Exploring new country

BY DAN GEDDINGS
Special to The Sumter Item
Posted 1/6/19

It's an unusual sound. I've heard it here and a few other places before, but it's not heard very often. I had walked away from the truck about 30 yards and stopped in an old road bed. The carpet of pine straw and fallen leaves was soggy from a …

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Exploring new country

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It's an unusual sound. I've heard it here and a few other places before, but it's not heard very often. I had walked away from the truck about 30 yards and stopped in an old road bed. The carpet of pine straw and fallen leaves was soggy from a recent rain and made no sound where I tread. There was no wind. There were no birds calling. No muffled sounds of traffic in the distance.

It was the sound of silence. Not just quiet, but total silence. It's only unusual because it is so different from what we're accustomed to hearing. I lingered, just standing there, listening to this spell of serenity. I didn't want it to end, but I needed to move on.

The road followed the edge of a wide swamp. Hardwoods and low lands on one side and a steep hill of mixed oak and pineland on the other side. The woodlands here are towering and beautiful. These old trees must have many secrets to tell.

After walking a short distance, I stopped again. I noticed a soft breeze overhead in the pine tops and a faint whisper in the wind. The spell of silence was gone now. I moved on, and another sound soon caught my interest. It was farther ahead, and familiar.

"The tinkling melody of a small brook," I thought to myself. It would have been absurd to say it out loud. Out here.

A smaller, rougher road branched off here, into the swamp. Of course, I had to go. It was a little wet but not too bad. Around a turn was a wooden bridge. It spanned a rain-swollen creek that was the source of the sound I had heard. This was no little brook. The bridge was well made and in very good shape. The trail beyond was flooded and blocked by some fallen trees. I could see a powerline just down the trail. Better boots and a chain saw would be needed to explore this area, so I turned back.

Back on the main road, I noticed the sky overhead clearing and blue sky showing. Birds were calling in the thickets now. The breeze was stronger. The road headed up, away from the swampland into the pineland. An unusual color on the ground, at the side of the road, caught my attention.

Pink leaves littered the bronze-colored ground. I stopped to look and picked one up. The underside was matte pink. The top side was glossy, scarlet red. A small, bare bush was the source. All the leaves had fallen to the ground around the bush, and all were lying with the underside turned up. They were so unusual I took a picture and put one in my pocket.

Farther ahead, I noticed a small clear spot in the road where the leaves had been raked away. The bare ground showed hoof marks. A small branch hung over the road. It was a scrape and licking branch. A small sapling nearby had the bark rubbed and gouged by the antlers of a buck. I looked around and could see other saplings and spindly trees that had been rubbed. This was a good sign. I smiled and moved on down the road.

An open area in the pines beckoned. It was a small wildlife food plot. The ground had been plowed earlier but had not been planted. Rains had washed the sandy soil smooth. A large set of tracks was pressed into the hard-packed ground. Hog tracks. They were fresh. Made after the rain that had ended that morning. There were also a few deer tracks and a set of turkey tracks. I could see another food plot and a deer stand through the pines.

This highcountry hunt club land is new to me. There is much exploring to do, and I can't do it all in one day. I've looked at some of the low lands but not much of the high ground yet. I need to see as much as I can before the spring turkey season opens in March. Being familiar with the lay of the land is a turkey hunting basic.

Just being outside in the outdoors is a treat for me. Exploring new country, finding a bridge, following an old road are things that I love to do. Pink leaves, buck rubs and animal tracks are extra-special things.

Reach Dan Geddings at cdgeddings@gmail.com.