Saturday, May 2, 2009

South Carolina

On Thursday we went down to Congaree National Park, located near Columbia, South Carolina. Congaree Swamp is an area of old-growth forest, containing some of the tallest trees in the eastern US. Although it's called a swamp, it's actually a floodplain for the Congaree River. As we neared the park, I suddenly noticed that all of the trees had their leaves. It was a pretty dramatic change, and Bea said we had reached the Coastal Plain. These trees looked like they were at least a month ahead of New York; of course, SC is one of the hottest places in the country! Early April was probably the perfect time to go there. The park itself has an extensive network of trails, some of which would probably take a day to hike, as well as camping, fishing and boating facilities. There's also a visitor's center, where we stopped first, and a boardwalk through the park for people like us who were only there for a few hours. Along the path, I noticed that some trees had a bunch of knobby shoots sticking up from the ground around them, which were part of the root system of cypress trees. Biologists aren't sure what purpose they serve. They looked like stalagmites in a cave.

About two-thirds of the way down the path, I noticed a weird metal thing rusting in the forest. It looked like a big piece of trash, but I knew there was no way something like that would be allowed to just sit in a national park like that. It turned out that it was an old still! During Prohibition people in the area made a pretty nice profit selling illicit homemade liquor, and they used the Congaree Swamp because it was easy to hide there. When park employees found that still, they decided to leave it there as an artifact of the park's history.

And that's about it. It may not seem like the most exciting vacation, but I got to add two more states to my list and spend time exploring a part of the country I hadn't seen much of before.

North Carolina

I hadn't been to North Carolina before visiting my cousin and her husband there last month, but my relatives kindly showed me around. Sunday after church we drove out to Pilot Mountain, a monolith that stands about halfway between Greensboro and the Blue Ridge. It's weird because the ground around it is mostly flat, and then there's this giant rock that goes up about 2,000 feet. It's a state park, with camping and picnic facilities, although we just went there for an afternoon. We drove up the hill, then near the top there's a place where you can park and get out to look around and enjoy the view.

Catching up

Last month I went down to North Carolina for a week to visit relatives who live there. I'll write more about that in a bit, but first I need to mention the most important thing that happened that week. As I'm sure you've heard, U2 released a new album recently. They're going out on tour this year, which will include two stops at Giants Stadium over in Jersey next September, and tickets for their 9/25 show went on sale the Monday I was in NC. I can't tell you how badly I wanted to go to that. Before their last release in 2004 they gave a "surprise" free outdoor concert in Brooklyn, word of which was never officially announced but spread by word-of-mouth over the Internet. Of course, I didn't find out about it until I saw it on the evening news that night. Then they made a special appearance on Conan; they were the only guests, and the entire show was them performing with brief interview segments between songs. I knew about that ahead of time, but for some reason it didn't occur to me to try to go to the taping until that night! I'm still kicking myself for that one! Then for this release they appeared on Letterman every night for a solid week, and I would have gladly gone to one of those tapings...But of course, that would have to be the week I was in London! And of course, the week before I went to London they gave a free outdoor show there!...There are no words to adequately express my frustration!!!

So anyway, I knew the tickets were going on sale at 10 in the morning the Monday I was at my cousin's. By 9:50, I was on the Ticketmaster website, waiting to pounce as soon as 10:00 hit. And wouldn't you know? when I tried to get a ticket, the computer crapped out on me! I had to reboot the darn thing, and by the time I got back to the page I needed to be on it was past 10 after...There was a line about 15 minutes long at that point, but after all that time anxiously sitting in front of the screen expecting any second to be told the show was sold out I got my ticket!! U2 is playing at Giants Stadium in September, AND I'M GOING!!!! My ticket is sitting on the shelf above my computer as I type this. Now I just have to make sure I don't lose it before the 25th!