carnivorous plants cataract bog hiking horned bladderwort Kings Kaleidoscope pitcher plant Slickum Creek South Carolina sundew The SC Project

Rare Life in the Carolina Bogs

My friend Darrin shot me a text last week about getting in a hike before work, as he was working second shift temporarily. I’ve been on second for a while, so this worked out perfect to head up towards the Mountain Bridge for a morning hike together. I love hiking with Darrin. He’s one of the coolest dudes to share the outdoors with.
As seems typical for my hikes, whatever music I happen to be listening to on the way to the destination gives a prelude to what I’m about to experience. Life for me has really felt topsy-turvy lately, and generally I have been feeling very disoriented and weary. 
In rocks and skies and trees, Your beauty revives me. 
You lift the weight and burden from my shoulders.
Refreshment was coming in abundance.
As we pulled into the parking area, I got to meet long time Team Waterfall member Brenda Wiley and her friend Dan who was visiting from out of state. Darrin had gotten a tip about a cataract bog in the area, and we all wanted to check it out. Before that, though, we would check one we did know of. 
During our Waterfalls on 11 hike, we passed through a bog with the remnants of last years pitcher plants, and the time is about right to see them in bloom now. We made our way to Heritage Falls. Darrin was telling us a story of how a guy who died here after slipping on the slick rock. With low water flow, it seems quite innocent, but that rock gets very slick. Now cautioned, we worked our way down and around to the base of the falls where we visited a very intact moonshine still. Just beyond that, crossing the creek brought us to visit the first bog.
A few steps after crossing the creek, we spotted some fauna sunning itself on the flora. A black snake was hanging out, just taking in the first morning rays. Darrin knelt down and got within near kissing distance of the snake to get a picture of it. The snake simply flicked its tongue and patiently let Darrin take pictures of it. 

A few steps past Mr. No Shoulders and we were at the bog. These cataract bogs form on rock surfaces with slow moving low volume water flow that allows the fauna to perfectly gain habitat, and what fauna we found! Though not at full bloom, we got to see several patches of very full pitcher plants, horned bladderwort, and even some small sundews. All three of those are carnivorous. I have always wanted to see the carnivorous plants in the area ever since I first heard they populated Panthertown Valley. When Darrin mentioned them, I was really itching to see them in my own backyard of the Upstate. Also growing in the area were a couple wild orchids, Grass Pinks. There was also several mountain laurel plants in beautiful bloom.

Pitcher Plant

Sundew, beneath Pitcher plants and Horned Bladderwort

We made our way back to the cars to look for a spot given by a rough description of a non-descript trail entrance (as most adventurers of Team Waterfall begin – this is the pathway to a good time) given by a tip. I love adventures, just gotta say that. So we hiked along a firebreak of a recent prescribed burn area, tip in mind, looking for a wet area. Not long in, the glistening of wet rock glimmered through the burned underbrush. The trail continued on down the hill, but following in agreement with our master waterfallers Darrin and Brenda, we took the perpendicular turn into the burn area. The only real bushwhack to mention is pushing aside a thin curtain of briers, and we were at the bog. This bog, which was christened as Secret Bog on the permanent etchings of Facebook, was much more full than the previous one. Large green layers of plants covered the rocks, with its gatherings of pitcher plants and horned bladderwort. The Grass Pink concentration was much higher here with several dozen plants. There was even a rare mutant Grass Pink with a white flower. Also, blooming everywhere was the familiar mountain laurel. I love to see when these flowers fall off and land in a creek or river. They float perfectly on the water, almost like they were meant for that purpose, with beauty present even in their decay.

Mountain Laurel

Horned Bladderwort growing in the thin sediment

While standing on one patch of bald rock, a bumblebee was buzzing around but not really leaving the area. I don’t know if it was where I was standing or if it was me, but that bee was very interested in me. It must have thought I was a flower or something sweet smelling (his nose apparently isn’t that good), because it landed on me several times and stayed there long enough for me to get several pictures of it with manual focus. Pretty cool experience, though. The flowers and plants and clear blue skies accompanied by friends tied together with a common willingness to endure to such places brings me to feel that the whole thing is such a great and marvelous gift.

It’s funny, the outdoors. We start by going on hikes on a trail, and then graduate to looking for rock outcrops and waterfalls. Somewhere along the line, the adventurer becomes a botanist. The excitement that comes from finding the wildflowers and plants out in the wild is granted much more subdued, but equally amazing and awe inspiring. Consider the flowers of the field, one has said. Slow down. Enjoy the moment, the thisness of where you are and what you’re experiencing. Quiddity, as I first heard it called by C.S. Lewis, is the essence of what it is, essentially. We have a moment with a visual that invigorates a sensation in us, but we cannot keep that forever. Eventually, we must turn around, leave it behind and head to the cars…but I’m on a rabbit trail there.
In only a few short hours during the cool of the morning, we truly got to hear the Earth sing an orchestra of life.  I was freshly reminded of the gentle, reckless, passionate, giving, burden-lifting love of my Father. Reviving. 
Kings Kaleidoscope was right.. 
See the lilies, how they grow. They don’t work or buy their clothes
But if God, by his grace, clothes the grass with great array
Then how much more is there in store
When I seek your kingdom.
I cannot even imagine what those eternal fields will bring forth.