A Journey on the St. Marys RiverEmerging from Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia’s largest designated wilderness, and emptying into the Atlantic, the St. Marys River comprises the easternmost part of the Georgia-Florida border. With its twists and turns, we anticipated a 130-mile journey from the headwaters to the seaside town of St. Marys. While most of the crew would disembark here, one of us would continue across the intracoastal waterway to Cumberland Island, traversing a path between Georgia’s most prized wilderness areas, from swamp to shore.I, along with five canoes and eight vagabond adventurers, rendezvoused at a drop-in point where the mucky trickle becomes a navigable passage. Pushing off from the dock, we found ourselves amid the plump-bottomed trunks of tupelo and cypress, their knees poking up from the swamp water like prehistoric, knobby fingers. Tangled along the shoreline were saw palmettos, loblolly pines, sparkleberries, and the occasional twisted-limbed live oak. Here and there, the steady view of browns and greens was interrupted by a maple covered in clusters of cherry-red, winged seeds or the white blossoms of a mayhaw. Thickets of willow growing in the middle of the stream gave the landscape an appearance less like a river than a flooded forest.The current flowed quickly around frequent bends through an obstacle course of fallen trees to be sped over when below and limbo-ed under when above. Each canoe danced a combination step of forward paddles, J-strokes, and rudders, some boats slithering gracefully around each obstruction, others crashing through branchy snags, collecting piles of kindling.The treeline reflected its mirror image upon the river, which is inky black, though not from sediment or pollution. Vegetation colors its waters, as tea leaves do when steeped in a kettle. Though dark, the water is translucent and icy cold.Nonetheless, some of us swam—involuntarily. Schizandra went overboard while making an overenthusiastic grab at a passing fat pine log. Vanessa was displaced by a low-hanging tree branch, somersaulting backwards into the chilly water. Shocked, and weighed down by her drenched clothes, she clung to the stern while I guided our boat to shore. Once Vanessa had warmed up by a fire and changed into a dry camo jumpsuit, we took to the river once more, with newfound respect for her potential perils.The most frightening was the thunderstorm. The moment we saw the first flash in the sky, we dashed towards the bank, crouching among the sawgrass in mud so soft and sticky it sucked at our boots like quicksand. Just when we thought we were in the clear and were boarding our boat once more, a deafening clap of lightning cracked just around the riverbend and we scrambled ashore.There were other dangers. Twice, disgruntled river dwellers fired shots (once from an automatic weapon that continued to rat-tat-tat well into the night), forcing us to paddle frantically upstream. Though scared, we couldn’t help but respect these residents for protecting their home and ecosystem. Unless or until the St. Marys becomes a legally protected scenic river, these vigilant watchdogs are perhaps her best defense against intrusion.Most days, though, were peaceful. Otters swam alongside our boats, long-necked herons displayed their impressive wingspans, hawks screeched, turtles sunbathed, fish jumped, and vultures swirled in a cyclone of black silhouettes.Whether alertly avoiding the next fallen log, or leaning back and lazily drifting downstream, my brain tended to clear itself of trivial worries and focus on the present. With a meditative mindset and no need to look at a clock, we quickly forgot the hours and days and took to naming our campsites to keep track of the sequence of events. Camp Getaway. Camp Rope Swing. Machine Gun Ridge. Frog Squash Bend for the spotted, copper-eyed leopard frog, which would have been trampled underfoot had I not shrieked just in the nick of time. Camp Beaver Slam, for our mammalian friends who signaled their territory with chewed tree trunks and loud tail slaps.A few days out from the coast, timing became unexpectedly vital. Our canoes, docked the night before alongside a mossy shore, were found the next morning high and dry, as the tide had pulled the river out from under them. We discovered that the current was quite literally reversing direction twice a day, slowing us down significantly. Based on our observations of the moon and the waterline, we set alarms for the wee hours, rising well before dawn to ride the tide towards the sea.On the tenth and last day of our voyage, we greeted the sunrise on the water, then stopped for a midday nap on the last patch of low-lying terra firma. Using a fiddler crab for bait, Lily caught our first and only fish, a red drum, which we fried for lunch before entering the saltmarsh.The river widened. A strong breeze, choppy waves, and the wake from passing motorboats rocked our canoes unsettlingly in the most dangerous stretch of river yet. Rounding the final bend, we were rewarded with a postcard-perfect view of the St. Marys marina. Gulls perched upon the masts of the many sailboats, basking in the golden light of a glorious sunset. As we triumphantly disembarked at the dock, a stranger gazed at the horizon and said, “Isn’t this just the perfect ending to a wonderful day?” I nodded, watching my friend Grayson paddle in the fading light towards Cumberland Island.• Ellen Vessels
TensionsTensions have soared between the world’s two biggest economic powers on a range of fronts including trade, China’s handling of the novel coronavirus and a tough new security law for Hong Kong, with US officials warning of a “new tyranny” from China.The last Chinese diplomats left the Houston consulate last Friday, with officials there seen loading large sacks of documents and other items onto trucks, and throwing some in bins.Beijing said Saturday that US agents “forcibly” entered the Houston consulate, which it said was “China’s national property”.Its statement warned that “China will make a proper and necessary response in this regard”.Nationalistic tabloid the Global Times warned in an editorial Monday that if Washington was “determined to push China-US ties in the worst direction… the 21st century will be darker and even more explosive than the Cold War era”.It said the rising tensions could lead to “unprecedented catastrophe”. Chinese authorities took over the United States consulate in Chengdu on Monday, the foreign ministry said, days after Beijing ordered it to close in retaliation for the shuttering of its mission in Houston.Earlier in the morning state broadcaster CCTV showed footage of the American flag being lowered, after diplomatic tensions soared between the two powers with both alleging the other had endangered national security.Beijing later confirmed the consulate had closed at 10am (0200 GMT). “Afterwards, Chinese authorities entered through the front entrance and took it over,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.Relations deteriorated in recent weeks in a Cold War-style standoff, with the Chengdu mission Friday ordered to shut in retaliation for the forced closure of Beijing’s consulate in Houston, Texas.Both consulates closed 72 hours after the original order was made.The road leading to the Chengdu mission was closed on Monday, with police and cordons blocking the way. State media reported that staff members had left the compound at around 6 am Monday morning.Over the weekend, removal trucks entered the site and cleaners were seen carting large black rubbish bags from the consulate, and on Saturday AFP reporters saw workers removing the US insignia from the front of the building.A constant stream of onlookers in the city of 16.5 million flowed past the building over the weekend, many taking photos.The US consulate in the city covered China’s southwest, including Tibet. Many Tibetans accuse the central government of religious repression and eroding their culture.Beijing says closing the consulate was a “legitimate and necessary response to the unreasonable measures by the United States”, and has alleged that staff at the diplomatic mission endangered China’s security and interests.Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters that some US staff in the Chengdu consulate “were engaged in activities outside of their capacity, interfered in China’s internal affairs, and endangered China’s security and interests”.Washington officials, meanwhile, said there had been unacceptable efforts by the Chinese consulate in Houston to steal US corporate secrets and proprietary medical and scientific research. Topics :
Every week, Herald Sports will offer a report card on the Wisconsin men’s basketball team’s most recent two games.No. 20 Wisconsin (18-5, 7-3) eked out a 52-46 win at Penn State (10-13, 2-8) Tuesday – its sixth consecutive win in the Big Ten. The win moved the Badgers into sole possession of second place, just a half game behind Ohio State – set to play Wisconsin at the Kohl Center Saturday.The win also gave the Badgers a 4-1 road record.Before its victory over Penn State, Wisconsin last played Jan. 26 against then-No. 16 Indiana at home and took that one by a score of 57-50.Offense – 3 out of 5Collectively, Wisconsin’s shooting might have been the lowlight between its last two games. While Wisconsin shot decently enough against Indiana (39.6 percent), it performed atrociously in the first half against Penn State (26.9) before turning things around in the second (45.5).Both Penn State (36) and Indiana (45.7) shot better and out-rebounded Wisconsin, but UW was able to claim wins by hitting more three-pointers and free throws, as well as committing less turnovers in both games.Not that the three-point percentage is a redeeming quality, though, as Wisconsin hit just nine of 36. Free throws, on the other hand, were quality, with the Badgers hitting 28 of 38 (73.7 percent).Defense – 4 out of 5While the point totals of Wisconsin may look impressive – holding IU, the conference’s highest scoring team, nearly 30 points below its average and bottling up PSU with 46 points – it’s still the slower pace of the offense that takes away some credit from the “D.”The Nittany Lions and Hoosiers both, for the most part, ran efficient offenses against the Badgers, too; regardless of the scoreboard totals. As previously stated, Indiana converted 45.7 percent of its shots while Penn State hit 45.8 in the first half before collapsing in the second and hitting a mere 26.9.The Badgers looked sharp on the ball against Indiana but played sloppy in the first half against Penn State, at times applying too much pressure on rising star guard Tim Frazier, which opened up good looks for teammates.Nevertheless, Wisconsin quelled two of the Big Ten’s top 10 offensive individuals over the two-game stretch. Although Frazier scored 21 points for Penn State, Wisconsin’s Josh Gasser made him work hard to do so, holding the PSU guard to 8-of-22 shooting.The Badgers were also able to get Cody Zeller into foul trouble early and hold him to just seven points on the night.Bench – 3.5 out of 5Reserves didn’t see too much playing time over the two games but filled in admirably when called upon.Guard Ben Brust, in 22 minutes on the court, led the Badgers in scoring against the Hoosiers with 13 points and kept the team alive with two clutch three-pointers. They came midway through the second half when the two sides were trading the lead after nearly every possession.Brust was then limited against Penn State after it was announced he would be a gametime decision to play after waking up that morning with an illness. He went 0-for-4 with a turnover in 11 minutes.Elsewhere, though, forwards Rob Wilson and Frank Kaminsky, on eight and seven minutes of play, both hit three-pointers against the Nittany Lions.During a 58-second span in the second half, Kaminsky hit his three-pointer, blocked a shot, grabbed a rebound and then had the assist on Wilson’s trey.Wilson also added a block against PSU.Players of the week – Ryan Evans and Jared BerggrenNeither player necessarily had a perfect game against either the Hoosiers or Nittany Lions, but eliminate the performance of one or the other and Wisconsin’s winning streak might have ended last Thursday.Against Indiana, Berggren played a large role in keeping Zeller off the scoreboard. Berggren blocked three of Zeller’s shots and had a total of five on the night: a career-best.He followed that up with eight points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and one steal against Penn State. Six of his points came in the first five-and-a-half minutes of the second half and his all-around energy in that final period looked contagious for a team that looked off in the first.For Evans, despite having a difficult time on offense against the Hoosiers (going 2-for-8 from the field), he pulled through for his team in crunch time, going 6-for-6 from the line in the game’s final four-and-a-half minutes.All in all, Evans hit all eight of his free throw attempts that night and finished with 12 points, nine rebounds (four offensive), two assists and a block.He complemented that with 11 points and six rebounds against the Nittany Lions and was the most efficient shooter of the night, scoring 5 of 12 from the field.