Call it writer’s block, winter blahs, or post-inauguration depression, but for whatever reason I’ve just not felt like blogging. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing interesting things, each worthy of their own post. It’s just that I haven’t been able to muster the energy to do in-depth research or document our adventures. However, on this lovely Sunday morning I have a bit of peace and quiet, so I’ll try to backtrack a bit and bring everyone up to date.
I’ll back up a bit more than a week…
Furman Church Music Conference
Thursday, January 26 – Friday, January 27
Taking part in the Furman Church Music Conference was a last-minute decision for me this year. Even though I haven’t directed a church choir in ten years, I’ve been trying to attend so that I maintain my network for when I do return. This year I wasn’t so sure, though. We will be out of state next year, so that would push my church choir involvement back another couple of years. However, I decided I’d go, and I’m glad I did.
The clinicians for this year were Andre Thomas from Florida State University and John Ferguson from St. Olaf College. Thomas led a dynamic session on rehearsal techniques, as well as several fascinating sessions on African-American music traditions. I actually wound up buying his book on the subject. He is also a phenomenal gospel piano player. Ferguson is an equally gifted organist. He did a session on organ registrations for hymn singing and for anthem accompaniment, as well as a session on hymnody.
On Thursday night of the conference First Baptist hosted a Hymn Festival. It was done in the style of Lessons and Carols, but with texts from Epiphany through Easter. Ferguson is known for crafting these types of hymn festivals, and wrote the readings and reflections to focus on music. The Furman Singers, First Baptist Church Choir, and Westminster Presbyterian Choir participated in the event. Given all the political turmoil, the music was a balm. I was glad I had participated in both the conference and the hymn festival.
Old South Tour with Upstate Minis
Saturday, January 28
Saturday morning Laura and I got up early to participate in the annual Old South Tour with Upstate Minis. I had done this tour a couple of years ago as my first outing with the group. This time Laura joined me.
The group gathered at BiLo in Fountain Inn. From there, Don and Rosalyn Western led on us through back roads that took us through Woodruff, Enoree, Cross Anchor, and Cross Keys. As I learned on previous outings with this group, they are more interested in driving that stopping to explore. The most I could do was make note of places I wanted to check out later at a more leisurely pace. We did stop for a break in Cross Anchor, then again for a photo break in front of Rose Hill Plantation.
From there we drove through Union and on to Midway BBQ in Buffalo for our lunch stop.
There was more zig-zagging through the countryside until we wound up at our final stop of the day, Walnut Grove Plantation. I’d never visited, so I was glad to have this opportunity. We posed for a group photo on the steps of the main house, then were given tours.
Most of the photos I took were at Walnut Grove. Here’s the Flickr album slideshow from the event:
We’ve made some good friends through this group, and it was fun to be on another outing with them.
Kites and Downtown
The next day, Sunday, was cold, but windy. I met Chip and his kids at Legacy Park with my kite collection. I flew the stunt parafoil and let Chip try his hand out it. Olivia and Ethan were able to fly the small kites I had brought for them. Even though it was quite cold, we had a good time.
By Tuesday the weather had warmed significantly. February 1st was bright, sunny, and gorgeous. I had been doing housework for a couple of days straight and needed to get out a bit, so I wandered downtown. I was armed with my big Nikon DSLR, but a strange thought hit me. It seems that I always come down here looking for the perfect new photo opportunity, or place to explore. I don’t come down here just to enjoy the park. Next time I have the opportunity on a pretty day like this I’m bringing nothing but maybe my hammock and a book.
However, I was stuck with a camera, so I explored. I resisted the urge to take photos of things I’ve photographed so many times before. I found the new underpass for the Swamp Rabbit Trail at River Street. That looked very cool, but a bit spooky.
I wandered up to Main Street to see what was happening at the old Greenville News site. A dude with a yellow python was walking down the street.
I walked down South Main to the old Army Navy store and poked around a bit, then crossed the relatively new bridge over to the road behind County Plaza, then back down through the old Arboretum.
Todd Creek Falls
Wednesday, February 2
For Wednesday I had a plan. Ken Cothran had been wanting to show me a new coffee place in Clemson, and I wanted to explore a possible paddling venue. I drove over early and picked him up. Our agreement was that we would not discuss the orange turd at all. So, we sat and had a couple of pleasant cups of coffee at All In Coffee in downtown Clemson.
From there I wanted to drive over to Lake Issaqueena and see if it might be suitable for paddling. The small lake is situated entirely within the Clemson Experimental Forest. Sadly, all of the access roads were gated for some reason. Folks were biking and hiking the trails, but the roads themselves wouldn’t reopen until March 1. I guess I should have checked first.
Ken came up with a back-up plan. We would try to find Todd Creek Falls, located just north of Central. I drove to the location Ken pointed out and parked on the other side of a bridge at a power line clearing.
The trail headed south along the power line right of way, following Todd Creek. It was an easy hike, with the exception of one short tricky bit at some exposed rock.
The falls themselves are located in a small hollow. The cascade drops into a pool that looks like it would be an ideal swimming hole, then the stream takes a sharp right angle to the west. We paused on the trail overlooking the falls for a couple of shots.
Down below at the edge of the pool we took more photos from various angles. I used a neutral density filter and slowed the exposure, even though I didn’t have a tripod with me.
We decided to explore further downstream, which became more languid and wider as it turned away from the powerline clearing and through a wooded area.
Ken explained that we were in the backwaters of an old mill dam. We came to a boggy area, and on the other side was a spring with a brick wall.
I wanted to head on down and find the millpond and dam. Ken’s vision makes crossing unsteady ground difficult. More importantly, he didn’t have the right footwear in case he made a misstep. I didn’t have the right footwear, either, but my eyesight is marginally better than Ken’s, so I forged on. The trail dipped down across a couple more tributary streams, then gained a ridge around a point with a view of a silted, beaver-dammed pond. I didn’t want to abandon Ken, so I headed back before finding the dam.
So, even though we couldn’t explore Lake Issaqueena, we still found some cool waterfalls.
That should bring readers up to date. I do have a few more explorations coming up. Perhaps I’ll get back on track with my writing. It is therapeutic, if nothing else.