At 4 a.m. the skies were clear! Thank you Mother/Father Nature! With a decent breakfast and a quick stop at Wal-Mart we were on our way to Congaree National Park. This little gem is located in the center of South Carolina (a little southeast of Columbia). Congaree is the largest remnant of old-growth floodplain forest remaining on the continent! It houses national and state champion trees, towering to record size. It really is a natural treasure. There is a 2.4 mile boardwalk loop trail that is mere inches above the swamp in certain areas. It houses thousands of cypress knees from the Bald Cypress Tree, as well as Loblolly Pines, Maples, Palmettos, etc. According to their literature, there are 22 different plant communities in the park. We were not only privileged to hear a Pileated Woodpecker, we saw one in flight and on a tree. Unfortunately, I was not able to get a good photo of one. Mady loved "hiken in the swamp" and was a real trouper both walking and riding in the backpack. This was her first National Park (and not her last) so she now has her 1st National Park Passport Stamp.
After a good 3 hour walk we pointed the car toward our final destination, Charleston. Lunch and quick car naps (for all but the driver - me) we arrived in Charleston at the Francis Marion Hotel. This hotel was built in 1924 and according to it's website was "meticulously restored in 1996 with a $12 million National Trust for Historic Preservation." It is beautiful hotel with a lovely Christmas tree in the lobby, but there are a few downsides. The rooms (at least ours) are rather on the small side and the bathroom, well, you just would not believe it. I'll let the pictures speak for me. Our room, on the 8th floor, overlooks Marion Park and in the distance the Atlantic Ocean and Arthur Ravenel Bridge. The moonrise was spectacular tonight (my photos don't do it justice).
After a quick bite to eat, at a location not worthy of mentioning, we are back in the room and looking forward to a wonderful day tomorrow. Cinderella is playing in the background as well as a guitar. Lights out soon!