One of the things I always most appreciate about state parks are the hiking trails. This one is 2.1 miles going through pine and hardwood trees skirting the lake edges of Dreher Island State Recreation Area.
The trail is marked with these arrows, but I recommend you get your bearings before diverting from the trail for detours to the water, because at first I got a bit confused on how to get back to the main trail.
The trees were just beginning to change colors and it was a great way to start the Fall season walking among them with peaks at the lake in-between.
Blue lake framed by red leaves – this was a great stopping spot.
I spied this turtle sunning himself on a rock at the shoreline at the bend of the trail. It took me about 2 hours for the entire trek, but I was in no hurry.
Earlier, when I asked him about snakes I might see on the trail, Park Manager Ashley Berry showed me his “pet” – a young banded water snake, a harmless park resident. He assured me I wouldn’t run across any cottonmouths like I did at Lake Catherine, since they are not found above Columbia. Snakes are one of his fascinations and he’d be the one to contact if you see any unidentified slinking creatures. He gave me this tip: non-poisonous snakes have round pupils, not slanted cat eyes. I don’t know if I’d ever like to get close enough to one in the wild to gaze in its eyes that close, but thanks for the tip, anyway, Ashley…
I really enjoyed some of Ashley’s funny stories. He proved his point about snake eyes to a camper once who called him to come get a water moccasin from the marina. When Ashley saw it, he knew it to be a non-venomous banded water snake. The guy insisted he knew what he was talking about and was convinced this was a cottonmouth. Ashley finally got the snake, dropped it to the ground by his feet, where it promptly bit him. The camper was about to die of a heart attack, but Ashley knew what he was talking about and he wasn’t hurt.
Another outlandish camper story: In 1999 at Hickory Knob, there were old barracks rented out to fishermen. One guy had a model airplane that he flew around the dock. Ashley had to try really hard to keep a straight face when one rather inebriated fisherman called him to report a UFO!
When he was Sr. Ranger at Dreher Island, he heard noises in his front garden and went out to chase away some unwanted critter. What he found was another inebriated “happy” camper walking around trying his hand at frog gigging. He was walking around stabbing the ground like mad. When Ashley pointed out that he had just stabbed one of his cucumbers, the guy was pretty embarrassed, especially when Ashley deposited him back to his buddies and told them to keep him there. They wanted to know what happened, and Ashley grinned and said, “Do you want to tell or should I?” He’s worked in this park in various positions since 1997 and was a lot of fun to visit with. You’ll have to ask him how he got the name “Dundee.”