Monday, September 20, 2010

Notes from my life: Slopefest II and Francis Marion National Forest

Mark and I traveled down to Myrtle Beach to meet some trading friends from The Slope of Hope.  As part of my trip and my re-dedication to exercise, I spent a bit of time researching the parks down there for opportunities to mountain bike.  I found a virtual treasure trove of opportunities at the Francis Marion National Forest. Because neither of us are bike-fit (as we USED to be), we did some warming up about 3 weeks prior to our trip, and we chose a trail that would allow us to enjoy our ride without taxing us too much.  We chose the South Tibwin trail.  It was a good choice.

This trail is shaded, a feature we appreciated in the 85 degree weather.  The trails meander through a quiet wetland area.  Though we doused ourselves liberally with bug spray, anytime we stopped we were attacked by voracious mosquitoes. If you have forgotten your bug spray...get some....industrial strength.
The entre in to Fall is a cue for our spider friends to build elaborate webs.  This fellow (writing spider) not only crafted a wondrous web, but was pretty spectacular himself. While this photo (mine) might send some shivers up the spines of readers, writing spiders are non-poisonous.  Look around your outside and find some of their artwork.

As part of my research into our foray into the forest, I wanted to ensure that I understood the wildlife in that habitat.  Not only are there 5 kinds of poisonous snakes, but there are also alligators.  Yes, alligators.  I've not really thought about alligators and South Carolina as a pair. While neither of us wanted to run across a snake (though we are well-used to them in our area, I'm still frightened by them), we were hoping to see an alligator--from a safe distance.
We put the clip pedals on the bike, and put the clips on my shoes.  I've not ridden with clips on my shoes on a while.  They certainly make for more efficient pedaling.  Unfortunately I managed to lose my balance while I unclipped my left foot, but my bike fell to the right. There's not a thing one can do but go with the flow.   I have a bruised inner and outer thigh, just above the knee and an epic sized bruise on my right buttock--a deep bruise going all the way down to the bone. Not the kind of souvenir I was looking for!
Here's an on-bike camera shot of the typical trail:

Here are some of the vistas:

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We did see our alligator...a small fellow who was floating vertically in water--his head just above the water, his arms floating just below the water, and the balance of his body hanging down.  I estimate that he was 3.5-4 feet long.  I did not have a telephoto lens with me so I had to blow this up from the 'speck'. 

There was also a place on the trail--a trail covered in vegetation, that had a horizontal width of nothing but bare ground--about 8 inches or so wide.  We surmised that this must have been an animal crossing (otter, gator, beaver) of some kind where some body part (tail) consistently drug often enough to prohibit vegetation or leaf fall accumulation.

We also spent some time with our GPS (GarminGPSmap 60CSx) using some of the features that we've not used before.  My husband uses it when he goes to Hatfield & McCoy in West Virginia for dirt bike riding.  I've not used this gadget much, but I worked with it--particularly the on-line interface.  It was satisfying to understand the device's features.  There's nothing interesting about the following picture other than I could do it (and I'll likely look back at this!)


After our biking, we elected to continue south on 17 to see other areas of the park. All in all, we drove 147 miles (measured from our Myrtle Beach departure).  Thankfully, we had stopped in the Seewee Visitor's Center to purchase a park map which had all of the forest roads.  It was the best $8 dollars I had ever spent. Please be sure to visit the center, purchase some merchandise and make a donation.  I did all three!  The forest roads themselves would be just perfect for riding one's mountain bike (and the map is indispensable--like insect repellant).  As the trails crisscross these roads, one can mix up the ride.  We did see a forest worker down one of the roads. He was very friendly.  He had been bush hogging the trails  It has been very dry down there, and he was telling of a trio of cottonmouths lurking by a small bit of water (that was normally MUCH larger) that was serving as their sushi (tadpole) bar.  They slithered away as he approached....he said this to emphasize that most of the reptilian wildlife would just as soon avoid you as much as you would wish to avoid them.  Though we did not have a snake bite kit, it would be wise to bring one if you are hiking through on a long trail.  The ground was not always visible where we were riding, and one place was so obscured we decided that prudence was the better part of valor.
We will be planning a trip back, and I cannot wait.

Attending Slopefest was what made Myrtle beach our destination.  Our exploration day was long, and we were unable to get back by 5 p.m. for the happy hour just prior to dinner at the LIberty Steakhouse.  Tim Knight came by to surprise Slopers.  I knew that Tim would be attending, and I would have liked to see his arrival.  Here are a couple of pics from that.  Look at those shameless wimmin' fawning over Tim!

TK_Arrival_crop sara tk
Here's a pic of me with my Sloper friends, and one of TK and me.  I believe that the look on my face is from Tim donning his "Love Doctor" persona--dispensing advice to a fellow Sloper that I took some issue with!

Iggy_Leisa_MarvinNewTrader_Harley Leisa_TK
And here is a singular pic.

Lisa and Tropical Tim
It's great that people travel to these things.  Some come alone, some come with intrepid spouses or other family members.  But SlopeFest is about friendship and community.  It is a great way to meet fellow traders and to celebrate our connections with others.  I'm really grateful to have such great on-line friends--and going to Slopefest was a great way to nurture those important friendships.