It was in Hitchcock Woods that I found a bit of nature I’d been searching for a few years – a river of sand. I’d read about it in various articles and books, tantalizing tidbits, yet a mystery to its location. Rumor had it somewhere in the western part of the state, but where? Not until recently did I discover its whereabouts. Hitchcock Woods. Then to find where in Hitchcock Woods is and to find where in Hitchcock Woods this river ran.
And there is was, on the map I downloaded from the website. Sand River.
Hitchcock Woods is located in the town of Aiken and is not far from downtown. I chose the entrance at the end of South Boundary, close to the Aiken Historical Museum. After parking I made my way along a wide path mindful of the instructions. When one walks in this park, horses have priority and when one sees or hears a horse approach, stop and step to the side. One never knows how a horse will react to someone on foot. On my trip, a horse stopped cold and eyeballed me awhile.
This place was once part of the Winter Colony, where wealthy Northerners came to escape the cold winters of home. Thomas Hitchcock from New York owned the land and used it for fox hunting. Today it’s considered the largest urban forest preserve in the U.S. The 2,000 acres are free to explore by foot or horse using the sixty-five or so miles of trails. There is no bike riding allowed. Birdwatching is allowed.
It didn’t take long for me to find Sand River. There are several paths that lead from the main trail to it. You squeeze past low cliffs of natural clay, kaolin, and there you are in a narrow gorge. White sand covered the floor between the narrow run. It does have water in it, especially after a rain, but it was mostly dry when I went. Wisteria blossoms bloomed on the side. It was really neat.
On my trip I also visited Cathedral Aisle, the closest entrance to which is off Dibble Rd. I’d seen a postcard of it and it looked pretty. It’s a bit of a walk from the parking area. Follow the signs and you can’t miss it. Massive trees line the wide dirt path. While I may not have gone when it’s at its prettiest, I still found it impressing.
The park is open daily and is free.
How to Get There:
There are several entrances to Hitchcock Woods. Best go to the website and print out the map and go from there. Pick what you want to see or hike and find the appropriate parking area.
What’s Close By:
Aiken Historical Museum