Congaree National Park

Definitely the biggest adventure of our east coast trip ended up being our canoe trip at Congaree National Park. We always knew it was going to be interesting because it would be our first time backpacking on a paddle trip, but beyond this we kind of expected it to be kind of a mellow flat water paddling experience. And we were so wrong lol.

When we first showed up and saw this my first thought was wow the swamp is dense! The water was far from appealing looking and there was definitely a little bit of the “are we really doing this?” feeling, as we waited for the company to drop off our canoes and gear for us.

Still so clean and fresh looking at this point in the day haha. This did not last long out there.

Jeb next to our monster canoe. The guiding company got us a really large one so that we would have plenty of room for gear, the reality ended up being that we did not have much gear because we are used to traveling light for backpacking. So instead we just ended up with a super heavy, not very maneuverable canoe.

Finally we were on the water! I took lots of pictures at first because initially the river was nice and wide and plenty open.

Looking back at Jeb in the back of the boat.

Looking down the endless swamp!

Selfie of the two of us! I’m glad I actually remembered to take a picture that we were both in.

We never expected to see so much wildlife as we ended up seeing. Some good, some bad, and some in between lol.

We saw a bunch of turtles sunbathing on rocks. We also saw a few deer running around.

Then we saw a racoon!

My picture is a little blurry, but I think raccoons are so cute! We also heard and saw (but I didn’t get the camera out in time) a bunch of wild boars. They were so loud and a little scary because I know that they are really mean and aggressive. I definitely did not want to end up in any close up encounters with wild boars! Our guiding company when they picked us up the next day said that they have been guiding in this area for years and they had never seen them before!

Here is the short version of the story of why this day became so crazy.

1.We had an encounter with a copperhead. The copperhead wasn’t super big but he was pretty close to us and that definitely scared me!

2. We ended up missing the turn where the river splits and were were supposed to go left. It wasn’t clearly marked and we went the wrong way. Plus the water levels were really high so with everything so flooded it was hard to tell what was the main path and what was just a flooded area. We ended up going down the wrong way for over an hour and being completely lost. In this area it was super tight with the trees and we kept bumping into the trees. Every single tree is covered with hundreds of spiders, and when you bump into the tree they suddenly scurry around. Being in the front of the canoe I was right up close and personal with these spiders. Many of them were larger than the size of my hand… when one ended up in our boat and almost on me I jumped up and screamed (which echoed through the swamp) and it took every ounce of my self control to stay calm and get it out of the boat without us falling into the swamp with everything that is in there… After over an hour of this we decided to turn around, go back up river and eventually we found the right way. I didn’t take a picture while we were there but this is what the spiders looked like:

3. We had a TERRIFYING potentially literally near death experience with a cotton mouth. We passed a log that had a huge snake on it, first I passed it and screamed snake. You can’t stop a canoe instantly, especially with a current, and with the area being tight we couldn’t go around it. So Jeb had no choice but to then also go by the snake. When it got near him it had raised up hissed at him near his face and Jeb hit the snake with his paddle to push it back into the water. Bites by these snakes if not treated are often fatal. In the middle of the swamp hours and hours away from people or medical treatment, I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if one of us had been bitten. OBVIOUSLY I didn’t take a picture of this when it happened, but this is what the snake looked just like:

4. There were several area where you had to do portages. Meaning you can’t continue to paddle through, you have to get to land, get out, and carry the canoe. The “land” was thick, deep, super slippery mud, covered with poison ivy. We had to trudge through this, and I wasn’t strong enough to carry the canoe with Jeb very far at all, so he had to mostly drag it through the mud.

By the next day, as you can see from the scale below- I ended up with over 40 mosquito bites, and poison ivy…

Thankfully we made it out of the swamp safely, after one hell of an adventure, with stories that will definitely stick with us for a long time. I’m glad we had an interesting trip but I don’t think I am ever going back like that deep into the swamp! It seemed almost more dangerous than some of the mountaineering we do!

The next day we finally got clean (ish) and dry and we went to an ihop and had coffee and breakfast and this was probably one of the best breakfasts of my life!

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