Wednesday, October 10, 2018

EDITOR'S NOTES: We're lucky to have wilderness within reach

It’s been awhile since I’ve slept outside.

As a relative newcomer to the state, I am still getting used to the creepy crawly flying biting things that make camping so enjoyable here.

With three sons and a daughter — all of whom enjoy camping, hiking and basically dragging their father into the wilderness — I’ve come to enjoy spending time in the great outdoors with the kids.

And it’s hard to come up with excuses when we have so many wild places within reach.

Most recently, son number two convinced me to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail.

The AT, to use the vernacular, is one of three premier trails that cross sections of the United States. First established in 1921, the AT begins at Springer Mountain in Georgia and travels about 2,200 miles to Mount Katahdin in Maine.

It connects 14 states: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Two other long-distance trails comprise what hikers consider the Triple Crown: the Pacific Crest Trail — made famous by Reese Witherspoon in the film “Wild” — connects the Mexico and Canada borders through California, Oregon and Washington; and the Continental Divide Trail, which roughly follows the Continental Divide through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

I’ve hiked sections of each of those mighty trails, but never as a thru-hiker. It takes three to four months to complete the hike of any one of the trails, and many thousands of hikers have done it. I’m not one of them. I’m perfectly happy to chip away at pieces of them every now and then.

The 4.5 miles of the Appalachian Trail my son and I tackled last weekend is just over the Georgia state line and is the closest the trail comes to South Carolina. Years ago I hiked a much longer section of the trail in North Carolina and Tennessee. That was many years ago when things like chiggers didn’t bother me as much.

I’m exaggerating a bit. I am lucky enough to be one of those people that isn’t bothered too much by mosquitoes and other annoying bugs, which is why I love to go hiking or paddling with my wife and kids. They seem to always have a fog of bugs around them. In the wild, my wife wears Deet like it’s perfume. Very sexy.

During this most recent trip, we had hoped that most of the bugs had flown south for the winter, but then we realized that we were in the South...with the bugs.

The bugs really weren’t that bad, considering the real threat in the Appalachian backcountry are bears and racoons. We saw none of the latter on this trip, mostly because we practiced good bear-coon etiquette by keeping our food away from our camp, hung safely in a bear bag high above the ground.

Having spent a few nights in the woods before, I’ve come face to face with both bears and racoons over the years. The most exciting battle I had with a racoon took place a few years ago as a scoutmaster at a weeklong summer camp. Did I mention I have three sons?

My assistant scoutmaster and I had just settled down for a warm summer night when the roaming pack of racoons decided it needed to be in the same campsite, inside the same canvas tent, and in fact on the same army cot that I was sleeping.

A well-aimed toss of my boot made the intruder scatter. We spent the next hour stumbling around in the middle of the night securing our gear and stowing our food, which seemed to be a pretty good racoon deterrent for the rest of the week.

Our most recent trip was much more tame in comparison, for which my son, Noah, and I were both thankful.

Now safely back on my living room couch, we have already begun planning for next big adventure — finishing the Swamp Fox Passage of the Palmetto Trail. A much more doable thru hike, the Palmetto Trail, bisects the state of South Carolina and is broken up into sections, or passages as they are called.

Number three son, Sam, and I have finished about half of the 47.2 Swamp Passage where it passes through the Francis Marion National Forest. We’ve got about 22 more miles to go to knock out that passage before moving on.

I’m not sure when that will happen, but as long as I have kids dragging me off the sofa, I suppose we’ll keep on hiking.

David Kennard checks the weather daily and plans to trade in his motorcycle for a car. He is the executive editor of Summerville Communications, which publishes the Berkeley Independent, Goose Creek Gazette and Summerville Journal Scene. Contact him at or 843-873-9424. Follow him on Twitter @davidbkennard.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

EDITOR'S NOTES: Deer season brings memories of hunts gone by

Deer season is underway here in the Lowcountry.

It’s the time of year that signals the beginning of the end of summer. And, although I’m a relative newcomer to the state, I always get a little nostalgic when I start to see ads on blaze orange, ammo and other hunting gear.

Locally, hunting began with a youth hunt on Aug. 11 and runs through Jan. 1. Anyone venturing in the forests should keep these dates in mind and understand that encounters with hunters is a very real possibility.

Hikers and backcountry enthusiasts — some of the friendliest folks you’ll ever run into — sometimes are disturbed when they see rifle toting hunters on their beloved trails in wandering through their unspoiled forests.

Most of my hunting these days is done with a telephoto camera lens, and most of the wild food I bring home has been handed to me through the window of Wendy’s drive-thru.

But I’ve found over the years that there’s plenty of room for everyone in the woods, whether you’re hunting with a long lens or a long gun.

When I was still in my teens living out West, my Boy Scout troop decided we would all go get hunting licenses and see if we could bring home a deer or two.

Five of us boys, including one of my best friends, Evan Jackson, his dad and our Scout leader Dennis Scott ended up in Mr. Jackson’s 1975 Chevy station headed for Craig, Colorado.

Now, I’ve been in the middle of nowhere before. If you every find yourself in Craig, Colorado, you know you are getting close. But that’s where the big bucks were — at least that’s what we were told.

What I discovered however is that deer hunting mostly involved walking around real quiet like, for miles and miles and then coming back to camp and talking about all the deer we saw, but were too far away to actually shoot. I did enjoy the camping part though.

Miraculously, it was on that first trip that I accidentally bagged my first mule deer.

After a couple of days of walking, scoping and walking, we called it a day and packed up for home.

Mr. Jackson had fitted his station wagon with a trailer hitch so he could pull his custom made utility trailer, which really was the back half of a 1950’s era Chevy pickup — you know the kind with the big round fenders that stick out.

It was late in the day when we set out on the rural state highway headed for home. It wasn’t long before I heard Mr. Jackson say, “Now what’s all this?”

I looked up to see what I thought was a small fog bank ahead and a car with its flashers pulled over on the side of the road. It was cool out, so it made sense that there might be some patchy fog, but then I saw the huge deer on the side of the road and realized what had happened.

All that fog was a bunch of deer hair. That stupid deer had decided to cross the road at the exact same time as the car ahead of us was traveling along that backroad highway in the middle of nowhere.

We pulled over as well, just to make sure everything was OK.

I looked back at that poor deer and saw it struggling to stand up. When it finally got to its feet, it took off down the highway, sort of. It had at least one broken leg.

Three of us quickly found the guns from the back of the station wagon, dug out the ammo from the trailer and began jogging down the side of the road after what we later learned was a six-point buck. That’s six on each side if you’re from Colorado.

Mr. Scott was the first to shoot. He stopped, dropped to one knee and said, “shooting.” We waited for the fire of his rifle and then looked ahead at the deer still struggling to get over the barbed wire game fence that lined each side of the road.

Miss. We trotted off again, gaining a little on the preoccupied beast, which I could tell just wanted to get out of there and the hell that it had stumbled into.

Between the three of us we got about four shots off before the animal finally dropped.

Mr. Jackson had already pulled the car and trailer around to catch up to our little party of roadkill hunters. We spent the next hour cleaning out the deer on the side of the road under the din of station wagon headlights.

When we opened it up we saw that only one of us actually hit the deer — and now, years later I hate to say it, but I suspect it was that first shot. The high powered round had pierced the animal’s heart, yet it still ran for another 10 minutes or so as the rest of us caught up to it.

It was a memorable trip for us young hunters, but I have to say one of the best parts of the trip was driving through the Wendy’s restaurant on the way back through Craig. And so a tradition was as born.

Every year I enjoy the start of the deer season. I was especially happy to see that our state legislators set aside a day for young people to hunt before the regular season opened.

I have no doubt that the memories and traditions they start will be every bit as rich as mine.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

EDITOR'S NOTES: Hurricanes are no places to ride motorcycles

on My wife likes to say that we have two seasons here in the South, the green season and the greener season.

As a relative newcomer to the area, I was happy to see some snow last winter and I was even more thrilled to actually use the four-wheel-drive on my SUV. The vehicle wasn’t so thrilled and did not like shifting into four-wheel low. It had a been a while since she had seen any real action.

So, when the weather turned a little warm, I traded her in for a motorcycle, thinking I was just driving my rig to work and back anyway. No use in throwing away gas money on a vehicle that gets 16 miles per gallon (21 highway).

I love my motorcycle. It’s fast and uses very little gas; and as a bonus, I never have to buy windshield wipers when it rains — which it does, mostly on days when I drive my bike.

I won’t lie, I do miss air conditioning and cup holders, and I’ve had a few near misses with “cagers,” slang for drivers of vehicles with four or more wheels. But riding a motorcycle has made me much more aware of things happening around me.

For instance motorcycles are all but invisible to everyone else on the roads - except for other riders, who give a friendly wave when passing.

I’ve also become keenly aware of the weather. I check it the night before and the morning of my ride to work each day -- especially now that we are in hurricane season.

June 1 marks the beginning of Atlantic Hurricane Season, which last year produced 17 total storms, 10 of which became hurricanes. Six of those were considered major hurricanes of Category 3 or above.

You may recall last year when Hurricane Irma skirted by us, but left plenty of people underwater from the heavy rains. Irma was a Category 5 storm when it moved through the Caribbean and came ashore in Miami, Florida. It was originally forecast to push up the Florida panhandle then skirt back out into the Atlantic before coming ashore again at Savannah or even Charleston.

The trajectory would have run right over Summerville, but by the time its effects were felt in South Carolina’s Lowcountry on Monday morning, it had been downgraded to a Category 1 storm or severe tropical storm.

Nonetheless, it generated flash floods on the Ashley, Edisto and Santee rivers as well as French Quarter Creek in Huger and Turkey Creek in Hanahan. Some trees were uprooted and power was cut to about 4,500 people between Berkeley and Dorchester counties.

Most businesses closed and many boarded their windows and doors. Tuesday arrived with partly cloudy skies and normal temperatures as residents worked to clean up downed limbs and other yard debris.

Most residents said they felt as if the storm wasn’t as bad as they had prepared for.

Preparation, of course, is mandatory from now until the end of November. That’s something we, as a community are getting better at every year.

In today's edition of the Journal Scene you'll find a story about how local and state officials are working to better prepare for disaster when the next hurricane strikes.

When Gov. Henry McMaster visited the area last week, he met with local mayors and county emergency departments, saying we must extra vigilant because of the unique nature of our location here in the Lowcountry.

Our proximity to popular tourist attractions can bring visitors to the area that may not know what to do when a hurricane warning is issued.

Regardless on if you are new to the area or have a long history here, now is the time to get ready.

You can get a good start on that by doing some simple things now. The Red Cross released a simple checklist that every family should work through in the coming days.

Here is their list:

• Build an emergency kit that will last everyone in your family at least three days.

• Talk with household members and create an evacuation plan and practice it.

• Learn about the community’s hurricane response plan.

You probably have some ideas as well; here are a few that I’ll add from experience.

• Get the car tuned up and keep it full of gas and ready to go.

• Have enough cash on hand to get you wherever you need to go to find high ground and shelter.

• If you plan to stick around, fill your outdoor grill’s propane tanks now. And maybe pick up an extra tank now before they disappear.

• Put up three days worth - or more - of drinking water. We use those clear 5 gallon jugs and keep them upstairs.

My wife’s father used to tell the story of the lazy man who complained about the rain coming in through his broken window, but when the rain stopped he complained that there was no need to fix his window on such a nice day.

Don’t be the lazy man. Get ready now.

David Kennard checks the weather daily and plans to trade in his motorcycle for a car. He is the executive editor of Summerville Communications, which publishes the Berkeley Independent, Goose Creek Gazette and Summerville Journal Scene. Contact him at or 843-873-9424. Follow him on Twitter @davidbkennard.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

EDITOR'S NOTES: Make this Memorial Day a memorable day to honor military service

A unique bronze plaque that went nearly forgotten for many years has found a new home here in Dorchester County.

The relatively simple nameplate contains a short list of names -- all men who gave their lives in the service of their country during the Vietnam War.

The plaque was commissioned by the Vietnam Veterans of Dorchester County. It was unveiled on Veterans Day in 1997, about 30 years after most of those listed died.

Now, two decades later, the plaque is once again on public display at the The Dorchester County Archives and History Center in St. George. It is part of the comprehensive military exhibit that will be unveiled during Monday’s Memorial Day services there. The plaque was previously part of the old county courthouse.

I had a chance to visit the exhibit a couple of weeks ago while it was undergoing some final touches in preparation for its opening.

You can find Jenna-Ley Harrison’s report on the display in today’s Journal Scene.

The History Center has hopes of contacting the families of the following servicemen listed on the plaque:

William Ellis Jr.
H. Marion Singletary Jr.
Donald R. Bair
Clarence L. Way
Thomas W. Poore
William Jenkins
Clement B. Gruber
Gary K. Roberts
Joseph O. Strickland
Jerry T. Driggers
William T. Smith
Larry Villanueva
Chris Brown Jr.
John L. Hines
Jack W. Brasington

There may be families of others from Dorchester County who gave their lives for their country during the Vietnam War, and the center is anxious to make contact with them as well. The center is also compiling war casualty lists to create additional plaques for World War II and the Korean War.

With Memorial Day approaching, the History Center has planned an impressive ceremony that includes programs in Summerville and a police escorted motorcade to St. George, where visitors will hear from Henry L. “Hank” Taylor.

Taylor begin his military career in the Navy in 1968 during the Vietnam War. He later served in the Air Force, advancing to command the the first logistics group to support the B-2 bomber. Before retiring as a brigadier general he served as vice director for logistics with the Joint Staff in Washington, D.C.

His highly decorated uniform includes the Bronze Star Medal, as well as service medals from his actions from Vietnam -- where he earned the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm in recognition of deeds of valor or heroic conduct while in combat -- to his service during the Liberation of Kuwait.

If you have a chance to attend Monday’s service, it will be well worth your time.

A few years ago I met the widow of a man, also a Bronze Star recipient, who went to war during World War II and retired after 24 years with the Army. Joy Ayers worked as a medic and later in the finance corps.

An oak leaf cluster he wore with his Bronze Star ribbon showed that it was the second time during his service in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam that he had been decorated with the honor.

After retiring from the Army, Ayers boxed up his uniform, put away his medals and became an accomplished gardener, developing several unique varieties of roses. He and his wife were well known in Pacific Northwest for their beautiful garden that included more than 100 variety of roses.

When I asked his wife about his military service and the circumstances regarding his Bronze Star, she had little to say.

"He never talked about it," she said.

It’s like that for many who have protected us during wartime. It’s for that reason that we celebrate on Memorial Day. I can only imagine the great service that we have asked of our military men and women. And I have the greatest respect for those who have answered the call.

Like the simple bronze plaque that now hangs in the Dorchester History Center, it is incumbent upon all Americans to not let those who served be lost to history.

This Memorial Day take time to share the memories of the men and women who serve.

David Kennard is the executive editor of Summerville Communications, which publishes the Berkeley Independent, Goose Creek Gazette and Summerville Journal Scene. Contact him at or 843-873-9424. Follow him on Twitter @davidbkennard.