Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The I'on Swamp Trail

Winter is the time to hike in coastal South Carolina and take advantage of the lack of biting insects, snakes, alligators, and humidity.  We've been trying to get out and explore some new trails.  

The I'on Swamp Trail in the Francis Marion National Foresr is a 2-mile walk on rice dikes built by slave labor in the 1700s.  Ditches and embankments formed a system to control water to grow rice.  The same ditches and dikes formed the main transportation system for the coastal plantations.  Wagons could travel the dikes; boats could pass through the canals like this one.

The tannin-stained black water creates mirror-like double images.

Did you see the part about the mules wearing rawhide boots to work in the rice fields?  No such luxuries for the slaves; they worked barefoot!

A nice spot for a rest

The type of boat used on the rice canals.

The trail follows the inland ricefields of Clayfield and Witheywood Plantations, owned by Colonel Jacob I'on.

Plenty of good fishing for this Belted Kingfisher

We enjoyed our lunch at a restaurant along the Black River with this sign for the restrooms.

I hope it makes you laugh, too!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The School Bus Boat

Sandy Island is a 9000-acre island of sand dunes in the Pee Dee and Waccamaw Rivers, at the center of what were once the most extensive and profitable rice fields in South Carolina.  A freed slave purchased part of Sandy after the Civil War and a community of freemen and their families began their new lives at one end.  Today 120 descendants of the original Gullah remain there. The rest of the island is a nature preserve and the island is accessible only by water.

The island originally had its own school, built in 1932 by a benefactor, but it has been closed for many years.   So, the school children take a boat to Pawleys Island to get an education.  The boat that served as the school boat for over 50 years was old and had no access for the handicapped, lacked safety features, and leaked diesel fumes that made the kids sick.
Two years ago, the state provided a brand new customized boat with six benches for passengers, a handicap ramp, four heaters, new life jackets, windows, an emergency exit, and a 90-horsepower motor -- none of which the old boat had.  
The other boats in the photo above are transportation for commuters who leave an old car parked at the landing for the rest of their trip to work on the mainland.  

The New Prince Washington cost $120,000.

How would you like this "highway" for your morning commute?

There is no public ferry for the adults on the island. If they don't have a boat of their own, they catch a ride in to Pawleys with a fisherman or boat-owning friend to get to work or appointments.  For the return trip, they sit here to wait until someone with a boat comes along and offers them a ride.  
While it looks like it could be bus shelter in a city, it's at the end of a long, deserted road through the woods with nothing else for miles around, near where we saw the bobcat a few weeks ago.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

What's for Lunch?

"Lady of the Waters", John James Audobon called it, but now this beauty, over two feet tall,  has a much more mundane name: Tri-Colored Heron.  

We watched one fishing in the marsh at the entrance to Huntington Beach State Park.  

#     #     #

What will 'today's catch' on the menu be? 

 A frog?  Snail?  Worm?  Lizard?


Today's catch is a nice fresh fish.  

Fried, grilled, or blackened?


Sushi style!

Flip it around head first, and down the craw it goes!

See those lumps in his neck?  That's the fish making its way down that long pipe to his stomach.  

A Willet saw the heron's success and dropped in to try his hand, er, beak, at getting some lunch himself.  We expected the much bigger heron to chase the smaller bird away, but here's what happened.

The heron ignored the little guy and the two were fishing away right next to each other when we left to get some lunch for ourselves at Capt. John's Seafood in Pawleys Island.  By the way, Capt. John's 'today's catch' was halibut and it was outstanding!  

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The January Beach

I have been so preoccupied with my new camera lens, all I want to do is get out and take pictures.  It helps that this is a fantastic time of year to find birds as they are generally the big ones and they are all out there fishing.  
This squadron of brown pelicans passed right over our heads.
We could see their eyes and feel their wingbeats, they were so close.

The January beach is just as busy as the summer beach.  It's only the humans that are mostly missing.  

This thing was new to me and I had no idea what it was when we came across it washed up in the surf.  It was bigger than three of my fists, cold, and firm but rubbery when poked.  The underside looked just like the top.  

We looked it up.  It's Sea Pork!  

"There is no creature more peculiar than that rubbery red, pink, or gray blob known as sea pork.  It is in fact a condominium of microscopic zooid animals living together in a leathery tunic of cellulose.  Less than 1/8 inch long, each zooid works with its neighbors to pump streams of water and decayed plants into its sock-like body."     -- from Tideland Treasures

The pork attaches itself to rocks at the bottom of the sea where it is dined upon by sharks, skates, and other big bottom-feeding fish. 

Often the only footprints on the beach belong to the shorebirds, forming delicate patterns too pretty to mess up.


Some of these tracks may belong to willets which are common year around.  They are the biggest "sandpipers" on the Carolina beach at 15 inches tall.  They have a unique call which you hear when they take off because you have intruded on their feeding while walking the beach.  "Bill Willy, Bill Willy," they scold as they wheel away toward an empty patch down the beach.  

Earlier in the week when we went for our cold and windy morning walk we encountered several groups of people with big spotting scopes, tripods, and long camera lenses walking purposefully up the beach.  In the paper the next day we found out they were whale watching!  About 30 miles north a pod of humpback whales had been seen migrating south to the Caribbean to calf and these folks were hoping they would pass by. They were skunked.  The pod has not been seen again.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Say Cheese!

I got a telephoto lens for Christmas, something I've wanted for years.  It's a refurbished Canon lens with a guarantee and cost less than a quarter of what a new one does.  

It came in the mail yesterday and we took it out for a spin this morning at Huntington Beach State Park.

It was windy and hard to hold the camera and I have a lot to learn, but I'll share  few of my first photos.

Brown pelicans and a herring gull

Pelican landing

Great blue heron, tri-colored heron, snowy egret hunkered down in the wind

Flock of hooded mergansers, great blue heron, brown pelican

As you can see, I have lots of room for learning and improvement. I'm so excited at all the new photography this lens will open to me.  

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Pinball Wizards

Pinball Wizard - "The Who"
"Ever since I was a young boy,
I've played the silver ball.
From Soho down to Brighton
I must have played them all.
But I ain't seen nothing like him
In any amusement hall
That deaf dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pin ball!"

Pinball --
popular during the 
Great Depression (7 balls for a penny), outlawed in many places by the 1940s as a time-waster and form of gambling, 
back on the scene in the '70s with modern updates and improvements, and run out of town again in the '80s
by video games like 
Pac-Man and Hopper.

In the 1940s and '50s, the old machines were said to be supporting the mafia in New York City and were confiscated, and smashed.
We visited some of the ones that survived in the Pinball Museum in Asheville, NC, where for a mere $15 entry fee you can play them all day!  

From the left : Cherry Bell, 1978; Nip It, the game Fonzie played at Al's Diner on "happy Days", 1972; Sky Kings, sky diving theme, 1972.

From the right: Humpty Dumpty, 1947, first machine to add flippers; Select-a-Card, 1950, ("Adults Only" because of its artwork); Yacht Club, 1953; Air Aces, 1975,first to use drop targets; Captain Fantastic, 1976.

Funland, 1968, carnival theme - "Step Right Up and Win a Prize".  Buccaneer, 1976.

There are over 75 playable machines in the Asheville Pinball museum and some older ones just to admire.  In the summer there is a line because they only let in 75 people at a time.  You can check in and go have an ice cream cone or coffee and they'll call you when it's your turn.  If you don't want to play, it's free to look around and admire the lights and artwork.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Cold Nose, Warm Heart

We are having a weather "event" today, an ice and snowstorm.  Pretty unusual for South Carolina.  Everything in town is closed and schools have already been cancelled for tomorrow, too.
Southerners have no experience driving on ice and snow and there are no snow plows or salt and sanding trucks to send out either.  The Sheriff's Department is begging people to stay off the roads as there are so many accidents.
The fountain outside our coffee shop was barely squeezing water out of the top yesterday.  I love the look on the alligator's face below in the pool. "Wouldja get a load of this?" he seems to be saying.

Bob the Border Collie had never seen snow before today.  She balked at stepping out in it, hugged the house to do her business and hurried right back in the door. 

It reminds me of Minnesota, school cancelled for students AND teachers, that luxurious feeling of a stolen day.  The bird feeders are busy with birds to watch.  I have a good book (The Land Breakers by John Ehle), knitting to finish, and plenty of tea.  

Too bad we ate all the Christmas cookies!

Monday, January 1, 2018

A New Year's Wish

Happy New Year!

We wish you health and happiness, love and laughter ...

Peace and Plenty, all year long.

Paul & Cynthia