NANFA-L-- continued... Sunday & Monday

Subject: NANFA-L-- continued... Sunday & Monday
Date: Mon Jul 26 2004 - 20:07:59 CDT

The next morning, Sunday, we got a bit more needed rest with a late start for
Charleston and its aquarium. Chip, his daughter Stephanie and Mark and i
loaded into the van for a 4 vehicle caravan. A flat tire on Ranger Bob's big truck
backed us up on the freeway but skilled teamwork got us on the road nascar
quick without any "oh Fudge" lugnut mishaps. The aquarium was located right on
the bay. Fort Sumter was visible in the distance as well as the aircraft
carrier Yorktown. I enjoyed all the native tanks tho some of the natives seemd to be
almost grossly overfed. A SeaRobin intrigued my wonderings on the mysteries
of creation and evolution. So dexterious were the finger fin claws... crablike,
yet belonging to a sculpin like fish. We took a few fun pics, had an
expensive quickee tourist meal and enjoyed the open air market populated with
carnivorous plants. Navigating to the aquarium was a bit tricky but not near as
difficult as leading the 3 vehicles out the city. Parking garage staggers, missed
stop lights, wrong lane merges... whew i was relieved to get out of there but
sure wish i had been able to see some of "old Charleston". I had hoped we could
have eaten-in-Bubba Gump's as my son told me they fix shrimp all kinda ways
there. :)

We arrived-in-Cypress Gardens just an hour or so before they were to close. A
very friendly Cockatoo greeted and entertained us-in-the back entrance. The
big bird eagerly walked on us from hand to hand to head to hand and called out
"GoodBye!' " GoodBye!" as we headed into the building. The grounds, gardens
and waters were beautiful, lush and healthy and all the aquaria and exhibits
were clean and well kept. At one outdoor pool I learned that 20' gators can hide
in a 12' pool. That should keep my nerves frazzled a bit more on my Florida
excursians! I wish we could have spent more time there but the caretakers were
anxious to leave and the gates were being shut. The entrance fees-in-both the
aquarium and Cypress Gardens were waived with our NANFA Conference registration
as well as our zoo facilities and visit. What a deal guys... Thanks! We got a
full bang for our buck this year.

Our caravan had been reduced to 2 vehicles as Ranger Bob & Betsy and Chris &
Stephanie with little William in tow had decided to return to Charleston for
an evening stay. Not ready to call it a day our remaining two vehicles swung by
a boat ramp where a couple of us waded in for a few net pulls. Laura and
Traci had been riding together and it was fun to see 2 women neck deep mucking
about chasing tiny fish. I gave Laura some good teasing which she returned with
one of those feminist "How dare you!" stares. :) The bunch of us got to
interact with some locals who were cast netting for bait. They were pulling up
several species of juvenile sunfish. The fella seemed interested-in-what we were
doing as we were in his cast netting skills. His female companion gave us those
smirky sidelong glances that im sure we are all use to! Their catch were
destined to be chopped up for bait... oh no! ...but we choose not to attempt any
rescue or any serious pleading for the little sunnies. :)

Chip and Mark had another site in mind where the women would have better luck
in catching some Blue Fin Killies. Off we went down a paved backroad. Ahead i
could see a snake coiled up in the road and straddled it as i passed over.
The snake struck-in-the van and i could see cotton white in its mouth. I looked
in the mirror and Laura burned a Nick and Todd moment in my memory as the fat
snake burst red. I did a quick Uee to see if it was indeed a Water Mocassin
and it surely was one, a dead one. Traci picked its limp body up by the tail and
we guessed it to be about 3.5' long. She tossed it to the side of the road
and we headed back across to our vehicles. Just as we were getting back in the
van Chip called out "Hold on!". A 7' gator had been laying within just a few
feet of the passenger side of the van the whole time. Stunned, we nerved up a
bit and had a bit of fun seeing who was brave enough for a gator wrestling
photo. The most i could jpg was some nervous over their shoulder looks while the
gator lay a few feet away! Laughing together later we realized we could have
made a couple "Death Defying Feats" photo ops by clutching the "alive" Water
Moccasin with fangs exposed ( as if just catching it by hand ) and another shot
tossing it into the gator's open, snapping jaws! And perhaps those followed by a
good photo sequence showing Mark's attempted "Perfect Dipnet"ing of the gator
followed by a closeup of his footless and torn shoe. :)

We made it to the Blue Fin's lake edge where Chip, Stephanie and i played
with Dragonflies and Mark joined the women out in the water. With Blue Fins a
plenty we urged them out of the water as we were still a long way from Columbia
and getting hungry. While Laura and Traci finished situating their newly caught
fish we headed back north and Mark treated us to a fine but long delayed meal
at a Ruby Tuesday's on a sorry, no alcohol Sunday night. A long, good, fun

The next morning Chip picked me up and then Traci to take us to a place to
snorkel, but first he wanted to take us on a short hike before the day heated
up. It is a wildlife refuge named Congaree Creek Heritage Trust Preserve where
we hoped to see some more gators and snakes. The morning was cool and we all
enjoyed the very leisure walk. Interesting bugs and plants and mushrooms were
about. We had a good time talking about plants and critters. No fish nets were
allowed in the sanctuary to dip in the swampy waters but we could see there was
a lot of activity. The most interesting section was a narrow levee path
dividing to beautiful waters lush with a variety of water plants. Every step was
cautious and slow hoping to get a glimpse of a big gator blocking our path or a
coiled snake sunning itself. Frogs leaped out with a loud "Erp" and splash
keeping our nerves jangly but no gators lunged from the water as in the movies.
Getting back along the rolling path I started seeing chantrell mushrooms and
before long i could not hold myself back. Chip had mentioned how his mother had
wanted to cook for the group and since eating is a required activity i
suggested he call her and sure enough she invited us over for lunch. I took this
opportunity to gather a shirt full of the yellow flowerlike mushrooms as we walked
the final stretch out of the swamp. We still had to cross a narrow 3.5" x
3.5" 10' long "bridge" which was a challenge as dark, gator infested water
bordered lapped-in-each side of the twisted, frayed timber...-in-least according to
Chip! Finally we made it back to the truck with dry feet and-in-this point
unknownst to me a chigger harvest and headed to Chip's mother's.

She had it spread out for us... chicken cassarole, lima beans, tossed salad
with vildelia onion dressing, tiny sweet pickels, toasted bread slices cut one
the slant, pistachio pudding and all capped with Mrs. Edwards mouth twistingly
tart but sweet Key Lime pie and all rinsed down with cold iced tea. It was
nice sitting in her house and hearing and seeing them remember stories of Chip's
younger days. It was a real treasure to be in her home for awhile.
I was way full but with a bit of urging Traci and i cleaned up the fresh
chantrells and cut them into neat pieces. We then buttered up a cast iron skillet,
set the heat to medium and proceeded to cook the mushrooms. A little salt and
pepper and a bit more simmering to reduce the moisture and they were ready
for sampling. After everyone had enjoyed a mouthful Chip inquired if i was going
to have any? I responded with a... "why i never eat wild mushrooms!".
Sure i ate some and they were very good and one of the fungi that are
impossible to misidentify once you have attained a few observations. They are always
listed in books as "choice" for edibility and taste. Still one cannot
overstate caution in mushrooming.

Saying our goodbyes after the wonderful meal and relaxing visit we headed
back to pickup our vehicles for the drive to the snorkel site. From this site we
were all to depart for our 3 seperate destinations. On the way however a wall
of rain swept on us, one of the most intense rains ive ever experienced. We
pulled over into a quick stop mart and decided to call off the snorkeling and
say our goodbyes. Drenching wet i loaded back into the van and headed back
towards the interstate. The rain was intensifying and becoming outright dangerous.
I was being overwhelmed by the mounting rain, minimal visibility and flooding
roads. I could make Chip's truck out ahead and gave him a cell call. We
decided to stop and relax in a Mexican restaurant and let the rainstorm blow over.
Chip and i reviewed the gazateers and the sites Fritz had suggested while
enjoying some chips, salsa and the rain from a window booth. Several others
travelers arrived to do the same. Finally the rain calmed to a drizzle and we again
said our goodbyes and thanks and i headed north to the Atlantic slope of the
Appalachians! Thanks Chip!


/ This is the discussion list of the North American Native Fishes
/ Association (NANFA). Comments made on this list do not necessarily
/ reflect the beliefs or goals of NANFA. For more information about NANFA,
/ visit . Please make sure all posts to nanfa-l are
/ consistent with the guidelines as per
/ To subscribe,
/ unsubscribe, or get help, visit the NANFA email list home page and
/ archive-in-

: Wed Sep 29 2004 - 12:21:35 CDT