Monday, June 8, 2009

Bushwhacking in Thongs - Landsford Canal and Chester State Park

Landsford Canal State Park
Chester State Park
Saturday, June 6th, 2009
Chester County, SC

“Bushwhacking in Thongs”

Photos are posted here:

My buddy Johnny was planning to lead a kayak trip down the Catawba River to check out the Spider Lilies at Landsford Canal State Park.

This section of river contains the world’s largest known strand of the rare and endangered Rocky Shoal Spider Lilies. I saw some photos that Johnny took last year and decided I had to join him on this trip to check out this impressive wildflower first hand.

Johnny’s truck was out of commission, so I volunteered to drive. I met Johnny at his house, we attached his kayak trailer to my truck, and we drove back to Spartanburg to meet Glara, another member of the group who would be carpooling with us.

From Spartanburg, it is about a 1.5 hour drive to Landsford Canal State Park in Chester County, SC. I know I have driven through Chester County, but I don’t think I have ever stopped to see what the area has to offer. Until Now!

There were (10) of us from the Upstate Hiking and Outdoors Adventure Group that met up at the park with Kayaks ready to go!

Unfortunately, the Catawba River was at flood stage and the park rangers were not allowing anyone out on the river. With all the rain that came down the previous evening, Johnny anticipated that this might be an issue so we had to go with plan B.

Without being on the river, we could not check out the Spider Lilies up close. However, we could at least view them from a distance. The park has a 1.5 mile trail that parallels the river making for a 3.0 mile hike. At about the midway point along the trail there is an overlook area where you can see the Spider Lilies from a distance.

We could definitely make out the thousands of white blooms, but really could not appreciate the beauty from the distance we were at. Plus they were a bit past peak bloom and only the tallest of the plants were actually showing through the high water. It was still an impressive site, but I will definitely have to get back about a week or two earlier in the season and when the river level is low enough to safely run in a Kayak.

The group hiked the entire trail which is interesting enough even without the Spider Lilly attraction. The park is home to the well-preserved remains of the canal system that made the river commercially navigable from 1820 to 1835. The trail is a nice combination of river views and historical remains.

We didn’t bring our Kayaks all this way not to use them, so the second part of our plan B was Chester State Park which offers a 160-acre lake for us to safely paddle around on our Kayaks. Also a nice picnic area offered up the opportunity to enjoy a group lunch.

After Lunch, we launched our Kayaks and hit the lake, paddling to the North-West corner of the lake towards the Spillway. Johnny wanted to check out the Waterfall at the bottom of the spillway, and since I just can’t pass up a waterfall I followed.

Since we didn’t want to take a chance to getting too close to the Spillway, we hit the shore line a few hundred yards away. We headed up the steep bank looking for the trail that runs around the lake. It turns out that the trail doesn’t go all the way around the lake, and there was no trail where we were at.

So bushwhacking it would be! Normally not a problem, but have you ever tried bushwhacking in thongs (aka Flip Flops). I can now say first hand that bushwhacking in thongs is not the way to go!

We eventually made our way to the base of Caney Fork Falls, which was quite a bit more impressive than I was expecting.

While several fishermen that we chatted with on and around the lake were not having a bit of luck, the two guys at the base of the waterfall had found the spot. According to them, the day after a heavy rainfall, the base of Caney Fork Falls is the place to go fishing! They had a nice bucket full of fish to prove it!

We stayed closer to the shoreline on the bushwhack back to the kayaks which proved to be much easier, but still not the place to be wearing thongs.

Once back to our Kayaks we leisurely paddled the entire lake. We saw lots of turtles sunning out on logs along the shoreline and a even a young fawn who posed by the shoreline for most of the group, but decided it was time to head back into the woods as soon as I pulled out my camera.

While the day didn’t go as we had originally planed, we made the best of it and a great time was had by all.

Photos are posted here:

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