We’ve tried to put together trips to Sparkleberry Swamp several times this spring, only to see the plans fall through. This time it was going to happen. Laura was out of town, and Dwight wanted to introduce his son, Adam to the joys of the swamp and the greater world of paddling. So, Sunday morning I loaded up the boats and headed southward.
There’s really no such thing as a “quick” trip to Sparkleberry. Even the shortest of jaunts turn into an all-day adventure just because it’s so far away. Even so, our plan was to keep this a shorter trip since it was Adam’s first time out.
I picked up Dwight and Adam at their house in Columbia, then we continued on the trip. We did a quick stop at Mr. Bunky’s just because they had never been there. The general store has opened a second floor with flea market type items and antiques.
We had one more stop before we could hit the water – breakfast at the legendary Battens in Wedgefield.
This is the weekend of the infamous Duck Run. If we had been a day earlier, the swamp would have been crawling with hundreds of boats full of mostly drunk revelers. As it was, things were very quiet at Sparkleberry Landing on this particular morning. There were very few other vehicles about. The weather was great, and it looked like a spectacular morning for a paddle.
We launched and let Adam get accustomed to handling the boat. He did pretty well for his first time on the water.
We headed on out through the cut and into Sparkleberry Flats. My plan was just to stick to the main routes and not venture too far off the beaten path, such as it is.
I’ve gotten so that I recognize the hidden entrance to the rest of the swamp. One earlier time I missed it and we had to backtrack through the swamp. This time we were dead on. There’s a bit of an open area, then the route takes you through one of my favorite parts of the swamp – the Cypress Cathedral.
With the leaves out the sense of being in a large, yet enclosed space was enhanced. There were lots of songbirds. Dwight and I both were looking for warblers, but didn’t see any. There were only vague hints of movement higher up in the trees.
We paddled onto the more open areas on Otter Creek. It was starting to get very warm, and I wanted to head back into the shade of the trees. Dwight wanted to find Fifty Fools Creek Cabin, so we set off following his GPS. We zig-zagged across the swamp, eventually reaching the cabin.
The cabin was a bit worse for wear since the last time we were here. The front deck seemed to be sagging, and the cabin itself looked off-kilter. There were two canoes pulled up onto the back deck. We didn’t try to get out this time, but had a floating lunch in the general vicinity of the cabin.
From the cabin we headed back down Fifty Fools Creek back toward Otter Creek Flats. The scenery was just as incredible as always.
Adam and I came across a heavy line that had snared something pretty big that was still splashing around. When Dwight came by he hauled in the catch – a massive catfish. He left it back on the line.
We angled back toward Sparkleberry Flats, keeping a good pace. By this time there were one or two boats out, but there was hardly anyone out and about. I guess they all get their fill of swamping at the Duck Run.
We crossed back over the flats and returned to the launch site. We had kept the trip shorter – only 3.7 miles. However, that was still far enough to get us deep into the swamp.
After loading up we were still not done, though. On the way out we stopped at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. This is a historic church seems like it is still in use. We took pictures of the church itself and of the old cemetery.
The headstones weren’t as old as I might have thought. It looks like many were replacements. I did find one W. T. White signature stone, but that was all.
All in all it was another fantastic day in Sparkleberry Swamp. Adam really handled himself well, and we were able to get further into the swamp than I might have thought. Who knows? He may be ready for a Lowcountry Unfiltered outing before we know it.