Congaree National Park | 41/59

Looking at our sticker collection on the back of the RV, puts into perspective just how far we’ve come on this journey together. Each sticker represents so many memories, adventures, laughs, struggles, and triumphs in some of our nation’s most beautiful destinations. And while the destinations are stunning and awe-inspiring, it’s the joy of the journey that calls my soul to the open road. It’s what keeps us rolling all these many miles–almost 30,000.

Our Vie has taken us to some pretty cool places so far, and Congaree National Park is no different. Some locals wonder why “they put a national park in the worst area of South Carolina?” I don’t question the move at all. While, there may be other beautiful places in this state, but we still really enjoyed this park. Mainly because it was different than anything we’ve come across in our travels.

The wetlands of Congaree NP are known for being a bird sanctuary. You can even go on an “Owl Prowl” night hike with a ranger. We had read about this and really wanted to go (mainly we just really liked to say the phrase), but for some reason the rangers took a break from this activity during the week that we visited. AHHH. I feel like we kinda struck out in a few of the east coast parks; I just feel like we weren’t able to do them justice.

Things just haven’t been lining up and we seem to miss some of the coolest things in these eastern parks. So, we apologize! Sometimes in life, you just have to do the best with what you have to work with at the time.

We LOVED the Cyprus trees and how they sprout “knees” from their roots to help them stay stable in the soft, swampy ground and water. Congaree is the “trees knees”…

In other news, Vladimir found himself a girlfriend. This was very strange, because normally he doesn’t really like other animals. This poor kitty Vlads found on the trail was either a stray or a farm cat. I think Vlads felt bad for her and tried to befriend her. They even touched noses a few times!  Kitty kisses?? It was pretty cute, but then she started hissing even though Vlads was trying to be nice, so we picked him up and got the heck out the there. Our kitty acts tough, but he’s kind of a spoiled cat and probably wouldn’t last long in the real cat-world.

“You’re eating all my crunchies… you monster.” –Vladimir

We love it when we find pet-friendly trails in the parks! Unfortunately, I saw two ticks jump unto Vlads, and after that we high-tailed it back to the RV. This hike was short-lived, but at least kitty got to stretch his legs and find his long-lost girlfriend.

I wish I was this excited about eating my vegetables.

Sockos. It’s a thing.

Of course, one of our favorite ways to get the kitty out and about is on the kayaks! As long as it’s not too turbulent, he loves coming along for the ride. The river in Congaree was perfectly still and quiet, except for the cacophony of birds making music up above us.

The water was so still it created the coolest reflections of the trees.

I loved the trees’ knees! They reminded me of the gnome-rock people in Frozen. Yes, we have watched that many times, no shame.

We paddled down river for a few miles and then turned around when we felt like we had seen enough. It was actually a really neat experience. I had never been in swampy terrain like this and I felt like I was in the Rescuers movie or something. (Holla at all our Disney trivia fans out there: what is the name of the little dragonlfy guy in that movie? GO!)

Goodbye Congaree!

Rainy Mondays call for forced kitten snuggles.

So while traveling in the south, we saw signs for Waffle House at EVERY single exit on the freeway. It’s gotta be more popular than McDonald’s here. One morning we caved and decided to try it out. It was actually pretty decent for a fast food breakfast situation.

But, it wasn’t the food that left a lasting impression on us as much as the people we met inside. This particular Waffle House is in Alabama and I’m here to testify, southern hospitality is a REAL thing. We could hardly get a bite in because everyone in the restaurant was asking us all kinds of questions about our travels and our life. People were so interested in us and thought our trip was the coolest idea ever. Everyone was SO friendly and supportive to us.

One older woman who was eating with her husband came over and chatted with us for the longest time, telling us her entire life-story. She said that she and her previous husband never went anywhere, they never ever left this small town. But, now she’s 65 and just got married to a new man, who took her on her very first vacation to Pigeon Forge, outside of Great Smokey Mountains National Park. She was thrilled and told us they just had a ball in that amazing place. (Sadly for her, Pigeon Forge got pretty wrecked in the out of control fires that plagued the area when we were just barely there a few days prior.) We couldn’t believe that A.) Dollywood in Pigeon Forge was the only vacation she’d ever been on and B.) that she loved it that much. We had the opposite experience and thought that it was probably one of our least favorite places we’ve ever been, aside from Vegas (we just don’t fit the flashy style that Pigeon Forge has to offer). But, I’m not saying all this to hate on Dollywood or this woman’s dream vacation. We just left Waffle House feeling so grateful, and almost guilty, for all of the many blessings in our lives. We felt guilty and blessed to get to travel the whole U.S. and have so many beautiful, happy memories together. This woman obviously had a hard life. She told us she raised 7 children by herself and she wasn’t able to keep up her teeth (she noticed my smile and really liked it and in that moment I felt so bad that I take my teeth for granted sometimes).

The point of all this, is that it made us immensely grateful for all the life has given us and what we’ve been fortunate enough to make out of life in our short 25 years. This woman was stoked about Pigeon Forge, and it made me want to be more grateful for every little thing, knowing that some people barely ever get to leave their little hometowns. When she left she told us to stay together, be good to each other, and cherish these amazing experiences that we get to have. And we will do just that!

“Ah! Young people, travel if you can, and if you cannot – travel all the same!”

– Jules Verne

When you’re so bored of driving, you make up a new game. The only goal is to sneak attack-swat-Cees-in-the-head-endlessly.

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