I’d had enough. Twenty years on a Florida barrier island. Hurricanes, hurricanes, and more hurricanes. The bridge to the island even got blown out once. Did I mention sharks? Plenty of them, and their feeding time happened to coincide with my favorite swimming times: at night, in the early morning, or late in the day. And alligators. Not on a barrier island, you say? They don’t swim in salt water? Well, I’m here to tell you that alligators swim in fresh water, in sewer water, in chlorinated swimming pool water, and, in the summer, in salt water. They’ll come right up on the beach, just when you’re ready for bikinis and such. A real mood killer, those alligators. To save the meanest for last, there are cotton-mouthed moccasins. Everywhere. Under your house, on the trails through the woods, just waiting for you when you get out of your kayak to stretch your legs. But it’s the August humidity that usually drives Florida crackers to the mountains every summer.
Coming from Florida to Upstate South Carolina is like moving from Mars to Earth, so I enrolled in the Clemson Upstate Master Naturalist program, to begin what will surely be a life-long learning process to understand this amazing natural world of Lake Jocassee and the Jocassee Gorges. Kay has since completed the program as well, but as a native North Carolinian, she knew way more than me to begin with. When it comes to plants, to flowers, to trees, she’s got me whipped, but I’ve got her over a barrel when it comes to geology, to birds, to the climate. I intend to keep it that way. Otherwise she’d be a mess to live with. It has become quite a pleasure for me to be an occasional writer about our area in both the South Carolina Wildlife Magazine and the Jocassee Journal. Lastly, I must admit that I live to swim, and Lake Jocassee is the most sublime swimming experience I have ever enjoyed. You can take the boy out of Florida, but you just can’t get the boy out of the water!
* And since Kay’s won’t mention it, I should tell you that she is an extraordinary garden writer. In Florida, she wrote a regular column for two newspapers. Since moving to the shores of Lake Jocassee, she has been the garden columnist for the Sentinel, the bi-monthly publication for FOLKS (Friends of Lake Keowee). Lastly, she has recently penned her first children’s book, ‘Tales From a Tree’. The narrator is an oak tree. Imagine that.
Me? Why, I’m just happy to be here, introducing new friends to this special place we call the Jocassee Gorges.
Of course, as Brooks says, I have put in my time swimming with alligators, moccasins, sharks, jellyfish, and sting rays. It’s nice, being able to get in the water at Lake Jocassee without wondering whether something will sting/bite/eat me! But those are tales for another time.
I first found my home in the southern Blue Ridge mountains as a young adult, and they have always kept a little piece of my heart. When Brooks and I left the Forgotten Coast of Florida and moved to the base of the southern Blue Ridge escarpment, I felt whole again. I was welcomed home by rhododendron and mountain laurel, by doghobble and trillium, even by the dying hemlocks. My old, familiar friends. “You know us,” they whispered to me, “but there is so much more to learn.” I enrolled in a Master Naturalist program, only to have my eyes opened to how little I really know about the relationships in nature -- relationships between rocks and trees and fungus and fish and weather and mountains – and how that invisible thread links us all together.
Oh, the bio. Brooks, my dear husband, says it should say something about me. Bleh. Well, my life’s work has revolved around different aspects of the garden trade, which has allowed me the freedom of working outside. I’ve made three trips through the Master Gardener program (slow learner?), written environmental gardening columns for the past ten years, and worked in more beautiful community and private gardens than I can count. I am passionate about clean water, clean air, and clean food, and will expose any gardening practice which threatens the well-being of our little planet.
Enough about me. You are here for the lake. Allow Brooks and me to share our experience on this lovely mountain lake with you and your family and friends. We will do our best to show you a good time, and have you leave a little piece of your heart with Lake Jocassee.
* And since Brooks won’t mention it, I should tell you that since moving to the shores of Lake Jocassee he has plunged headlong into his new world. He is now VP of the Upstate Master Naturalist Association, and is on the boards of the Foothills Trail Conference, Friends of Jocassee (FOJ), and Friends of Lake Keowee (FOLKS).
I’m a puppy-like, very pleasant 12 year old blond Lab. At 50 pounds or so, I haven’t let my mature years affect my svelte figure. But watch out if you drop a crumb on the floor of the boat. It’s mine! I’ll lick you if you let me, and maybe even if you don’t. I don’t swim, so I won’t shake lake water all over you. If I did that, I’d have less chance to getting snacks from you anyway. I like to play on the beach and take long walks in the mountains. (I know that sounds romantic, but I’m way over all that). I love my life beside Lake Jocassee. It’s not nearly as hot here as it was in Florida. Kudos to my humans for bringing me to such a nice place for my ‘senior’ years.
The family farm in Michigan is where Sherrie Cobb’s career begins, at 11 years old, selling eggs. Gathering the eggs before school, and after school, meeting everyone who came for eggs, logging sales and balancing the till before bed. She had other chores but this was a job, keeping track of time and get paid every week. What a life!
In 1979 Sherrie’s family relocated to Asheville, NC, and shortly thereafter built a vacation home at Lake Jocassee. Sherrie visited Lake Jocassee frequently while pursuing a Business/Marketing degree from the American Business Institute, and as often as possible throughout a busy career that has taken her into real estate, property management, and sales and marketing. Sherrie would work for some of the biggest names in the hotel and resort industry, including Deer Ridge Mountain Resort (Sales Manager), Global Resort Systems (Marketing Director), and Hampton Inn & Suites (Director of Sales) in both Clemson and Seneca.
In the middle of a busy career which she loved, Sherrie’s family needed her. She packed it all up and moved back to Asheville to be with her parents, helping them both as they recovered from health setbacks. After that, it was time to decide what to do next. Remembering the happy childhood, times on the farm, animals and nature, Sherrie knew It was time to go to the lake for a slower pace, quieter life and peacefulness. In favor of the lake, waterfalls, and the outdoors, Sherrie walked away from corporate America and never looked back. Best decision she ever made.
Ric Barnett is a native South Carolinian who was raised in the Upstate near Greenville, He currently lives on the land where he grew up, so for over 60 years he has watched natural succession transform the land scape. As a young boy his father brought him to swim in the Keowee River before Jocassee Valley was flooded. (A slight pall was put over that trip, however, when his father, trying to impress the lad regarding the great change that was about to take place when the lake covered the valley, told little Ricky, “This is a very historical place." To which the boy replied, " I don't see nothing funny about that ."Sigh.....
Ric graduated from Clemson University with a degree in Recreation and Parks Administration and a commission in the United States Air Force. For a brief period after graduating and before entering the military Ric worked for Duke Power on the Jocassee project. He helped get the last two hydro electric generators on line and conducted environmental survey work for the Bad Creek project.
For 20+ years Ric flew fighters and taught survival skills for the USAF, a mission which took him all over the world. He finished his military career in Alaska and spent the next 18 years as a resident of North Pole, Alaska, where he also flew search and rescue missions with the Civil Air Patrol throughout "The Great Land.' As a global traveler Ric says, “All things considered, I have never seen a finer lake than Lake Jocassee.
Ric is a South Carolina Master Naturalist who shares his love of the natural world with everyone who has an interest in what is going on around them. He also volunteers as an environmental instructor at Paris Mountain State Park, where he teaches 2nd and 5th grade classes
Tricia Kyzer has been a naturalist all her life. She grew up in south Florida, happily immersed in watersfull of island mangroves and coral reefs, swimming with barracudas and chasing iguanas. As a child she discovered the temperate forests, alive with deer and meadows full of butterflies, during a year in northern Michigan.
Dan Whitten is a naturalist living in the Spartanburg County since 1980. He graduated from Auburn University with a BS degree in Wildlife Management. He retired from Michelin North America after 30 years and began to renew his study of nature by taking the Upstate Master Naturalist Class in 2008 and the Catawba Master Naturalist Class in 2010, and the Low country Master Naturalist class in 2016. He became a SC state certified naturalist in 2014. He serves on the boards of the SC Native Plant Society, Foothills Trail Conference, Friends of Jocassee, and the Tyger River Foundation. Dan presently serves as the president of the Upstate Chapter of the SC Native Plant Society.
He works part time with Spartanburg County Parks leading outdoor recreation outings as
well as part time with SC Parks teaching forest ecology at Table Rock State Park for the
Discover Carolina program.