Smell Like Dirt

In Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” Margaret Atwood

Camping in January, Part 1

 congareepic.jpgI’m back from my first week camping in the Congaree National Park outside Columbia, SC.  It was the first of two weeks I will spend in the swamp searching for the Ivory Billed Woodpecker.  And while I am not sure I can recommend camping for a couple of weeks in the middle of January, if you can, you really should visit the Park.  It is the largest remnant of old growth flood plain forest in North America and the birding and wildlife viewing was wonderful.  The park has a healthy population of wild pigs and I’m not sure who jumped highest each time I came across one in the woods, me or him.  Although I didn’t get too close to one, evidence of their presence is everywhere.  They are constantly rooting around for food so walking through the forest was like walking across a newly plowed field.  And between that and the cypress knees that were everywhere, you really had to watch where you were going.  Each night we were serenaded by Barred Owls and with overnight temperatures in the 20’s and 30’s, it was hard to get out of the warm sleeping bag but the team was up and on our way to our search sites well before dawn each day.  Sitting quietly as the sun rose was a wonderful way to witness the swamp waking up.  From otter, to pigs, to birds of all types, the wildlife viewing was spectacular.  Draped in camo from head to toe, I blended in well enough to watch as the activity level increased the wildlife greeted the new day.  On Wednesday night, it started raining and rained well into Thursday, but once it stopped, I could move much more quietly in the woods because the leaves were wet and muffled each step.  I will be heading back down soon for a second week and will be posting a video on some of the sites, sounds and wildlife you can see in the swamp.  So stay tuned and start planning a trip to the Congaree soon!


  Charles Williams wrote @

I will be going to Congaree to help out next month. Can you summarize for me the camping equipment you have used? I’m wondering if a hammock would be better than a tent considering the condition of the ground. Also, how many successive nights did you camp out? Are you camping in an “official” primitive campground or just finding a patch of high ground? Did you backpack into your location, canoe in, or drive in a 4WD vehicle?

Thanks, Charles Williams

  smelllikedirt wrote @

You will have a great time! If you love nature, you will love this adventure.
I had a waterproof tent (one man), a large external frame backpack to get my stuff in and a smaller one to use each day. I hung all of my food from a tree using a backpack I borrowed down there (they have extra small backpacks and vests). You could use a hammock I guess, but you will also be able find an area that the pigs have not roto-tilled. We were not in a camping area but in the backwoods on a piece of high ground. You cannot have a campfire so a camping stove and fuel in a must. They loaned us one and provided the fuel. We canoed in last time but I’m not sure what we will be doing next week but I assume canoing again. We were out there 3 nights Tues-Thur and paddled out on Friday afternoon. Bring some trash bags because you have to pack everything back out. Good Luck and email me if you need more information

  Norma wrote @

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