sounds came from the surface and sometimes rose in a chorus to a loud cacophony. I never did see the source. Alligators moved slowly here and there.

One of the displays at the park information center mentioned that the wood storks were moving into Georgia and South Carolina because of degraded habitat in Florida. I have to wonder if temperature is a part of that.

Back at the park I took one more walk hoping to catch some sunset on the salt marsh. that makes three long hikes and one short today. It is not bad in this warmth. It doesn’t hurt. I read for an hour and slept soundly.

4-3-08: The Egrets, At Home

I checked out of the motel early and got breakfast in a local waffle house. Not great. I found a campsite at Edisto Island State Park.

The laptop died finally or rather the display died so it is not usable. Hence, longhand. The paper notebook cost $1.08. I'll wait to see what the IRS leaves to spend on a computer.

I took some local trails at the park and checked out the information center down by the beach. They had some aquaria and the crabs seemed to be begging me to let them out. The single attendant had a similar look. There was no one else there.

Were the grey whales asking for help? Are they approaching boats because they are starving as their arctic feeding grounds are warming? I’m remembering the injured pelican at Bahia Concepcion who was begging at the boat and then, later, at the beach.

A ranger told me about a game preserve that had wood storks and I went looking but the GPS guided me elsewhere: Some old plantation being commercialized with tours. It had a walking tour called “Audubon Swamp” which fit my budget at seven dollars.

Lots of nests: great blue heron, anhinga, great egrets. Is this a zoo? The birds are obviously indifferent to the passing humanoids. I felt guilty but I got some great shots. I was especially pleased with a series of a nesting pair who showed lots of great nesting behaviors. Building the nest, delivering the sticks, mating, etc.

What struck me was the peaceful and deliberate way they did it all. There were great long pauses between each activity. Lots of grooming, staring into space, dozing. The male would land on the ground in a quest for new sticks. He would then look around for the exact right one. Then when he got it he would sometimes discard it and start all over again. When delivered, the stick was either passed to the Mrs. or he would insert it himself. Then again there was a lot of standing around, grooming, mutual grooming, staring into space, and naps.

Foggy and beautiful on the road back under the Spanish moss. I made broccoli soup and read and slept.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

4-2-08: Gatorade

Check-out day but I was slow to accept it. It is warm here. The birds are singing unfamiliar songs and the surf is close by. The air is delicious and thick. The salt marshes are beautiful and vast separating the humans by large areas of wild nature.

I did have one mission and that was to return to the visitor center for a chance to see a larger alligator. Oh yeah! Out sunning. I asked the rangers for the right etiquette about approaching from the road. They said I shouldn’t cross the dike there. As I geared up I felt a thrill of fear. I got some good shots including this one where she turned around and headed for a sunny spot near the water. Then I got into some bushes and took some more. A family came by looking for the photo op and I suggested we move the smallest kid forward as bait. We got good shots without such tactics.

I went back to the campsite and packed up. I had a sort of plan to get a motel near Walterboro and get caught up with the Internet without being interrupted by rain. As usual I wandered quite a bit and stumbled on a little side road that said something about wildlife viewing. It was a dirt road and in the three hours I was there I saw only a few other people.

The woods were beautiful just leafing out. The bird calls were something out of a movie. I kept looking around to see who was joking like that. But no. They really mean it. I read a display that talked about hundreds of alligators. They really mean that too. I finally got the creeps taking pictures of one pond that had dozens. I got the feeling they were inching closer and that there were more of them. I drove on to other venues. I had a great time taking photos at a place called Savage Backwater and got quite well devoured by small insects. Savage indeed. They have no respect for deet.

I left as late as allowed and drove toward Charlotte but couldn’t find anything in my budget over there so turned around and drove an hour back and found a nice motel for $35 bucks with great Internet. It’s nice having all the time in the world and a car that gets 40 MPG at the slow speeds allowed around here.

4-1-08: . . . Is A Good Day

After breakfast I packed up everything but the tent and set out to take advantage of more nice weather. I took a walk out into the salt marsh and took pictures of lizards, bees and fiddler crabs. Then I drove to an inlet and watched the osprey hunt for fish.

The visitor center had been closed yesterday when I got there walking so I went again today and read the various nature displays one of which included mention of alligators in the pond outside. I asked the ranger if there had been any sightings lately and she led me outside and pointed out a young alligator about a meter long. I had walked right past it on the walking bridge to the building. Apparently a much larger one had been sunning earlier but was now invisible. I figure any day I can take a picture of an alligator is a good day.

I wandered around and climbed the old lighthouse. From the top I could see rain and hear thunder so I drove into the town of Beaufort for Chinese food. Back at the campsite it soon started to rain and I hunkered down in the tent writing these notes and reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

3-31-08: Back To The Woods

Too much easy living—stasis. I drove to the coast and camped at Hunting Island State Park. The forecast is for rain so I tried to get as much hiking as possible before dark and tramped about the interesting but still wintering woods in search of wildlife. There is a lovely beach here and more leaves on the trees than there were inland. Walking in the woods there were sometimes smells of overwhelming sweetness but no sign of flowers yet. Other places had a rotten smell that seemed as if something had died there a long time ago. Are those little palms what they call palmettos? [Three kinds in the park. The palm trees I mentioned are cabbage palmetto which is the South Carolina state tree, dwarf palmetto, and the shrub-sized saw palmetto.] Squirrels, cardinals, vines, Spanish moss,and tall palms scattered among the pines and hardwoods.

I got crossed up in my hiking plans by miscalculating the tide. There is an inlet that floods at high tide and my intention of hiking back on the beach failed and so I had to turn around and backtrack for several miles. I was getting worried because it was already 6 PM and I had forgotten to use my insect repellent. I did a fast march back to the campsite sweating in the high humidity and still saw no photo ops. I spooked a local species of white tail deer. They don't just have a white tail—it is more like a flag. Just as I came back to the camp area there was a small herd of deer quite unconcerned how close they were to me and I took many shots being pretty well eaten by insects in the mean time.

I made a great dinner of rice and beans and fresh blue corn chips and set up the desktop computer on the picnic table to check out the photos just as it got dark. I had processed a couple photos when it started to rain. I ran around unplugging hard drives and power cords and stashed it all before it got too damp. I took the book I got when I heard it might rain a lot for the next few days and retired to the tent. It stopped raining immediately. Oh well, bed time anyway.

3-30-08: Family Day

Sister Peg and I went to visit her son and his eight month old baby Kiowa. It was a great scene. He and the mom really have fun with the kid. I took photos of them. They are very playful. Some friends stopped over and entertained us for a while then we had a great dinner and the conversation gradually slowed down and we left. Three hours drive later I checked out the baby photos and went to bed under the big down comforter. The nearby passing trains didn’t bother me at all. They seem kind of nice with their various distinctive horn blowing. This from someone who is typically horrified by any night noises and usually wears industrial ear plugs at night. Is something shifting in the sands of my personality?

I had talked with my sister a bit about my commitment when I was 15 to forgo suicide but only with the understanding that I would never forgive life—never again be fooled that it could be good. So I have to large extent never taken life seriously for over 50 years. I have taken the position that it never really works out and the promises are all false. I have mostly ignored risk based on the idea that there was nothing to lose. I fully expected to die before I was 20 . . . then 30 . . . etc. It’s embarrassing to admit that it was a cowardly posture and that there is actually value in life though not necessarily where you want it or are told. Despair’s advocate retires and volunteers as public defender. I was always experimenting and I did a pretty thorough job this time. All that cynicism and misanthropy is ultimately a defection from the only thing we can do: keep trying to make it work. In a word: Maturation.

3-29-08: Nada

The day that wasn’t. Sometimes I put off writing the blog notes so long that I forget what happened. Not much. I think I mostly researched and bought stuff on the web, did income tax, and other uninteresting and non photogenic activities.