Friday, 12 July 2013

A South Carolina State of Mind - - Stories from Vacation

This week has been a complete break from routine as the Nerd and I have spent the past week in South Carolina, enjoying a family reunion of the Pitt descendants.  Well, various Pitt descendants, anyways.  The nice ones.

© OpenStreetMap contributors, Licensed CC-BY-SA
The family rented two nearly adjacent houses on Fisher Knob at Lake Jocassee, South Carolina (indicated by the red "X" in the map, above).

Lake Jocassee has an interesting heritage, as it used to be a valley with a number of houses in it until the mid-1970s, when the local power concern built a series of dams and flooded the valley.  The new lake runs 250 - 600 feet deep in some places, and fishing maps show the old roads and old rivers that used to run through the valleys between the local hills, along with the old houses, lodges and campgrounds that still lie at the bottom of the lake.

The lake is a popular place for fishing, boating, kayaking, swimming, and hiking.  The local terrain is quite hilly, being situated in the Appalachian mountains, and local roads are very steep with many switchbacks.  Even though it has rained literally every day that we have been here, the rain has not interfered with our various recreational pursuits.  Plus the rain has kept the temperatures in the mid-70s, which is perfect for those of us who hate heat. 

I have been eating my face off this week with all the delicious meals served up every evening.  Each family group has taken turns cooking, and so far we have enjoyed Indian curry (courtesy of the Nerd), meatballs, pasta and seven layer Magic bars (a southern dessert), enchiladas, chicken Marsala and Jello pudding shooters and baklava, barbecue chicken, roasted corn and tomatoes, and pound cake with strawberries and whipped cream, salad bar, corn bread, rosemary bread, baked potatoes, spice cake and prune cake, and jerk chicken and jerk pork sliders with twice baked potatoes.   Among many other amazing foods that I am forgetting.   Along with the food has come a super-abundance of drinking, and I have done my share of polishing off a large bottle of Crown Royal rye whisky.

In a (likely vain) attempt to stave off massive weight gain I have made a point of trying to do something active every day that I have been here.  I have gone swimming for the first time in decades, which was a humbling experience.  My technique is something between "random bobbing" and "modified breast stroke", and apparently I am prone to making alarming noises that frighten small children.  No matter - - the water was warm every day but one, and I had a fun time.

Less fun was the occasional walk that the Nerd and I took along Fisher Knob Road.  I mentioned the whole "Appalachian mountains" thing, right?  Well that leads to roads that are entirely too hilly, in a state that enjoys 85% humidity.  Let it not ever be said that I look glamorous after one of our grim death marches - - by the time we got back to the cabin I was uniformly drenched with sweat.  Sexy time indeed!

Most fun of all for me was kayaking.  I have always wanted to kayak, and I got my first chance to do so this week.  I was able to take the kayak out 4 times this week and I really enjoyed every time.   My various trips are indicated by the blue track in the above map.  The first trip I stayed relatively close to the cabin, but the other three times I went exploring and discovered two beautiful waterfalls and a numerous herons.  I also almost had a tree fall on me - - fortunately it was pointing in the other direction when I was paddling by - - but overall I suffered no ill effects from my little adventures.  Apparently kayaking uses all the muscles in the body, especially the core and shoulders, but I mainly feel it in my shoulders alone.  I'm not sure I even have a core, frankly.

The water levels on the lake are apparently 25 feet higher than usual, and the little island in the above photo is usually not an island at all.  The high water levels also explain the unusually high amount of toppled trees that have fallen into the lake  (including the one that almost crushed yours truly) - - the action of waves on the local red clay soil undercuts the land and undermines trees' roots, leading them to fall over into the water - - usually in spectacular fashion.

Certainly I am not getting the cardio workout of my usual elliptical/elliptical + weights workouts, but I am hoping that the combination of hill training (aka grim death marches), swimming (aka bobbing), and kayaking (aka paddling) will have kept my metabolism from completely going dormant.

I have been very lucky so far this week and have not been bitten to death by insects, nor have I gotten terribly sunburned.  As you can see from the photo of my legs, above, I may even be paler than when I left Canada, if that is at all possible.   You will be pleased to know that in a comparison of various arms, the South Carolina natives are the darkest, followed by the Cincinnati resident, followed by yours truly.  Yes, in a shocking twist, the Canadian was the palest person at the reunion. 

Tomorrow we head back to Columbus for the first leg of our trip home, which should be a 9 hour drive.  I am already dreading coming back to the office.  For now, however, there is food to be eaten and drinks to be consumed.  Back to routine in a couple of days.


  1. I absolutely love the idea that there are all those houses and things still sitting down at the bottom of the lake! Oh, to scuba dive down there and have a look... it would be like exploring a drowned ghost town!
    So nice that you updated us with all the goings-on of your vacation. It all sounds nice. I wish you hadn't been quite so generous in your description of all that food. I've had dinner, albeit a small and unsatisfactory one, and I got to drooling on my keyboard. Well, almost.
    I wouldn't worry about your metabolism. In fact, the new mix of activities has probably been extremely beneficial to your body, which is likely far too accustomed to the repetitive movement of the elliptical. You know I'm right, so don't argue.
    Happy trails back home!

  2. What a captivatingly written travelogue, complete with photos! You both look wonderful, and you will have a hard time convincing me that the dates of the photos aren't reversed! Enjoy your last days before heading home!

    ~ yellowabc