Blueways, Paddling and a Blanket

I love to hike just about any time of the year. I enjoy the sounds of nature: the wind in the trees, falling water and the deafening sound of the silence in the forest framed by the sounds of tree frogs, crickets and cicadas! This time of year I change my pathway from the dirt of a beaten trail to the endless flow of a thousand shades of green and blue in the waters of South Carolina.  The many lakes and rivers are a path to natural wonders and discovery found only in and near the water.  These “blueways” are in every corner of our state and are waiting to be explored.  

Blueways are simply trails on the waterways, developed to explore the beauty of the surroundings much like a traditional trail would, including points of interest for canoeists, paddle boarders and kayakers. In May and June, nature provides me with the reminder that it’s time to start hitting the blueways and exploring nature and our parks from a different perspective. What’s the reminder? The lilies at Landsford Canal, which start their annual spectacle of beauty in mid-May and take it all the way into the mid-June. It’s a must see. The traditional trail that winds along the banks of the mighty Catawba River gives you small glimpses of the flowering plants that grow along the rocky shoals of the river.  As you walk beneath hardwoods on a well-traveled trail, you notice the stark contrast between the sun soaked river and the shaded forest. After a short hike you reach your destination, a viewing platform that provides you with the view that you traveled to see: the river seemingly covered by a blanket of white.  The spider lilies are breathtaking and the tall hardwoods provide the perfect frame for capturing their beauty.

The trail is hard to beat, but if you can, you should try the view from a kayak. It’s not only a different experience, but provides a different perspective as well. As you paddle your way through the “rocky shoals” and pick up speed, you come through the rapids to a tranquil spot and suddenly find yourself in the middle of the white blanket you saw from the shore.  

From this perspective you see the stitching that provides the white in the blanket is actually individual plants, and the white is theflower of the rocky shoals spider lily. As you travel through this blueway you can’t help be overwhelmed with sheer beauty of nature.  While you are reflecting on nature’s display, your attention suddenly turns to the sky as you see a bald eagle flying above.  As you begin to paddle, you see the black and red of a red winged black bird perched on one of the lilies providing a new contrast of color in a blanket of white.  On my way back to shore I’m already thinking about my next paddle and our parks are full of places to make that happen.

 I love the quick trip down the blueway at Aiken State Park on the North Fork of the Edisto River. This river is a slower speed, so you have time for reflection while you meander down river.  If a longer trip on the Edisto is your preference, then make your way to Colleton and start the 17 mile paddle to Givhans Ferry. “Flatwater” trails at Goodale and Cheraw provide a unique experience as you paddle through bald cypress with the occasional sounds of a beaver slapping its tail.  I still want paddle on the big water of our major reservoirs, especially Lake Jocassee at Devils Fork where you can paddle under a waterfall.  

There is just something about water that is soothing and relaxing.  Our blueways give you a different perspective on the world of nature.  I’m torn between the dirt paths and the watery ways, so I guess there is only one thing to do. It’s time for a few days in the parks, hiking one day, paddling the next and reflecting on the adventures in front of a campfire the next.  Summer’s here! It’s time to come out and play!