First Day in Hellhole

By Gene Ott

I am writing these notes some seven months after the event. Most of 2005 was personally frustrating. For many reasons, my energy and drive waned greatly during the latter half of the year. I am now recuperating from surgery that I had over Christmas 2005. The recovery period has provided me free time to pursue completion of these notes. Because of the length of time that has lapsed, my memory of the events has also suffered. There are many interesting details which are not reported.

Win, my son, and Paul, Win's brother-in-law, and I left our homes in the Piedmont of South Carolina at mid-morning on Friday, May 06, 2005. Our destination was Hellhole Bay National Wilderness Area located near the coast in the expansive Francis Marion National Forest in Berkeley County, SC. Win and his wife, Hope, were expecting their first child at the end of the month. Paul and his wife were also expecting their second child a month or so later. We drove down in two vehicles in case a quick return trip was needed. Temperatures throughout the state had dropped recently and the morning was cloudy. We hoped things were warmer at the swamp.

We arrived at the Holiday Inn Express in Moncks Corner. The Inn was the designated location for all attendees who are not tough enough to campout in the Forest. We fit into this category, so we checked into our rooms. We did not see any other attendees, so we decided to head to the swamp for some early searching.

At the swamp, some sunshine broke through and temperatures reached almost 60 F. We checked the camping area that would serve as the rallying point during the event, but no one else had arrived. Conditions were not very encouraging for finding reptiles moving about. It would be good conditions to find snakes under artificial cover, such as old metal roofing and boards, but we did not know of any in the area. So we drove around some of the forest's roads. Temperatures fell somewhat as the skies clouded over again. We were discouraged and heading to the back to camp area when Win shouted for me to stop the van. I had driven right past a Corn Snake!

As we headed back to the camping area, we spotted a dead Starnose Mole on the road.

At the camping area, we found that several other groups of attendees had arrived. A number of our members were on the hardy side and planned to campout. As the sun was going down, a large group of us decided to return to Moncks Corner and eat supper. We agreed to rejoin about 8:00 am the next morning.

As the sun was going down, a group of about 18 of us decided to return to Moncks Corner and eat supper at Gilligan's Bar and Grill. Gilligan's is not named for the old TV program but is a popular local seafood restaurant. The food and company were great!


January 17, 2006
Contact: South Carolina Reptiles and Amphibians