Two Days in a Micro Wilderness..or Mosquitos in February

8:06 p.m. on February 8, 2012 (EST)
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It hardly feels like winter, even for coastal South Carolina...but one takes what one can get I suppose.

I live in the coastal plain about 35 miles from the Atlantic coast. Our city is built among many low lying swampy areas. These areas can be small, but very rich in biodiversity.

They do not have breathtaking landscapes, nor are they popular destinations, but they do offer solitude and the opportunity to learn about wetlands.

Last weekend my son Mike, and my nephew Damon and myself packed up and headed into what I call a Micro Wilderness. This area is about 2300 acres of prime wetland habitat with elevated sections of mixed forest.


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My brother Steve was kind enough to give us a ride to the area and to pick us back up.


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Mike was using a blue Kelty Coyote pack and was having to push branches aside here. The trail was a little thick in places and branches had to be tamed long enough to let a hiker pass.


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Damon was using a Lowe Alpine pack and here he walked part of a hiker / biker path that was under construction by a local trail bike club.


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This area is full of old blow downs from hurricanes and storms as is typical of the outer coastal plain region. Really old ones resemble a mound of dirt more than tree roots.

These slowly become homes to many animals from insect larva to larger fur bearing mammals that burrow into the dead tree or the soil mounds left by the decaying root systems.

I am using a newer model Kelty Coyote pack.


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I wish I had stood beside this tree so you could tell how big it was, it was close to 3 feet in diameter. This forest is full of large trees, some of them really old and were spared cutting because it would have been very difficult to get them out in times past.

Lots of large Cypress trees were harvested in colonial times from the region and were floated down the major rivers to the port of Charleston.


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I think this is a Pileated Woodpecker nest. I'm not sure but I saw one of them fly out of this hole. This was about 60 - 70 feet up in a dead pine.


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This was really interesting, the tree had fallen but was not dead although all the branches on the main trunk appeared to be. This solitary large branch shot upward with new growth & foliage.


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We came across lots of intermingled trees all vying for life. It reminded me of the game twister.


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This is what most of the water sources here look like, murky and questionable! We opted for carrying our own water in since we were not going all the way to the section of the swamp with flowing water. The good news is that these holes hold large frogs that are fun to spot.


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Here is a photo of one of the many creeks we crossed that are dry this time of year, even so ground water is abundant just a few feet below.


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This area was very soggy but a short grass seems to grow well here along with Palmettos and some short variety of Cane.


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Some people call this twisted growth "water vine", I'm still not sure what its proper name is. It is a type of woody vine I have been seeing a lot of lately.


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Well we finally make it to camp after a late start in the day.

Damon is using a MH Sprite 1 as a shelter, he opted to leave the fly off since the weather was so clear.


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Mike gets his stuff loaded into the other tent he and I shared, a MH Skyview 2 that I have had for many years. We too opted to go fly-less and to zip open the panels in this convertible tent.

This truly is a two person + gear tent with a huge vestibule, but it is heavy at 8 lbs.  Not bad split between two people for the amount of real estate you get.


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Can you believe huge man eating mosquitoes in February??

I have never had a problem in February until this year, we just haven't had enough freezes to do then in.

We finally decided to combat them with a campfire and that worked.

Here is Damon showing how big the mosquitoes were...you should hear our fish stories!


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This is the aftermath of three hungry guys cooking, the only thing left unconsumed was the burnt stuff in the pans. We had Ribeye steak that was carried in frozen, Santa Fe rice & beans, and sweet tea.




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Well we survived the night with all the huge Cottonmouths, Alligators, creepy crawlies and such. The next morning was bright and sunny. This was the view out of the top of my tent, I just laid in my bag for a while watching the birds fly around. It was great!


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...and then I laid there some more just totally enjoying it.


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Morning means coffee in my camp, so we proceeded to heat some water on the alcohol stove and used it to brew some Eye Opener coffee. I figure if you put a spoon in it and the spoon falls over it ain't strong enough yet.


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Someone goes for the big cup every time, then they run in circles for a while.


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Here is a frontal shot of the Skyview with the doors and roof zipped back.


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While gathering firewood the night before we found this piece of tree branch with some type of stringy orange Fungus.

I'm calling it Orange Rot until I can look it up. Anyone know what this is?


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Here is my brother Steve and his daughter Haley who hiked out to meet us while we were breaking camp to head home.

My brother and I have run around these woods since we were kids having lived a while in the nearby neighborhoods.

We also got lost in this same area when we were teenagers and had to spend the night out with little more than jackets and a lighter. We had walked in on a long narrow ridge surrounded by swamp and couldn't find our way back before dark.


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All good things must end I guess, here we are on the short hike back to the truck, warm meals, hot showers, and talk of another trip.

On the next trip I am going deeper into the swamp and get some photos of the various animals and unique plants that grow in these areas. There are some large Pitcher plants, Palmettos, Virgin Cypress (if I can find them) as well as Aligators, Turtles, Salamanders, Large Cottonmouth snakes, Osprey's, Owls, etc.

I hope that will make for a more interesting trip report.

Thanks for checking out my trip!

Mike G.

8:30 p.m. on February 8, 2012 (EST)
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Overnighters like that can be really enjoyable, especially when taking some family. 

It is pretty crazy that there are mosquitoes out. The winter has been quite warm and disappointing up here as well. 

Back when I was around 20, I took a trip down to Florida and spent a week with a family friend who was a sculptor. While I was there I went for a short hike back into the Everglades from the access point in the middle of Alligator Alley. It was a really dry summer, everything was positively crispy. I went far enough back in that I did see one 7ft alligator and a group of three tiny Glades Deer. Seeing those beautiful miniature ungulates was the highlight my short hike!

9:48 p.m. on February 8, 2012 (EST)
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Nice report and pics trout, THANX!

Looks like a great overniter. Sometimes I like those best, it makes it real easy to bring things like Ribeye's!

Good food with family and friends in the outdoors just cant be beat. No matter how near or far from home you are.

7:21 a.m. on February 9, 2012 (EST)
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Great report Mike, thanks for sharing this.

Those are some really neat looking trees.

Mosquitoes !!???? not yet...!!!!

 

Those "looking out the tent" shots are just awesome and really evocative to me. I never sleep as well anywhere (even home) as I do when out in the woods. One of my most favorite feelings in the world is to wake up so close to nature like that.

BTW, that Skyview is one cool tent.

9:11 a.m. on February 9, 2012 (EST)
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Nice trip report, I like the shot out of your tent in the morning with the tree above.

10:23 a.m. on February 9, 2012 (EST)
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Mike,

 

Regarding your coffee brewing method: is that a regular coffee filter rubber banded around the cup or some kind of fabric?

10:35 a.m. on February 9, 2012 (EST)
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My brother just got a cool pour-over cone coffee maker for Christmas. It is from MSR, and is made out of silicon that collapses down flat. So cool. 


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7:14 p.m. on February 9, 2012 (EST)
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Gonzan,

I would love to do a trip in the Everglades at some point, I have slowly developed an interest in wetlands / swamps etc. but my first love will probably always be the mountains.  7 foot gators are cool to spot and according to what I read can be more dangerous than the larger older ones. I did get to see a cool black Salamander but it was too quick for me to get a photo of.

We have lots of smallish Ungulates here but I have yet to spot any. That is a cool looking coffee brewer, this just sits on top of the cup right?

azrhino,

It was a fun trip with family, not technically challenging in any way, but a memory building and seed sowing trip. I learn many things even on trips like these. The ribeyes were very good, they were pan seared and cooked on coals.

Patman,

I hope to get some photos of the larger old trees, but I have to find them and that may take a few more trips. I always sleep better and longer out in the wilderness, I think it might be a stress thing, or should I say the lack of it! I have always enjoyed laying and watching birds, or climbing up a ridge early in the morning and just observing the early morning activity as the sun comes up.

We brewed coffee with just a paper filter and a rubber band on top of a cup, I'm still primitive I'm afraid, haha. Bandannas work too but I would like to get a good stainless mesh filter to start taking. I also have a very light  percolator but the bulk and single purpose aspect makes it hard for me to justify.

Gary Palmer,

The photo out of the top of the tent was my favorite, I tried to rotate the photo but it messed the photo quality up so I left it alone. I love tents with mesh in the top for just that reason, I love to roll the fly back and stargaze, or watch the early morning bird activity. If you stay in the tent and remain quiet you get to see a lot more it seems.

Thanks guys,

Mike G.

11:04 a.m. on February 10, 2012 (EST)
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Yes, my Mtn Hardwear tent is all no-see-um netting from just above the floor and over the entire top. I often set it up without the rainfly when its not going to rain. I like the view from the inside out. Interestingly from a distance the bug netting is dark enough for someone in the daytime not to see in clearly. I love watching a full moon especially as it rises over the tent at different periods during the night as I wake to look.

8:20 p.m. on February 25, 2012 (EST)
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i should have waited a couple of weeks to read trip reports, now its killing me to be in dodging weather. trouthunter, do y'all have gophers there? not the rat the tortise. down here in fla no matter how cold it gets over night you can go to a gopher hole after sunrise and the skeeters will be hoverin in the warm air drafting up out of the hole just waiting for the temp to rise so they can go feed. most of my exploring has been in river bottoms so your pics looked like home, i figure all the bushwakin and wading water is the price we pay for lack of elevation and heavy duty cold , the lack of cold is appreciated but i sure wish we could lower the humidity a might. swamps around here are easy to get turned around in and there is rarely anything to reference to because even in fall you can rarely see anything over 20 or 30 yards, i never had to spend the night but i had a couple of nights when i was gettin settled when i heard a horn blow, God bless her, the baby's momma had come a huntin me and guided me out by the sound of the car horn, and that is why you always let somone know the area you will be in.

great report TH.

 

smithcreek

10:37 p.m. on February 25, 2012 (EST)
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smithcreek,

I'm not sure if we have Gopher Tortoise in my area or not, I haven't seen one. The Gopher Tortoise is listed as an endangered species in South Carolina, there is even a Gopher Tortoise Heritage Reserve in Aiken SC to protect their habitat.

You are right about the terrain making it hard to distinguish one area from another, it all looks the same unless there is some type of unique land form or body of water. Very little elevation change & consistent terrain can be challenging huh?

Keen observation on the mosquitoes, they will find a way to survive if possible won't they!

I hope you get a break in the weather and can get out.

Mike G.

11:03 p.m. on February 25, 2012 (EST)
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there endangered here as well, where i work we have a wildlife management program with D.O.I. advisors and we just had one excavated by backhoe and relocated to a habitat on our property to allow for some expansion. i rarely have involvement with it but i was invited to the yearly reporting work shop last year and it was pretty interesting. we have some conflict with coyotes, fox and geese so they are getting pretty pro active now. our latest like most of the deep south is feral hogs. we had a black bear try to climb over the fence about a year ago but when a vehicle approached it decided to retreat. we have put up a ten foot chain link fence with a three foot concrete footer and yet they come.

earl

July 28, 2014
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