Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Santee State Park, S.C. Part IV. Paddling Lake Marion.

Click here for the first post in this series.

The weather today at Santee State Park could hardly be better. By late morning the temperature had risen into the mid-70s. With a 5-10 mph breeze from time to time off Lake Marion.

Sunrise Now, how’s that for a morning greeting! Right outside the Mobile Studio’s window! The picture, as usual, hardly does it justice. If you click on the photo and look closely you’ll see the sun rising above a long bridge. That’s where I-95 crosses Lake Marion. Imagine that!

Sorry that you can’t hear the symphony of bird songs in this part of the Park that accompanies the sunrise. Somehow daybreak seems to inspire more species to add their songs to the concert. Wish I could record some for you.

Today is reserved for kayaking. The weather’s perfect. And the forecast is for rain on and off during the rest of the week.

Cypress Bath House So, off I went to one of the heated bath houses in the Cypress Campground for a good hot shower. Ah, this is roughing it! Then back to the Mobile Studio on Site # 87 for a few hours of writing and editing photos.

Soon it was time for lunch here in the Mobile Studio. Almost anything tastes good when grilled outside in surroundings like this. And, according to some authorities, food prepared in the “wild” this way is calorie-free, meaning it can be consumed in any quantity! Or, so I think I’ve heard ….

Boat Ramp With the kayak motor’s fuel tank topped up, and more, it was over to the boat ramp near the Visitors Center. The Lakeview Campground has its own boat ramp. But nobody was around when I stopped by. So I decided to use Park’s more active ramp. Always good to have a few people around when kayaking. Especially in a new place. Especially for ElderKayakers like me.

Fisheagle Rentals Fisheagle Tours rents canoes and kayaks here, and operates their nature tours of Lake Marion from this part of the Park. I was fortunate to meet Tim, owner of Fisheagle Tours, while inflating my kayak in the parking lot.

Tim provided excellent advice for my first paddle of Lake Marion. The ideal thing would have been to take a tour on their huge lake boat beforehand. But they weren’t running today, and there would have been too little time anyway.

PaddleMap Following Tim’s advice, I put in from the Park boat ramp and headed northwest, then into the cove just beyond the Visitors Center. Conditions couldn’t have been better. Just the right combination of sun and breeze to make for comfortable paddling.

Digital image  First, past the Park’s ten wildly popular round cabins on the piers. Fish right off the deck! I personally prefer campsite # 87. But these cabins stay booked throughout the year. Maybe because they’re fully furnished, and even have satellite TV and WiFi! More on the cabins later.

Digital image  The nearby cypress trees along the shore of the lake are remarkable. How can trees grow in such an environment? Let alone, thrive! There’s endless variety in their shapes and sizes.

cypress 2 Here’s some cypress right next to the cabins’ pier. I took the photo earlier from the shore. Think there might be an alligator or two somewhere in there??? Well, everyone says they’re are. But I didn’t see a single one during the whole paddle. Lots of turtles. Some fairly large. Out sunning themselves on logs. But nary a single alligator.

deer tracks Oh, and before I forget it, there were deer tracks all over the shore here. Coming down to drink, right in one of the busiest sections of the Park.

Deer abound in this Park! Last night while grilling dinner outside in the dark, a persistent rustling of the leaves just beyond the campsite caught my attention. It’s always a good idea when camping to know your visitors. So I pointed a light-up-the-world SureFire flashlight toward the sound. There stood seven deer. All does. A couple, quite large. Irked by the bright light, they nonchalantly ambled back into the woods to continue their night forage.

Digital image  Back to the paddle. Conditions remained ideal. Here and there a breeze ruffled the water. But for most of the way the surface of the water was smooth as glass.

The Advanced Elements Expedition, especially with the bow-to-stern backbone installed, paddles effortlessly and tracks well. It’s as stable as one could wish. Ideal for those of us whose Zippety-DooDah White-Water-Running days are long past. It could be tipped over, but it would take a concerted effort. And, I find it easy to maintain a steady 3-knot speed for quite long distances when that’s required.

I paddled the Expedition along, close the shore. Slowing or stopping here and there to enjoy the sight and songs of birds, and to watch the turtles watching me as they sunned themselves on rocks and logs. Then on again, with the whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of the paddle adding a nautical flavor to the scene.

Digital image  I won’t continue to bore you with more photos of these incredible cypress trees. I took a bunch of them during the paddle. Hoping to find evidence of an alligator lurking in one or more of them. No luck! They’re beautiful, though. I’m eager to paddle back out for another look around.

Digital image  Back to the Park boat ramp all too soon. This lake has cypress trees and stumps sticking out of the water from a long shallow bar less than a mile from shore. It’s a great place to see impressive water birds. Their huge nests are visible from the boat ramp.

Lake Marion is known for these outcroppings, and the floating debris they produce. Obstacles for power boaters. But opportunities to view spectacular wildlife for kayakers who provide their own power. If you’re not ready yet to paddle a kayak, then take one of Tim’s Fisheagle Tours. You’ll get to see the area from the comfort of a huge pontoon boat. And with a knowledgeable guide.

I was tempted to paddle out to those cypress trees to view the incredible bird life there. But the hour was late. Better judgment prevailed. So in to the boat ramp with much more left to see.

Anyway, it was almost time for another grilled dinner! Maybe the deer will drop by again tonight and I can get a photo.

Stay tuned for more on this beautiful State Park, and an interview with Park Manager, Nathan Maiwald.

Click here for the next post in this series.

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