Congaree National Park was our last major destination for the trip. One of the newest National Parks, it’s basically just one big swamp best explored by canoe or kayak. We didn’t have time to rent one so we were going to be limited to the few hiking trails but it was supposed to be a unique and interesting park so we were excited. After arriving to the park we discovered that there was just one campground open however it was not only free but completely unoccupied. We walked through the sites and found a pretty great site with plenty of space and in the middle of pretty trees. We really wanted s’mores and a fire so we drove into the nearest ‘town’ to get some food, s’more supplies and firewood. This turned out to be a difficult task but after some effort we found s’more supplies and decided we’d forge for firewood. Back at camp we made awesome caprese sandwiches, built a campfire, made s’mores, listened to music and relaxed. At some point in the evening we heard someone setting up camp nearby and they built a fire. After we went to bed we woke up, it sounded like the forest was on fire. Eric went to check it out and saw their campfire was just a tree they chopped down and lit on fire. Of course it went on longer than they wanted to stay up so they went to bed with it completely ablaze. Crossing our fingers they didn’t really start a forest fire we went back to sleep.
In the morning we chatted with a ranger and made our plan for the day (really only one actual hike in the park so it didn’t take long.) We drove to the visitor center, checked the mosquito meter (all clear thank goodness) and started the walk. The walk wasn’t long but very pretty and interesting. The trees and plants have developed very unique methods for surviving in the swamp and there were many types of flowers we didn’t have in the PNW to look at it. After a few hours we had seen what we could in the park so we headed back to the car. Congaree is worth a visit but you should definitely rent a canoe and camp on the river (in spring before the mosquitos come.) We packed up and drove to Atlanta.
Atlanta was a city we had been wanting to visit so we chose it as our city to fly home from. We had found a hotel in Midtown to stay at and checked in with Taylor’s cousins to find spots to eat and things to do. After checking in we relaxed for a bit and Eric discovered the hotel (part of the Georgia Tech Campus) had the fastest internet he’d seen so we started downloaded dozens of movies and TV series to stock up on things to watch during our 2 years in the Peace Corps. For dinner we had enormous burgers at a place called Vortex and then walked around for a bit. Unfortunately we learned that most of Atlanta is not great for walking around and without a great plan of things to see we were a little bored. We went back to the hotel to use the pool before crashing for the night.
The next morning we had a huge Southern breakfast at Mary Mac’s Tea Room. It was awesome. Not knowing what else to do we went back to our Miami plan and looked up the best coffee shop in Atlanta. It worked again. Not only was it an awesome place but in a really neighborhood where MLK Jr. used to live. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore the area but we took note of the spot and will definitely explore it more if we make it back to Atlanta.
That’s it, our 6 weeks of exploring America was over. We said goodbye to Daniel (who promises to visit us in Kyrgyzstan) and sat in the airport. The trip was amazing. Between the two trips, we had been driving nearly 40 days and seen some of the best America has to offer. We visited 12 National Parks and 14 states. Had amazing food and drinks. Saw some beautiful places and some odd things. We were able to say goodbye to a lot of family. I don’t think we could have planned things out any better. America has been seen, Kyrgyzstan, here we come.