Friday, December 2, 2011

Santee State Park, SC

Between the rains

On the edge of Lake Marion, an enormous reservoir created in the 1930s, sits Santee State Park. The town of Santee is just off the interstate that crosses the lake. After Thanksgiving, the park and many motels in town go into hibernation mode. It’s a wonderful time to visit. Bring your own boat though as the rental places are shut down during the week.

16' deep sinkhole, right next to the road.
It was great fun to hike through woods filled with limestone sinkholes and ponder what might happen if one gave way underfoot. Most of them are only six feet deep, but what an elevator ride that would be! Signs warned of alligator behavior and possible presence, and threatened punishment for feeding them but there wasn't a gator in sight. I went down a trail leading to a sinkhole pond. Except for distant droning of the freeway, it was very quiet, punctuated by woodpecker pounding. So, where DO gators spend the coldest parts of the winter? Do they burrow and hibernate like turtles? 

Guest cabins on stilts

By RV park standards, it’s a nice park, not great. Each site has water and electricity, but no sewer hookups. The lake is the attraction, not swimming pools and tennis courts. I saw two golf courses, one on each side of the freeway, but there might be more. It’s very peaceful. The woods are filled with squirrels and many bird species including woodpeckers.  Two campgrounds contain over 170 sites, and the maintenance man told me all of them were filled until Sunday night. People made the most of the Thanksgiving weekend. The smaller campground is called Cypress overlook, and the tall sticks jutting up out of the water must be cypress, though the view isn’t impressive this time of year.

Sinkhole pond, not a gator in sight!

The forest is an old growth long needle pine forest, kept clear of hardwood sprouts by regular fires. A sign told about the burn program, and how important that type of forest is for many animal and bird species. Not far into the hike the forest was no longer pine, but a variety of tall slim hardwoods obviously racing for some canopy room. 

Trees here seem very tall. I parked the van, which is about 6 feet, and walked down the road to judge the relative height. Many of those trees are well over 100 feet tall. The geek in me was having a field day.