Having learned my lesson, the next trip was only a couple of hours to Barnyard RV Park in between Lafayette and Columbia, South Carolina on Wednesday, October 8. Barnyard RV Park is directly behind Barnyard Flea Market on US 1. This is a huge flea market that is open on the weekends, which gives us something to do in a couple of days and did block most of the noise from the highway. The RV Park itself is one of the cheapest we have stayed in, but it was still a nice park. We had a pull-through site that was easy to get and out of with a duck pond (read that as drainage collection from the flea market) with a few ducks. Each site had a cement patio and picnic table, so it was a good value. It was amazing that this park filled up every night with large RVs parked along the road in the park that did have water and electric hookups and it would be less than half full by noon the next day, except over the weekend when it stayed full. I expect a number of the RVs that stayed a single night were snow birds heading south for the winter, although one individual we talked to was from Florida heading to the Smokies for the fall colors. For $180 a week I would stay there again.
On Thursday, it was time to take in the National Parks in the area, which was Congaree National Park. This is a the largest remaining hardwood bottomland forest of old-growth trees. It contains a number of national and state champion size trees, including loblolly pine and bald cypress. I had been to the Congaree in the mid-90s looking at Neil Pederson’s research locations where he was studying loblolly pine regeneration following Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Not only has the Congaree been upgraded from a National Monument to a National Park, but the Visitor Center had changed a lot. Even though the National Park is over 26,000 acres, only a small part is easily accessible by foot. There are a couple of trails that leave from the Visitor Center, the most popular being a 2.4 mile trail on a raised boardwalk. Kal and I went on this hike prior to lunch and it is certainly the longest walk we have taken on a boardwalk!! About a fourth of the boardwalk was closed due to damage from an ice storm last winter, but you could still reach an overlook of Weston Lake, an ox-bow lake. We either did not see any of their champion trees, or they did not have any signs for them, but we did see some VERY big hardwood and loblolly pine trees. I strongly recommend everyone experience an old growth forest that has never been logged and the Congaree is an excellent example of a hardwood bottomland forest. October is a great time to visit the Congaree as the mosquito population was low, the weather was cool, and the forest was beautiful. We also took about a 2 mile hike through their upland loblolly pine forest. I was glad to see that the National Park Service have now come to the conclusion that fire is a natural part of the ecosystem and have initiated prescribed fires to mimic nature as close as they can. The upland forest had been burned about two years ago and even though they killed a number of trees in one area, it is starting to look more like the savannah conditions you would expect in a natural forest.
We had two goals on Friday. First, we wanted to do something a little different so we decided to check out the South Carolina State Museum in downtown Columbia. Second, we were excited to see Landon Donovan’s final game with the US Soccer Team in their game against Ecuador. When we looked at the State Museum on the web it appeared to be a large museum covering 4 floors with the option to see a show in the Planetarium, take in a 4D show, or a program about dinosaurs. Neither of us had been to a planetarium in years and we were both interested in viewing the night sky. Our first impression from outside the museum was not very impressive, since the building was old with a planetarium attached to the side. There is a good reason for the old structure, since this is he old Columbia Mills Building which is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings. When it opened in 1894, it was the first textile mill that was totally electric being the first industrial installation of General Electric using electric generators that were the largest at the time. The textile mill produced cotton duck cloth continuously through World War II, providing jobs and housing for workers throughout the Great Depression. Once we stepped inside we realized we had underestimated the size of the museum, it is the largest museum in the southeast! It has 4 large floors full of exhibits in four disciplines: art, cultural history, science, and technology. Many of the exhibits are interactive for young visitors, especially the natural history on the first floor. After seeing exhibits of the different ecosystems in South Carolina we took in the program at the Planetarium. We were hoping for a program about the sights in the night sky and we did get about 10 minutes of this. Most of the program was a short movie about the history of the telescope. This was kind of neat because I had never seen a movie shot using a camera designed for the curved ceiling of a planetarium. Whereas, an Imax movie is very large and impressive, imagine a show that totally surround you everywhere you look! Pretty neat. We then ate lunch and continued to the second floor of the museum. I recall interesting exhibits about the first steam locomotive, cars (I saw my first model T), and electronics. I saw a tape recorder and radio that looked identical to ones my parents owned in the 1960s. I especially liked the extensive exhibit on the history of forestry in South Carolina. They had a film clip about the importance of steam engines to the harvesting of the original old growth forests with their drag line skidders, narrow gauge railroads, and loaders all driven by steam. The exhibit provided good information on the changes in forestry from the cut and leave to pine plantations for the production of pulpwood and finally to the multi-use objectives of today. They did a good job. After another 3 hours of exploring the museum we finally got to the history of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. I frankly don’t remember much about this area and did not even finish the museum as I had all I could handle. You can ask anyone in my family, I LOVE museums and can not get enough. Well I found my limit to be about 5 hours now.
Friday evening we watched Landon Donovan play his final game with the US Soccer team. He only played about 30 minutes, but in that time he was a key player in Diskerud’s goal, almost had an assist with Altedore for a goal, and bounced the soccer ball off the goal post himself. In my opinion, he is the best soccer player the US has produced and we are both big fans, especially after seeing him live in the Gold Cup game a year ago in Baltimore.
On Saturday, we had our first visitor come and stay a few days with us. My sister, Suzy, came from Tennessee to spend part of her Fall Break, staying with us for a long weekend through Monday night. Once we got her settled in, we walked about 100 yards to take a look at the Barnyard Flea Market. I suppose this is not the largest flea market, but it is certainly larger than any flea market I have ever been too. I suppose this is not saying much since I don’t remember ever going to a flea market. I assumed it would be a very large garage sale, but this was not really the case. This wasn’t a collection of families trying to get rid of stuff out of their garage, but a collection of small business offering just about anything and everything for sale. We saw everything from motorcycle gear, vintage records, clothing, food, toys, magazines, coins and other collectables, hunting gear, kitchen implements, bicycles and scooters, etc. It was an amazing collection and even though we were just wandering it took over an hour to walk through it all. We only made some very small purchases because we had to keep reminding ourselves that we just got rid of all of our “stuff” and don’t have the room for any more “stuff”.
Sunday was our chance to take Suzy out to show us what our life style is all about. We went to visit Historic Camden Revolution War Site outside Camden, South Carolina. I had thought this was part of the National Park System, but we found out it is only affiliated with the National Parks and is operated by the state. When we got there it was obvious what this meant. There is no actual Visitor Center as you would expect at a National Park and all the buildings were closed on Sunday! I had tried to find out the operating times on the web and could find nothing even on the official website for Historic Camden! I am not sure what more we would have learned if the buildings had been open, but it was still a disappointment. At the time of the Revolutionary War, Camden was the largest town in the backwoods of South Carolina. After capturing the main Continental Army in the south when the siege of Charleston ended, General Cornwallis had little opposition in the interior of South Carolina. He moved his army of 2500 British regulars, Hessian professionals, and Loyalist Militia to occupy Camden. They improved the defenses of Camden with a wooden palisade around the town and creation of 6 redoubts outside the palisade. Although the Battle of Camden was fought about 9 miles north of town, the original town of Camden was burned when the British withdrew in 1781 and the residents decided to rebuild the town to the north of the ruins. They have reconstructed part of the palisade and some of the redoubts. They have also moved some period homes and buildings to the location of Historic Camden to provide some examples of living conditions at the time. After exploring the outside of the buildings and reconstructed palisade and redoubts, we moved on to the Battlefield itself. The Continental Army had been either captured at Charleston or driven from South Carolina in May, 1780 ending with the Battle of Waxhaus, north of Camden. The Continental Army reformed along with patriot militias from Virginia and North Carolina at Charlotte, North Carolina where General Gates, the Hero of Saratoga, was given the command. He quickly moved the army to counter General Cornwallis’ move to Camden. His army consisted of 3700 men, of which only 1500 were Continental Army forces. General Cornwallis had roughly 2100 men, of which all but 600 militia were veteran soldiers. Not knowing where their opponents were exactly the opposing calvary ran into each other at 2:00 am on August 16, 1780. After a brief engagement the cavalry disengaged and both sides formed up their units along the Great Wagon Road and waited until dawn. General Gates had placed 2500 untried North Carolina militia on his left flank facing some of the best British regulars. Following a volley and bayonet charge by the British, the militia broke and fled the field. General Gates got caught up in this retreat and fearing his entire force was in retreat, he quickly left the battle himself. In actuality his troops on the right flank were holding until there were attacked on their left flank and rear by Major Tarleton’s cavalry. Following was a general defeat of a second Continental Army, losing over 2000 men and North Carolina was now open to the British. The battlefield itself is not very big since it lasted only an hour between two opposing lines of soldiers. There is a nice walking trail with informative interpretive signs on both sides of the highway, which generally follows the Great Wagon Road. While it describes the area to be open fields with scattered trees during the Revolutionary War, the area now is a dense loblolly pine plantation. There is a battlefield trail on both sides of the highway with little else. We found it interesting, but a little disappointing after seeing the efforts made at other Revolutionary battlefields.
Monday was a quiet day spent relaxing with Suzy, watching some old movies on the TV and just enjoying each others company. Suzy left early on Tuesday morning since the weather had turned nasty. We were under a tornado watch beginning at 9:00 through 1:00. She ran into some heavy rain and wind in the mountains west of Asheville, but got home to Tennessee within a problem. We carefully watched the weather all morning, but we did not even see any rain until after lunch. The bad weather for the area never materialized even though the tornado watch was extended until 9:00 that evening. There was heavy rain to both the west and north of Columbia and east along the coast, but we did not see any heavy rain or wind, much less anything more severe. I know we will eventually be caught by severe weather, but so far we have only had some close calls. I could not imagine all the people in the RV park trying to get into the 3 small bathrooms available at the Barnyard RV Park. Kal talked to one of the long term residents of the park (5 years) who stated the worst they had seen bounced his RV around a bit, but they had never sought shelter in the bathrooms. I don’t think we will ever by that brave (or foolish). I don’t intend to find out how strong the wind has to be to move our RV!!