Pattison on Wheels

Saturday, April 26, 2008

4-26-08: Back To The Grind (And Fun Too)

Bills, bills, bills. And many other gritty details of modern living like fallout from some creep compromising my credit card necessitating it be replaced necessitating that some automatic payments done through that card had to be re-submitted and all the logistics involved in doing it from across the nation: FAX, mailing, emailing, voice phone calls, et al. And some fun in the day too getting to see that some of my photos came out well. It was a question because I usually shoot with a tripod but since I was mostly in the canoe I had to hone my hand-held technique. I was pleased with a lot of them.

Another fun thing was taking some pictures of my middle sister Peg. We had a good time doing it and got a lot of keepers.

Peg and her daughter Silica joined me on a great walk in the half gentrified, half for-lease downtown of Greer SC under huge threatening thunderclouds. Me counting the seconds from lightning to thunder and dividing by five to get the miles distant. The rain dumped just as we got onto the front porch. We had a great meal of my favorite: chick peas and rice.

The blog is almost caught up from eleven days missed. It is a bit onerous to do like that. I just have to get a laptop so I can do the typing daily instead of transcribing from back longhand jottings. OK. Fine. Make me buy another gadget. Heh, heh.

Friday, April 25, 2008

4-25-08: Return To Planet Earth

Up and rolling on wheels again but rather spacey. during the night, planning, I put it together that I now had propane so could cook breakfast here at the state park. When I got up and packed I forgot and drove off without breakfast thinking I would have to eat in a restaurant somewhere as there is no wood gathering allowed at the park. Maybe it’s like a week long meditation retreat: it takes a while to re-enter.

I cruised down the highway feeling good but not quite of this earth. I stopped for fuel and spotted the pump with the green handle indicating to me the diesel fuel pump. While filling up I was watching a long military convoy entering the highway from a dirt road by the station. The drivers seemed to have quite a problem steering them. I speculated on whether military vehicles had very high steering ratios.

About twenty minutes down the road the car started surging a bit and missing so I took the next exit and pulled over to see what was happening. I shut it off and it wouldn’t re-start. I was trying to think what had happened. The only thing new was the fuel. Did it have water in it? I looked at my receipt from the pump and it was for gasoline. It seem BP stations use green as their signature color and don’t care what pump they put it on. (Of course there would have been plenty of other cues had I been more on the planet.)

I had put gasoline in my diesel car! I had a sinking horror that I might have ruined my engine—melted a piston or something. Phone calls revealed that, no, I hadn’t destroyed anything. All the fuel would have to be removed from the tank. I called Triple A and learned that my emergency road service insurance now only covers three (3) miles and the car must be unloaded first. Impossible. So I found a local (Clinton SC) mechanic who could do it and they called their local tow service. I was back on the road in a few hours having spent the time on a bench outside the garage reading, listening to a virtuoso mocking bird on the roof above, and pleasuring in the perfect temperature and soft breeze.

I suffered nothing but a $152 charge including the tow and gained a slightly diminished ego. I got some Chinese veggie take-out on the way to my sister’s house and we had dinner together. Then I started transcribing the hand written journal from the last eleven days and uploading it to the blog.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

4-24-08: Off The River

I awoke refreshed and somewhat amazed at how well I slept. I got on the river before ten but throughout the morning I was aware that alligators are on my mind. All sorts of logs, sticks, and brush suggested alligator shapes.

Thanks to an amazingly ambiguous guidebook I was pretty confused about the best plan. Tentatively I would pull out early at West Side Landing and camp. I got there by two and it was clear that this was a tidal area. It was slack at noon and started ebbing pretty good by two.

Meanwhile I had reached my ride by cel and arranged to be picked up tomorrow afternoon. But I realized I would not have ebb-tide tomorrow until afternoon so I just got back in the canoe and started paddling. The guidebook said Penny Creek Landing was five miles downstream and a mile up Penny creek. It was wrong.

My map showed Penny Creek just two miles down river from West Side Landing. When I got to the mouth of the creek the current coming out was too strong to paddle against. Anyway, I was still too far up river to catch enough of the outgoing afternoon tide to make my appointment. So I just kept going. A serious headwind came up so I hugged the low bank to get a little shelter. This disturbed the many large alligators catching rays in the greenery you see in the photo.. They would spook, hit the water, and scare the hell out of me. One which must have been twelve feet long slapped the water with his tail as he dove. That generated a huge splash and enough adrenaline to power me against the wind for another mile or so.

Beautiful river though very different from the previous hardwood forests. This is open marsh land. No place to camp so I pushed on and got to my take-out landing by 4:30. I called my ride and left a message but took a long walk and prepared to camp here if necessary. The landing, called Willtown Bluff is an old plantation. In the early days the main access was via the river so they built near the water on high ground. There are amazing old live oaks on the shore and still some of the old elitism. Fine looking horses at pasture and tennis courts behind the big houses.

Mickey picked me up around 8 PM and we chatted on the ride back to the Carolina Heritage Outfitters headquarters. I camped in the state park across the river and listened to the coal fired power plant until I put in ear plugs. These plants are apparently the source of the bad news about this beautiful river system. Mercury making the fish toxic. The folks I talked to along the river—all avid fishers—loved the river and hated the mercury but didn’t know what to do about it. We see the problems but the solutions are not so clear.

As for me, I was glad to get a hot shower and lay a weary body down before ten o’clock.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

4-23-08: Me And The Resident Alligator

A good start at 9:30 and I focused on putting on some mileage for a change. It looks on the map as if there may not be much high ground for camping down the way. I did some exploring anyway.

Mostly cloudy with occasional sun. I had a nice tail wind. Still see no one on the river but me. More houses now but seldom see the residents.

I saw the first ospreys today and many more kingfishers along with more kites, and some wood storks.

I was having such a good time I passed up several very attractive camp sites. Finally I pulled into a little pond off the river and saw what I thought was an enormous turtle on a log. I got the camera ready and just as I realized it was an alligator it woke up with a start and hit the water. The photo wasn’t the best but it shows a lot. For one thing how much you don't see when they are in the water. There is a lot of beef under there. Another is the spikes all over the back. Primitive. Click on it for larger sized version.

Later, after I set up my tent and had supper I took the tripod and long lens near the log in case he came back. I heard an outboard start and take off from one of the houses across the river behind the campsite. Soon a white-haired man eased his boat into my little pond. When he saw the canoe he looked around, said hello to me, and shut off the outboard.

We talked a bit. He asked if I got a picture of the alligator that likes to sleep on that log. Yes.

He said he just fed him a 30 pound catfish yesterday. I joked that I would be safe tonight then. But later I remembered reading a warning that you shouldn’t feed the alligators because they will become unafraid and thus have to be destroyed.

I got caught in a little cloudburst while taking photos. It took me a while to get everything covered and my mattress toweled off. When I got squared away and snug in my tent I heard a lot of splashing in the pond. Since it had stopped raining and was still light I went out to see what there was to see.

The old man (he was born the same year as I) had said his little alligator was about six feet long. And there it was, lurking off shore from the canoe. So I got the tripod out again and took photos with three different lenses for maybe an hour until there just wasn’t enough light.

Although the alligator seemed a little more shy of me than I was of him he did keep a presence fairly close and I took it as a territorial statement that he wasn’t going to be leaving his sweet catered pond any time soon. It did occur to me that he was just waiting until dark. When I put away my camera gear I went out and took one more look and he was almost to shore about 50 feet from tent.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

4-22-08: Day Seven On The River

The food bag was untouched in the morning in spite of my concerns about racoons. It took a while to get going. Another long hot shower, drying the tent, packing the gear back down the bluff.

I was drifting on down with a slight tail wind by eleven. The river is mostly wide down here with occasional fast narrows. I explored some gorgeous side swamps. There were several sightings of the endangered swallow tailed kites. Lots of kingfishers on this section. Houses too, near the roads, and then long stretches of big trees and birdsong.

I stopped at a landing which turned out to be called Good Hope. A policeman pulled up to let his drug-sniffing dog have some exercise. We had a good chat about drugs and about the river while the black lab swam and fetched.

Though it was cloudy most of the day and even sprinkled a little it was lovely. Mid-afternoon the sun began to make cameo appearances and I found an exquisite little creek and, after exploring it, camped where it enters the Edisto.

I made a wood fire because it was a good place for it and my propane bottle felt light. I probably made less than ten miles today but my back is sore because of all the side trips many of which were against a current.

I keep trying to plan the trip but why? It all seems to work out rather nicely.

Monday, April 21, 2008

4-21-08: Something Very Powerful

On the river at 9 AM. Earliest yet. Just another fine day. Drifting, paddling, exploring, and sometimes taking pictures. I am flirting with happiness here. This is the longest unbroken pleasant aesthetic experience on this odyssey.

There is something very powerful about doing this. It is opening me to being much more than usual.

Several times I reached a state of perfection—me, everything. This. No analysis. No labels. I, for one, like it that way.

I took a side trip up Four Hole Swamp, a small gorgeous little river with lots of critters. Turtles, alligators, and the constant background music of bird song.

Where the Four Hole Swamp River empties into the Edisto there is a tepee. A kayaker I talked to before the trip told me the man who lives at the tepee is an interesting character. So I looked for him on the way in but didn’t see anyone in the camp though there were several tents besides the tepee.Two canoes and an outboard skiff were tied up below the camp.

So for the two and a half hours I spent on the Four Hole Swamp I was always aware of how this person would regard me. He might like my canoe skill. He might not appreciate my ignorance of the bird calls. Etc.

On the way back down he was about and invite me up so I tied up next to one of his canoes and joined him. He invited me to eat but I declined. We chatted a while. He is 74 years old and has a mile of fabulous river front. He lives about 20 miles away but camps here for the summer . He was sharpening one of several knives that were here and there in the camp. There was a pistol on a nearby stump.

He was just as proud as he could be and claimed to love his life. He wanted to clear some more space and make it available to people on the river for free camping.

I soon went on my way thinking: A) He was not what I had imagined. B) He respected the special place he had. C) He was willing to share. D) He was just another human pride machine.

By the time I got to Givahns Ferry State Park I was tired. The longest paddle and the longest time paddling this day six.

The ranger wasn’t around so I asked a jogger for info. He gave me what I needed so I went back down the bluff to the river to get my tent. When I came back up the ranger pulled up. He checked me in to a site and promised hot showers. The jogger came by my site with more suggestions and told him I was all set. On finding out that I was canoeing he said his friend was a canoer. He suggested I come by his site or his friend could come over here. I said: “Sure, have him stop by.” Within a few minutes his friend came by with dinner for me. Much appreciated as I am tired to the point of paranoia and I was beginning to think this whole state park thing was a mistake. It’s quite a hike from the river to the campground and my gear is not set up for backpacking. It took several trips and I’m a little worried about the food tucked up in the upside down canoe down on the beach and whether the raccoons will tear up the wetproof food bag. Anyway, the gesture of a gift meal and then a long hot shower made me glad I was here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

4-20-08: Conditioned To Fear

Much “self-help” is a critique of the tools of fear like thinking and compulsion. Nothing wrong with them in a fearful situation. But you’ll never get rid of them unless you get rid of the fear. Nor does one want to. Fear stimulates certain kinds of problem solving behavior. But some of our fear is conditioned. Some probably chosen.

These thoughts set me up for a lovely day. The vision of some time sans fear let me experience life with open clarity. This.

Picture me drifting down the beautiful Edisto River. The sun is shining. Elegant little puffy clouds are forming—impossibly white, bright, and pure.

I stopped at Carolina Heritage Outfitters headquarters by Highway 15 and charged my cel phone and camera batteries in my car while I made a quick run to get some cash from an ATM. Just In Case.

Back on the river after the pit stop I was relieved to leave all the noise behind. Probably my longest mileage day thus far at over fifteen miles. I’m told that is average but I like taking my time, exploring, taking pictures, watching the birds, clouds, mind.

Dinner of rice and tuna eaten quickly because of excess mosquitoes. Respite in the tent reading, listening to the barred owls, then the turkeys roosting in the trees above my tent, then the alarm snort of a deer, a whippoorwill.