Enjoy the Colorful Photographic Impressions by Vann Helms
In the middle of South Carolina is a truly magical place. Along the northern banks of the Congaree River lies a swamp that is home to the largest collection of giant old growth hardwood trees in the world. Because of its remoteness, and because of the inhospitable nature of the flooded forest, this one small area has escaped the ravages of man’s relentless desire to exploit his environment for power and profit. Even before Europeans began to colonize the Atlantic Coast, Native Americans were hunting and fishing around these same trees, some of which might be as much as 1,000 years old. The perfect combination of climate, water, and inaccessibility has guaranteed that these remarkable behemoths could prosper through wars, hurricanes, fire, and drought, and reach towering heights rivaled only by the Redwoods of California. No less than nine trees in this primeval enclave can claim the rare distinction as “Champions” of their species. A Champion tree is one that attains a height and a base circumference greater than any other tree of its kind in the entire world.
One man, conservationist Harry Hampton, recognized in the 1950’s that the Congaree forest was one of the few remaining ecosystems of its kind, and began efforts to protect it. Two decades later, when logging threatened the area’s giant trees, a public campaign led to establishing Congaree Swamp National Monument in 1976. In the following decades, the park was expanded and thousands of acres were designated as wilderness. In 2003 it became Congaree National Park. Today the park is a sanctuary for plants and animals, a research site for scientists, and a peaceful place for you to explore a forest of towering trees and diverse wildlife.
So you can imagine my excitement when I pulled into an empty parking area on a recent Thursday afternoon, and realized that I would have the entire National Park to myself. Where else but here could that ever happen. Remember to click on each photo to see the full screen version. I like the photos much better that way……
Wooden walkways and boardwalks guide you deep into the swamp, and allow you to be at one with these quiet giants. Shumard Oak, Hickory, Loblolly Pine, Bald Cypress, American Elm, American Beech, Tupelo, and many other well know species share this ancient sanctuary.
The swamp floods many times each year as the Congaree River overruns its banks. Often, the walkways are under water, and closed to visitors. The health of these gentle giants is supported by this constant flooding and cleansing of the low, soft soil.
My walk took me almost three miles into the forest, but I turned back before I reached the Congaree River. I’ll leave that hike for another time. Suddenly on the walk back, I heard the squeals and grunts of wild hogs, and four of them crossed right in front of me. I managed to get this short video before they disappeared back into the dense woods.
Although every house inside the historic district has a history and is a work of art unto itself, Savannah still has some top notch museums and galleries to fill those moments when you’ve seen just too many hand carved Colonial staircases for one day. For the purposes of this post, the Jepson Center for the Arts, featuring the Telfair family home and art museum, will be the focus of the photographs. In between, I’ll slip in some really cool places that you see on the way to and from the museums.
The Telfair mansion was completed in 1819, and the last Telfair occupant donated the house to be part of an art museum in the 1880’s. Telfair Academy opened in 1896, and features two large rooms furnished in 1840 style, along with two massive galleries, and many smaller exhibition spaces. This photo is from Destination America Travel…
“The Fugitive Slave”, by John Adam Houston, anchors an exhibition of selected pieces from the Johnson Collection of Southern fine art in Spartanburg called “Romantic Spirits”. The painting was completed in 1853, and supported the Abolitionist cause with its sympathetic depiction of a runaway enslaved man.
“In Sight of Home”, by Edward Lamson Henry (1841-1919), continues the slave theme with a much less passionate approach. Children run to greet their mother and father who are returning from a trip to town, while a young slave child hitches a ride on the back of the wagon.
“Morning on the French Broad”, circa 1880, by Andrew Melrose (1836-1901), is one of the earliest depictions of this ancient Western North Carolina stream. On a high bluff sits a blockhouse that seems to be the remnant of a decaying fort.
You can’t have a show about Southern art without featuring a well known work that depicts the futility of the just ended struggle. “Lost Cause”, 1868, was painted by a Jewish artist named Gustave Henry Mosler (1841-1920). We see a dejected soldier leaning on his firearm, while behind him is the broken shell of a log cabin. We also see a Spring landscape and rising moon that shows the infinite possibilities of rebirth and renewal.
Don’t let the surly and disinterested tour guides spoil your visit to this 1819 Oglethorpe Square masterpiece by English Architect William Jay. It is the third piece in the Telfair Museums collection. Elements in the remarkable house include internal cisterns for running water and sewerage, a bridge connecting the two sides of the upper floor, and furniture actually from the original families. The house is a treasure trove of amazing architecture and engineering.
Designed in the Second Renaissance Revival style, the original portion of the building is constructed entirely of white Georgia marble, and features the typical Italianate tripartite facade divisions characteristic of the style. Today the building houses Federal Court offices. It is on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Today, it is the home to The French Market retailer, but 125 years ago, this 1870s building was where the streetcar turned off of Broughton. Many historic buildings along this venerable thoroughfare have been restored to their late 19th century appearance.
After a long day at the museums, our hotel is a welcome sight. The Marshall House was originally The Marshall Hotel, built in 1851, but it was used as the main hospital during the Civil War. After extensive rehabilitation, it reopened as The Marshall House in 1999, and is now one of Savannah’s premiere hostelries.
We have come to know the beauty and history of Savannah in the daytime, but after sunset, the city takes on a different personality.
Broughton, the “Main Drag” has recently recaptured its glory from the 1950’s, mostly because of the Savannah College of Art and Design, or SCAD. People line up at Leopold’s to get the best ice cream in town on a balmy summer’s evening.
Just across the street is the restored Marshall House Hotel. Built in 1850’s as Savannah’s first major hotel, it became a Confederate hospital during the Civil War. On the spot originally stood Savannah’s first printing press, and in 1763, the first newspaper, The Georgia Gazette, was published.
Just north of the border between North and South Carolina, is the small town of Tryon. Lately, it’s become the equestrian center for these mountains, and a new “Horse Park” has just been completed in eastern Polk County. It’s an old town with roots back to the Revolutionary times, but it has nurtured a quiet ambiance that is attracting new residents from Atlanta and Columbia. These photos were made while visiting a home just north of Tryon. The location is on a bluff above the Pacolet River
To the southwest are three peaks. The one on the left is Piney Mountain on the North Carolina side. The right peak is the taller Melrose Mountain, still in North Carolina. The far distant peak is 3,200 foot Hogback Mountain in South Carolina, and it has a TV tower at its summit for a Spartanburg station.
To the north is Tryon Peak at 3,300 feet, and Miller Mountain at 3,000 feet just to the west of Tryon Peak. Interstate 26 follows this ridge on it’s westward climb through Howard Gap to the Green River Gorge, and over the Eastern Continental Divide.
The corn field along Otter Creek hides its best color underneath the stalks.
After an unusually cool summer, with many mornings reaching the upper 40’s, the trees and shrubs on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge are already beginning to display those colors that make this area so popular with tourist in the fall. We’re still two months away from the peak of color along the Blue Ridge Parkway around Grandfather mountain, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at the woods today.
Just south of Interstate 40, and ten miles north of picturesque Lake Lure, is a fertile bottomland valley known as Montford Cove. The “Cove” refers to Cove Creek that flows south towards the Broad River east of Lake Lure. Corn and soybeans are the major crops, and Black Angus cattle graze in the expansive pastures.
From mid August until September, the corn will be ready to harvest.
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