Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday Adventures at Cheraw

A substantial thunder storm saved us having to get up at the crack of dawn. Ranger Rick Smith advised me that just after dawn is a good time to view the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. I think, no, I know that's why I'm partial to raptors and wading birds. They keep my kind of hours :)

I had asked Rick if he thought we could take the golf cart on the nature trail to get to the nesting area. I really didn't want to tote my pack etc. very far. The words 'out of shape' apply....... A pensive look came over his face but then he said yes, that should be fine.

When the weather cleared we picked up the golf cart at the course and made our way to the nature trail.
We entered the trail and found it was indeed wide enough for the cart. That is, until we came upon a narrow wood plank bridge type structure that went over a not too deep depression. Hmmmmm. I really didn't want to turn back. Rob got out and walked ahead of the cart guiding me as I drove across the bridge. It wasn't real long. Perhaps 15 feet. It's just that the half the width of the golf cart tires hung off each side of the bridge! Very tricky as there was a bit of a bend to the bridge.

We made it over and off we went. Here are some images of the Longleaf Pines that these woodpeckers make nesting cavities in. They choose trees that are over 60 years old as there will be sufficient heartwood for a cavity free of sap. Plus, many mature trees are infected with red heart fungus that softens the heartwood - making it easier to excavate!
Trees marked with white bands have nesting cavities. Another neat tidbit is that the woodpeckers will scale the outer bark off the trees above and below the cavity entrance and chip many holes around the cavity. This creates a run of sap/resin around the hole and down the tree. The resin coats the tree and helps keep predators like Rat snakes from climbing the trees.


Didn't see one woodpecker! We did feel like midgets among the longleaf pines though :)

We headed back, wondering if we could navigate the 'bridge' again. This time Rob was driving, I got out to direct him.
Things were fine until about 3' from the end, then the right back tire slipped off the bridge. We tried swinging off the right front tire in hopes of a tilted escape but the ground was a tad too low............ Stuck and embarrassed!

We were rescued. The cart was fine. But, just to make us really laugh, the rescuers nudged a small tree with their cart when backing up and it fell on them! I couldn't resist the photo opp!

I finished off the afternoon back a Lake Juniper. This time I played with Neocolor II water-soluble wax pastels on Yupo paper.

Monday at Cheraw

We arrived at Cheraw State Park around 2 p.m. on the 15th. It took a little over 3 hours, mostly on Rt. 95, then at exit 164, we headed west on Rt 52.

Living in Beaufort County, we really get an unrealistic view of South Carolina. Now I understand why our county is last on the state's list for school and other funding. We traveled through some towns that have been hit very hard in this down economy. Quite sobering.

The long drive to the park office had me itching to be unpacked and out exploring. The staff at the park rolled out the red carpet. This is my first experience as an Artist-in-Residence. I hope to have more opportunities, but I will tell you, the bar has been set!

Rob and I settled into cabin #8. That's our trusty mode of transport, compliments of the state park's golf club. We could pick up a cart each morning as early as 6 a.m., and then needed to return it by 8 p.m. Never did make it there at 6 a.m. but got pretty close a couple of days :)

Our cabin was cute. On the right side was a cement pad with a picnic table and grill that was sheltered by a live oak. The cabin had a screened porch with 2 rockers, inside we found a decent sized living/dining area that included a queen-size Murphy bed, a very small kitchen (I was so glad I made salads to take with us), a bedroom with twin beds and a mini, and I do mean mini, bathroom. All in all, we were very comfy and air conditioned.... satellite TV too!
We spent the evening down by Lake Juniper. Don't you just love that name? There are a small grouping of Cypress trees along the far shore. I understand that the head waters of Lake Juniper are loaded with Cypress.

For Tuesday, we planned to explore the Red-cockaded Woodpecker's nesting area. Stay tuned :)