This is the weekend from which I was returning when Hal had his crise near Columbia. Beautiful place and very much needed head-clearing despite Sunday's car stress which almost undid all Santee's benefits (on the other hand I'd hate to see what a mess I would have been getting back home had I not had all that camping/nature decompression prior to the car/rental/towage hullabaloo!)
Sign at the edge of our camp :) No, I saw no gators, tho the others saw two during their outing; no one saw any close to camp, which would have been a little less fun.
Everyone else went Friday evening. I didn't want to drive down in the dark so left the next morning and got there Saturday noon. Most of you will not be surprised I was happy it worked out that way - some added solitude in which to chill the first few hours and enjoy the place on my own. I set up my tent and got straightened away and went for a walk along the lakeshore. Found a great log to sit on a while and journal, then decided to go hiking. The park has two small trails of about 1.5 miles each that had looked interesting on the map: Limestone Trail and Sinkhole Pond Trail.
A finger of Lake Marion - just after I saw a heron - wonderfully peaceful mini-hike on the Limestone Trail.
I got lost about 25 minutes after taking this pic, as in, no blazes or real trail to be seen any longer so hiked the firebreak a while til it turned the wrong direction from the one I knew I should head in. This all made the day a little less soothing, but I hiked off-trail another 20 minutes or so and got thru to the road, a bit down from the trailhead where Hal was waiting. Honestly I didn't think I'd been daydreaming too badly - glad to hear later that the others (two of which are enormously experienced, Janice and her son Sean, who is actually a ranger at Congaree National Park) had got lost on the same trail during their day's treks. Sunday morning we all got lost on another trail. In short, Santee really needs some volunteer trail help!
The group. It is about 42ºF here. I worked up a sweat breaking camp - glad for my new convertible pants! I am sorry not to have remembered to take a pic of camp before tents came down. It was a great campsite tho.
It got down to 28ºF in the night according to Sean's weather gizmo. I surprised myself by not being very cold - we kept Janice's fire stoked quite well all Sat. eve. sitting around thru dinner and repeated hot chocolates and conversation, and a good part of the morning Sunday with our coffee and post-breakfast chatting.
Sleeping later, I was even warmer! In the tent, I had my normal sleeping bag which I think is about a 35º-certified, with my low temp liner inside. I usually wear at least 3 layers to bed when camping in the cold but Janice and Sean swore to me as we were campfiring Saturday night that if you have a good bag setup you should wear the least possible inside it so that the bag can reflect your own warmth back on you like it's designed to do. If you're wearing too much, your warmth can't get thru your clothes and into the bag. Well I didn't go with the least possible but at least stripped down to my Capilenes top & bottom and kept my socks on (another no-no apparently but I can't remember the last time I went to bed w/o socks between Oct-Apr, seriously, camping or no :) and they were completely right! I was warm within 5 minutes of getting into the sleeping bag. And at 4h30 when I went to tinkle and truly froze myself all the way thru in the space of the 2 minutes or so that that took, I gritted my teeth, re-stripped and again was warm in the bag within just a few minutes. I've never been that warm ever when camping in cold weather, seriously.