Though Congaree National Park is only about three hours from our home, we had yet to visit it together – and I had never been there. Congaree is a smaller National Park, but full of diverse plant and animal life. Designated to protect wetland and old growth bottomland forest, many of Congaree’s visitors see the park by boat. Since this was not an option for us, we planned our visit around camping and hiking.
Arriving midway through a Saturday, we quickly set up our tent in the Longleaf Campground. Camping is free, with a permit, and the sites in this campground were nicely spaced and easily accessible by a short trail to the parking lot. The weekend we chose to visit in May was perfect weather for camping, and the campground was almost full. The group campground was overrun with a very boisterous group of Boy Scouts.
After camp was set up, we took a walk on the boardwalk to observe the swampland and the knees of the Bald Cypress trees, as well as the trees themselves. Many sections of the boardwalk were flooded and we sloshed through several puddles on our hike. Chatting with other park visitors, we made our way off the boardwalk and took a longer, circuitous hike through the woods. Almost entirely flat, the trails were well maintained, and wove through and around trees, waterways, and swamp. We connected the Weston Lake Trail to the Kingsnake Trail for a quiet, peaceful hike by Cedar Creek.
The next morning we woke up to cloudy skies and a forecast for rain. As soon as we packed up our tent, the rain hit and we decided to spend the day hanging around Columbia, South Carolina, the city closest to Congaree. Our first stop was to try a restaurant we’d never been to before, Arabesque on Devine. Advertising Lebanese cuisine, we were excited to try their falafel (Anthony) and grape leaves (me). It turned out to be super tasty and reasonably priced, with a cozy interior seating area full of pillows and colorful artwork. We left stuffed.
On our way through town the previous day, we had seen signs for The South Carolina Book Festival. Curious, since I love books just as much as I love National Parks, we drove down to the convention center. The festival was free, and there were many vendors set up including antiquarian booksellers, new authors, independent publishers, and writer workshops. We wandered through the aisles and spent a lot of time looking through old books in the antiquarian section. There were a lot of fun old pamphlets and documents to peruse, and first editions that we’ll probably never be able to afford. We managed to make minimal purchases, but really enjoyed looking at the old texts.
Our last stop before heading home was at Heroes and Dragons, a comic book store. We happily spent a lot of time searching the cases and shelves. Anthony was looking at vintage toys, while I was searching the bookshelves. They had a huge selection of used books, and an entire room dedicated to books that only cost a dollar. Happy with new purchases, we headed back to Asheville after a quick, nice weekend away.