When I planned our route and where we would stop on our way to the Everglades and Key West back in 2008, I picked some places on the map I had never been to, including Congaree National Park. When I googled it, I discovered that it had, until recently, been called Congaree National Swamp. I guess I can understand why someone might think Congaree National Park was a better name. After all, how many people think pleasant thoughts when they think of a swamp?
It only made me more curious to see it, however. As we started down the very fancy boardwalk that kept less enthusiastic hikers’ feet dry, we spotted several woodpeckers and a couple of warblers in about 5 minutes.
We continued well beyond the boardwalk and onto the trails for those with waterproof boots. As we walked, a Barred Owl called over and over, completely oblivious to the fact it was 2 o’clock in the afternoon. We heard a Pileated Woodpecker and saw it fly. We followed it as long as the trail allowed, but I never did get a shot of it. Of course, still toting my Powershot G3 that trip, I’m not sure how much of a shot I would have gotten anyway.
We continued along to a beautiful stream with giant swamp trees growing along the banks. I assume they were Cyprus–the number of knees that threatened impalement to anyone who dared to trip was overwhelming. I expected to see a few knees popping up here and there–the fact that acres of swamp were nothing but knees was quite a surprise to me.
But the biggest surprise was when we heard some rustling in the underbrush as we approached a darkly shadowed part of the woods. We paused and looked at each other, unsure of what we were hearing. Then, suddenly, several boar jumped up from their cover and went squealing off through the woods.
While I generally seem to lack the appropriate level of fear of wild animals, I have to admit that I definitely jumped when those pigs ran off through the woods. Although I was disappointed I didn’t get a picture, I preferred missing the shot over having them run towards me.
At the time, I didn’t know that wild board were supposedly introduced here in the 16th century for hunting. Who knew that the boar would go nuts and start taking over? The amount of damage they can do is pretty frightening. I don’t mean just to humans (although that’s frightening too) but to land, farms, and ecosystems in general.
I was a lot less excited about our wild boar encounter when I learned just how common they had become in the region and what a problem they are. Much more recently, I discovered there’s a reality TV show about boar hunters. Like most of the reality TV shows I’ve heard about, that just seems wrong.
In spite of the boar, I highly recommend hiking in the Congaree.