After
our first two successful sea kayak trips to Charleston, several
people told me they wanted more touring, and others wanted the basic
training, so the third trip combined the two. On Saturday, I led a
trip on the East Branch of the Cooper River, while Chris from Coastal
Expeditions gave a one day clinic in the pond. Joining me on the
trip were Meg, Walter and Salena Lynch, Dan and Elise MacIntyre, and
Evelyn Hopkins, all in singles except the MacIntyres. Ed Schultz
(really), Fred Borchuck, new member Laura Brinkley, Alex and Mary Ann
Pruitt, and Mike Higgins did the clinic.

The
East Branch Cooper starts out as a narrow back water stream where we
put on at Huger Landing. Cypress trees, Spanish moss, that sort of
thing. As you proceed downstream, it widens out as it passes through
the sites of 200-year-old rice plantations. The plantations are gone
now, but the old wharf pilings, levees, and water gates are still
there.

In
a couple of places we paddled back into the old rice fields, which
were heavily choked with grasses and water hyacinth. The map showed
an osprey nest up one little creek; we saw a nest on top of a broken
pine, but Salena thought it was too small for an osprey. We saw lots
of birds: egrets, great blue herons, green herons, and cormorants,
which are cool to watch. They dive off branches into the water,
submerge, and come up a minute later 30 yards away looking like a
periscope.

One
of the highlights for me was spotting a bald eagle high in a dead
pine. He watched us calmly until we were almost to his tree, then
soared majestically off over the river.

The
trip turns back at the Pompion Hill Chapel, a little church built by
the planters in 1763. This type of church is referred to as a
‘chapel of ease’ because it was easier to go there than all the way
down into Charleston. One of the gravestones in the little cemetery
there is dated 1789. There must be a Chapel Association, because the
building and grounds were clean and well-maintained. It was
interesting to sit on the steps of the chapel and eat lunch and
imagine folks meeting in that churchyard over 230 years ago.

The
idea of the Cooper trip is that you ride the outgoing tide down to
Pompion Hill, then catch the incoming tide back to the landing, which
didn’t quite work for us, but the paddle back upstream wasn’t
difficult. We had run a shuttle to the bridge at Quimby Creek, and
took out there amidst pouring rain.

I
don’t know what the training group did, except that Fred got a SK
roll right off, and Chris worked them really hard. Laura admitted
that that was the longest she’d ever been in a boat in her life, and
wasn’t sure she needed that much boating all at one time.

We
all met back at Coastal Expeditions, went home and showered, and
convened at The Wreck again for seafood. It was as good as before,
although they wouldn’t give separate checks or let us pay at the
register like NOC and Nantahala Village, so we worked for some time
getting the money right.

Early
Sunday it looked ugly, but then the sun came out, and we had a nice
paddle out to Capers Island. Capers is a state wildlife refuge, and
also adjoins the Cape Romaine National Refuge. After an uneventful
trip out, we lunched on the beach. The beach is receding, and
leaving fallen trees as it goes. Looks rather like Normandy after
D-day, lots of wreckage.

I
hiked back into the interior with Meg, Alex, and Mary Ann to look for
alligators. We found one dozing in the inland pond. After he
started swimming he rose in the water and we could see his full
length, which we guessed at 10 feet. After a while he headed over
toward the dam, which rises about 6 feet up from the water. I went
over to get a closer look, but the others weren’t eager to get close.
They finally inched over so we all looked down on the ‘gator. Mary
Ann kept safety in mind; she kept yelling “Steve is the tasty
one!”

The
wind started picking up, so we headed back sooner than we’d planned.
The surf hadn’t gotten good yet, so we missed that, too,
unfortunately.

Let
me close by quoting a letter Anne Gould, owner of Coastal Expeditions
sent me a few days later: “It was such fun introducing your
intrepid group to sea kayaking, and seeing familiar faces. Thank you
for once again choosing us to serve in that important role of setting
a tone for future kayaking enjoyment… They arrived with the same
confident enthusiasm we’ve come to expect from you Georgia paddlers —
a fun and interesting group on the water… We look forward to your
next visit to our many rivers and islands. Fondly, Anne”

by
Steve Cramer
From The Eddy Line, January 1998