Getting here was a bit of an adventure on its own. We felt the aftermath of Hurricane Florence which devastated some parts of North and South Carolina as we navigated the road closures, etc. to get from Virginia Beach to Congaree (located near Columbia SC). We were able to make a stop at the JC Roulston Arboretum in Raleigh NC. It was a great highlight and amazing stop full of inspiration.
We had planned on staying at a state park, but discovered all the parks were closed due to Florence. We tried unsuccessfully to contact some private campgrounds so ended up Wal-docking that evening in Aberdeen NC. Then, while on a two-lane bridge in Cheraw SC we lost our bike rack from the back of the trailer – demolishing my bike and damaging Nick’s. Luckily, we had already removed the kids bikes from the rack and added ratchet straps, attaching the rack to the frame in two other points. Because of this, when the rack failed, we were able to drag all pieces slowly to a safe place to pull over and didn’t cause damage to anyone else or their vehicles. We made a plan to detour to Duluth GA after Congaree NP to stay with friends, work on bike storage 3.0 and drop the remanence of Nick’s bike off for us to fix after the trip.
We made our way to Columbia and stayed at Sesquicentennial State Park. We settled in and set out for a day of hiking through Congaree the next day. The park is very cool – with miles of boardwalk trails through the old growth bottom lands. We viewed Cypress knees, Palmettos, past Champion trees and remnants of old river beds now cut off into small lakes. In one of the lakes we spotted an alligator and tons of turtles. The park’s Mosquito-Meter had read moderate the day we hiked. If that was moderate, I would be afraid of anything greater! We were swarmed by a gazillion mosquito. We were told if you were moving they were not as bad, which was true. We were prepared and suited up, but if I stopped to take a photo my hand was covered! I have never experienced such before.
Even with the craziness of the mosquitos I am so glad this old growth bottom land was preserved and these ancient Champion trees protected to give example as to what used to exist in all river bottom land throughout the south. It is the last of its kind. The visitors center had some of the best info-graphic displays and was really fun to explore. The kids were troopers and truly earned their JR Ranger badges at this park.
Sesquicentennial State Park campground ranks up in our favorites – possibly because the kids had the entire splash pad to themselves. They played and played in the water and had so much fun. This was well deserved and such a treat after the swarming of mosquito at Congaree. We took advantage of Trader Joe’s in Columbia, stocking up on some favorites before taking our detour to Duluth. On the way, at a fuel stop we noticed we had a flat tire. Luckily we were stopped, and their was a tire shop less than a mile away. So Nick put the spare on and we made our way to Powderville Tire and Wheel were they replaced the valve stem so quickly for us!
We had a great stay in Duluth including ice skating (I mean – it has been like 20 years since I had been on skates!!), botanical gardens, good eats and brews and much, much more fun. We were able to get the other 3 valve stems replaced and stock up for our upcoming tent camping trip to Cumberland Island National Seashore and get bike storage 3.0 purchased and installed. Thanks so much to our friends the Wheats for their hospitality!