Sunday, March 26. 2006
Parson's Mountain, south of Abbeville, South Carolina. It's supposedly 400 feet over 1.4 miles.
I've hiked in the area before, and each time I go, the lake campground entrance is closed. So I drove up the hill on Forest Service Road 515 and parked where the trail crosses the road. It's not ideal as it puts you in the middle of the whole trail, but I figured I could climb to the top of the mountain and then walk down to the lake.
The weather was overcast and cool (low 50s) when I started walking around 11 am. Not far from the road is a set of fences on the side of the hill. The fences surround large holes dug straight into the rock, efforts at starting a gold mine in the 19th or early 20th century. They aren't much to look at, but a couple are pretty deep, so the fences are probably a good idea.
I continued up the rocky slope and soon was at the peak. It's not a tall mountain at 832 feet, but it's the tallest spot in the area and you can see the low horizon in all directions (at least where you can see through the trees). Perched at the top is an old fire tower. These were used to keep watch for forest fires. It is a small wooden shack atop a metal frame. You reach the shack via a winding staircase. If I recall, the first time I hiked up there maybe five years ago, you could climb up the stairs as high as the bottom of the shack, but you couldn't go in. The creaky stairs, rickety tower and a nice breeze made climbing a daring experience. Now they have a fence around the bottom of the tower and a stern warning not to enter. I wonder why the change of heart?
I doddled at the top and took a few pictures, then began my descent. It wasn't long before I was passing the gold mines and back by my car at the road. The top of the mountain had been sort of wintry...no wildflowers blooming and only a few buds on trees. But on the low side of the road was a beautiful wild azalea, blooming pink and white. I began the trail down from the road.
Bird's foot violets (Viola pedata) were the most common. I passed through a large area of dead and fallen trees, and here I saw several small patches of "green and gold" (Chrysogonum virginianum var. australe). One nice thing about hiking non-loop trails is that you can survey the trail on the first pass, then slow down for photography on the way back, assuming the daylight behaves.
I spooked several deer out of a hollow and they bounded up the opposite hill. Most of the other animals must have spent the day tucked out of sight and staying warm, as all I saw were a pair of eastern phoebes, two noisy geese at the lake, and a lethargic anole hiding in the grass.
Eventually I arrived at the fork that creates the loop trail that surrounds Parson's Lake. I elected to go right, which would take me to the boat ramp side of the lake first. On my right there was a small pond with a pair of eastern redbud trees (Cercis canadensis) next to a branch trail, blooming with light purple flowers. I stayed with the main path and it wasn't long until I was at the parking area and campground. A Forest Service truck was in the picnic area, and I wondered if they would run me off for being in the closed campground. But the guys in the truck were a grounds keeping crew dozing on their lunch hour. They didn't seem to care that I was there.
The second half of the loop trail followed lower ground and much of the trail was near a creek. Here I found several rue anemones (Thalictrum thalictroides), blooming white. The creek was flowing nicely and made for more pleasant background music than the geese. Eventually my hike took me back up to the trail fork, where I began my climb up the hill. I stopped at the places I figured the wildflowers to be the best and took photos. I also stumbled upon a new flower, round-lobed liverleaf (Hepatica americana), barely poking out of the leaf litter.
I continued up the hill and was glad to find my car undisturbed on the forest road. It was a good hike, but it might be better in April when the foliage has had more of a chance to get into spring.
See the photo album
More Trail Info (PDF)
Monday, March 20. 2006
In my last entry on spam, I mentioned I would move to using POPFile as my mail junk filter. I turned off the ineffective Bayes filtering of SpamAssassin and just left it to toss blatant spam using its other rules. I also disabled Thunderbird's junk filter.
POPFile has done well. So far it has classified nearly 14,000 messages, 85% of which were spam. So that means my local system had to download nearly 12,000 spams before the POPFile classifier could junk them. It would be great to have a system like this on the server to prevent that wasted message downloading.
POPFile has been a bit too aggressive in classifying messages as spam. I still have to browse the junk folder now and then to make sure a legitimate message isn't there. On the other hand, very spams actually show up in the inbox.
I'm still contemplating going to using a whitelist and blocking everything else, but I'll save that battle for another day.
Tuesday, March 14. 2006
I paddled there last year, and Brian has paddled it many times. This hike, however would take us by a stretch he hadn't done yet.
We began at the end of the trail on SC 283 west of Edgefield and shuttled one car to the trail head on Forest Service Road 617A. The air was cool but the sun promised to warm things up under the clear skies. Unlike a paddling trip we were underway in no time. The trail starts along the Stevens Creek, but the foliage blocked views of the water for long stretches of the entire trail.
SC Wildflower Guide was helpful for our IDs.
We passed the confluence of the Turkey and Stevens creeks. It was interesting to see it from above the water. From there we turned northeast and followed the Turkey Creek. After a while we came out upon a service road and it was unclear which way to go. A white pickup pulled up at the same time. The driver, an avid geocacher with three GPS units wasn't able to help us. So we tried to follow the creek and got nowhere. Eventually we decided to hike up the service road a bit and found the continuation of the trail. It would've been helpful for this to have been indicated on the sctrails.net map.
After the break it was back to walking and more walking. Views of the creek became more sparse as we walked through a dense lowland and then ascended a bluff well off the water. On the bluff it looked as if a fierce storm had downed dozens of trees, but as all the dead trees were pines, this was apparently the work of the Southern Pine Beetle. It was unclear how many trees had been killed by the beetle and how many had been cut down to prevent the spread, but the destruction was impressive.
Eventually we came down off the bluff and broke off of Turkey Creek to follow the smaller Wine Creek, but it wasn't readily apparent where this was as we crossed several small tributaries. After a short distance on Wine Creek, we broke off and ended up at the trail head on highway 283, ready for a well-deserved rest.
I used GPS Visualizer to make a Google Map. Here is the GPX data...plot it however you like! More trail info:
Wednesday, March 8. 2006
My previous residence is for sale! Please click here and have a look. It's a great house with access to Lake Greenwood (South Carolina). If you know anyone who might be interested, please pass the info along!
Update 2006-11-29: the house has been sold! Thanks for your interest.
Saturday, March 4. 2006
I realized I haven't written a thing since January. Well, it's mostly because we moved to a new house and are getting the old one ready to sell. Not very interesting for blogging.
We finally had some good weather on a weekend around here, so I took my son to the local airport to watch the private pilots fly the pattern. We lucked out and there was a lot of activity, so my son was happy. There was a helicopter parked on the field, and we walked over to take a look at it. A woman in a flight suit appeared while we were there; she turned out to be the pilot. Apparently they're in town to work for the US Forest Service. They have been using the copter to start controlled fires in the Sumter National Forest. Today she was on call to put out the fires if necessary.
I'm looking forward to getting back to Flight Simulator when I get my office put together. My friend Owen put together a custom 3D model of our airport that makes it look like you're really flying here.
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