If you didn’t know already, we love National Parks.
Hiking, camping …. we love it all. There is so much uniqueness to each National Park, and we love being able to explore new terrain and see landscapes that will be completely different in 10 – 15 years.
The Summer after Caleb and I started dating, my family spent a week in the Outer Banks, and Caleb came up for a couple of days to meet them. When we were there, we went to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and bought this thing called a National Parks Passport. Every National Park (and historical site) has a stamp, and every time you visit a new park you put the stamp in your book. Each visitor center also has stickers, decals, and other paraphernalia specific to each park. There is also a Junior Ranger program that is AWESOME, but I won’t bore you with my dreams of becoming a Junior Ranger.
Since then, we’ve made it a personal goal to visit as many National Parks as possible. This past summer alone, we visited 15 Parks (in two weeks). When we started planning our route from New York to Florida, we knew we wanted to visit National Parks along the way.
Our plan for this trip is to visit three: Congaree National Park, Biscayne National Park, and Everglades National Park.
After a longggg day driving 12 hours from New York City to South Carolina, Congaree National Park was our first National Park stop. While it seemed smaller compared to other parks we’ve visited, it became one of our favorites fairly quickly. In 2003, Congaree became the 57th National Park, and has the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the United States.
We started our day at Congaree at the Visitor Center where we got our stamp, and figured out what paths to hike. Because it had rained quite a bit recently, we knew that there would most likely be flooding. In the high season, the water can rise as high as 10 feet.
Because we didn’t have an entire day to spend hiking, we chose to walk on the Boardwalk Loop Trail which was just over 2 miles. This trail takes you down into the bottomland hardwood forest, and provides hikers with a wide variety of tree species.
Even though the Boardwalk Trail takes you over the water, there was still some flooding in certain areas. This turned out to work in our favor because while we were willing to take off our shoes and walk through it (the water was FREEZING), other people weren’t so adventurous.
For most of our hike, we were the only people on the trail, and we were able to do a bit of bird watching – including tracking down a Barred Owl!
It was amazing to see the diversity of nature in such a small stretch of land, but my (Kelly speaking) favorite thing were the Cypress Knees. These “knees” grow randomly around the bases of the trees, but their true purpose is unknown.
There is still so much that we didn’t see in the park, but for a short visit, the Boardwalk Trail was perfect. We took our time, and with our bird watching/picture stops it took us about three hours to walk the entire loop.
After we left the Park on Tuesday, we drove a little over two hours to Myrtle Beach. I’m gonna be honest with you, touristy beach towns are not our thing! Something about paying extra for everything just isn’t worth it when you’re only staying for 24 hours.
Thankfully it’s March, and it wasn’t as busy as it gets in the summer months. We stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites which is right on the water, and has direct access to the beach. Yesterday afternoon we took a walk on the beach and spent some time on the pier. The weather was so mild, and apart from some wind, it was the perfect March day to visit the beach. Our room also had an amazing view of the ocean, and we watched the sunset on our balcony.
We also played putt putt golf at Mt. Atlanticus Minature Golf, and history was made as I (Kelly) made my very first hole in one!
Today we are on our way to Charleston, SC.
We’re excited to explore and of course, EAT! We’ve been holding out for some good eats – fast food just doesn’t cut it anymore.