On Saturday, we were back at Mepkin Abbey with the Master Naturalists from the Charleston area for a presentation by Father Guerric regarding the environmental mission of Mepkin Abbey and its influence on the management of the grounds. After Father Guerric's talk, the group met in the visitor's parking area for an introduction to basic Global Positioning Systems (GPS) navigation by Mark Musselman, education director at Beidler Forest.
The grounds at Mepkin Abbey are a combination of natural area, formal gardens, demonstration gardens, and habitats in the process of restoration. Simply strolling the grounds in the pleasant weather would have been restorative and enjoyable, but incorporating the GPS technology gave the tour the aura of a treasure hunt. Instead of being told that they would be walking over to the memorial to Charleston firefighters with an oak planted for each of the nine lives lost, the master naturalists were given a set of latitude/longitude coordinates. After brief demonstration of basic GPS operations, the group and their collection of owned and borrowed (from the SC Geographic Alliance) GPS units successfully navigated to the first stop.
In order to determine the coordinates for the next stop, participants needed to do a simple math problem using the number of lives honored (9) at the first stop. Once the calculations were done and the new coordinates entered, the participants navigated to stop #2 and found themselves in the labyrinth created from all native plants. Later stops brought the master naturalists to the plant identification path, the future site of a columbarium, sculptures from Hurricane Hugo-felled oaks, the Laurens family cemetery, and finally to the Luce Gardens for lunch. All participants made it to lunch while along the way dispensing with much of the mystery surrounding GPS navigation. A lunchtime bonus was a Bald Eagle perched high in a pine across the water.