Before we left Congaree, I told Boo we HAD to go see “The” Loblolly Pine.
On the Owl Prowl on Friday night, we saw the tree that held the state record for years. It has since been dethroned by another tree that is the tallest Loblolly Pine in the nation.
So, we went to the Visitor Center to find out how to find this champion. We walked winding wooden planks for hours to find her.
These trails amble through a leafy, wooded canopy that is breathtaking. Congaree heralds the title of “largest intact expanse of old growth, bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States.” This area floods several times a year. So, at times she looks like a swamp. And was, in fact, called a swamp until she became a National Park. In reality, she is not a swamp (which is continuously wet), she is a bottomland forest floodplain (periodically flooded). That means that she is a heavily wooded area that, during heavy rain periods, takes on water that stands for a period of time.
The average canopy height is over 100ft tall. Congaree has one of the tallest, temperate deciduous forests in the world, and is taller than the old-growth forests found in Japan, the Himalayas, Southern South America and all of Eastern Europe. It’s as if her canopy is touching the sky.
As tall as a sixteen story building, The National Champion Loblolly Pine is 167 feet tall and almost 15 feet in circumference. She is half the size of the Statue of Liberty (at 305′ tall).
When we found her, we were awestruck by her circumference and yet surprised that – from the forest floor – she fit in with all the other trees. While tall, from our perspective, she didn’t a.p.p.e.a.r gargantuan. But, she is.
As I gazed around, I thought about the potential for life underfoot. All around us were pine cones … full of seeds … transporters of lives that could become another record breaker … or just another tree in the forest.
Like this Loblolly,
we may or may not have the opportunity to hold a national record
but we do have the opportunity to stand side by side with others
and be a part of something grand and beautiful.
And there is life all around us …
seeds that need water and encouragement to sprout and grow.
We can be a part of something grand
if we take the time to look around
and search for those that can use nurturing
that are within our own sight
and sometimes … even “under foot.”
The hike took us much longer than we expected … but we took at least one wrong turn that cost us a full mile of walking. And we spent some time sitting and …. ehm….. we had to stop along the way to take photographs, of course. All in all, we spent almost four hours hiking to see this tree.
But, it was worth it.
I stood there in awe
gazing up at her boughs reaching for blue
surrounded by her offspring at my feet
and caressing her bark, layer upon layer of crinkled, stubbled, sap-dotted life.
If you make a trip to Congaree, be sure to find her. You’ll be glad that you did.