Magic: The Traveling

A Magic: the Gathering travel blog
Finding MtG in the most unlikely places

Congaree National Park vs. Fifth Edition Swamps

Congaree National Forest
Columbia, SC, USA


Standing at the trailhead with one eye on the Visitor’s Center mosquito meter, it should have occurred to me that Congree National Park is the perfect birthplace for an MtG travel blog, what with all the primordial ooze. The official website calls it an “old-growth floodplain”. I call it the inspiration for every 5th Edition swamp ever.

Partially tamed now thanks to a 2.5-mile hiker’s boardwalk and the onset of the Cenozoic period, the recent history of the Congaree can be summed up with a quick litany of historical has-beens: Indians, Spanish explorers, smallpox, Mel Gibson.

Ah yes. Mel Gibson. While the rest of the known universe forgot about The Patriot (Working title – Braveheart 2: The Desperate Years) thirty-five seconds into the movie, South Carolinians keep the spirit of a local hero alive by bringing up the film and subsequently Francis Marion – on whom Gibson’s character was based – a lot.

Not to refuse credit where credit’s due. The real Francis “The Swamp Fox” Marion was a bloodthirsty, French-speaking, guerrilla-fighting, cousin-marrying badass. They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

“Francis Marion might maybe once perhaps have possibly walked through this very swamp!”, says a Visitor’s Center plaque, in a font tinged with mild hysteria.

As we left, a couple of perky park rangers were standing behind a fold-out table covered in animal pelts, two girl scouts running a taxidermy bake sale. “Did you two have a nice walk?” Yeah. Yeah, we did.

The Talk

Kendra So. Mel Gibson. …No, wait, screw Mel Gibson. Was that park ranger wearing a squirrel hand puppet?

Kyle Not only was that park ranger wearing a squirrel puppet on her hand, she was standing behind a folding card table covered in pelts. I couldn’t figure out if they were selling them, showing us the tragic results of open borders with French-Canada, or if it was the Parks and Recreation version of 007 coming home to find a naked Russian spy on his bear rug. After two hours of wading through black mana, I pretty much just saw: Chicks. Ranger Hats. Pelts. Puppet. and my brain just shut off.

Kendra Woah there, hoss. We’re 12 words into our whirlwind bloggy adventure and you’ve already covered the three crucial Bs: Bond, Bearskin and Black Mana, all served with a delightful whipped topping of political insensitivity. Leave some action points for the rest of us. Christ.

Oh, I meant to ask you today, but now that it’s relevant again: you know those root-stalagmite snorkel things sticking out of the ground? How did you know those are called Cyprus Knees? I mean… who knows that? Except you. Because you knew that. And then you were all, “No, silly Kendra, those are Cyprus Knees. Of course.”

Kyle Not many people know this about me, but I’ve spent a great deal of life learning about nature’s snorkels… Snorkel Rice, Snorks, those weird soft shell turtles we saw in China… if you can use it to breathe underwater and it not acronym improved on by Jacques Cousteau, I pretty much have a little file on it somewhere.

Actually, no… I grew up around black water swamps. We went on a lot of field trips. I was one of those sad little kids that stood up front by the guide and asked a lot of questions about skinks while the cool kids lurked in the back, surreptitiously smoking and trying to perforate the local wildlife with No. 2 pencils.

Kendra I only ask because if it wasn’t for the Cyprus Knees, there would be no post-worthy material here. I mean, look at that picture. Without the Cyprus Knees, the Congaree would be way less 5th-editiony.

Hey, you think I can squeeze in one more “Cyprus Knees” before the post ends? Hey, look. Cyprus Knees. Haha.

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