Dreher Island State Park

I think the first time I went to Dreher Island SP was to attend a picnic. Who’s picnic I can’t remember. I didn’t come here often because it’s a bit of a drive. The park is situated on Lake Murray, where it’s not so heavily developed. It is made up of three islands all connected by bridges and one causeway. On my last trip I stopped on the first island at the park store area. I wanted to get a picture of those huge beach chairs. There’s a huge anchor as nearby too. From the parking lot I strolled out toward one of the bridges and looked out toward the lake. It was a short, but pleasant walk.

A nicer walk is the Little Gap Trail. it’s 2.1 miles long. It’s further in at shelter # 7. A side trail from this took me to this pleasant overlook below. Besides this trail there is a short nature trail and a multiuse trail that runs through the loop. I found it interesting the park has wild geraniums. I have to go back when they are in bloom. I’ve only seen the ones in flower pots.

Dreher Island State Park was first leased from SCE&G in the 1970’s. I couldn’t find much else on the history of the park. It’s 348 acres and offers twelve miles of shoreline. You can go fishing, hiking, and birdwatching. You can spend the night in villas. I didn’t see them so I don’t know what they look like. I do know they are lakeside. One can rent shelters including tournament shelters for fishing tournaments. I’d never heard of this before, but then I don’t fish.

There’s camping in the park too. The park doesn’t have any designated swimming areas. Swimming is at your own risk. Please keep an eye on the little ones.

How To Get There:

From I26, take exit 91 and drive west toward Chapin. Turn right onto US76. You’ll be on this for a very short while before making a left on St. Peter’s Church Rd (Road 29). There should be signs from then on. You’ll make a left onto Dreher Island Rd (Rd 231) and another left on State Park Rd.

Links:

http://southcarolinaparks.com/dreherisland/introduction.aspx

What’s Close By:

All of Lake Murray is right here. There are several parks for swimming around the lake.

The towns of Columbia, Newberry, and Lexington are not far.

Goodale State Park

The Cypress trees standing in the waters of the lake are amazing. Breathtaking. As I took pictures I imagined myself a fashion photographer shooting beautiful models. Stand still. Perfect. Cloud, move more to the right. Fantastic.

Goodale State Park is not the largest of parks, it is 763 acres, but it’s impressive with a 140 acre lake, The Adam’s Grist mill pond from the Civil War times. They rent boats and canoes so one can partake in the three mile canoe trail that goes through the cypress strand. Besides the canoe trail there is a one-mile foot trail, a nature trail. Or walk along the lake which is the first thing I did so I could pictures of the it.

 

How to get there:

From I-20, exit 98 onto US521 toward Camden. In Camden turn right on US1/DeKalb St. Go about three miles and make another right onto Stagecoat Road. After 2.3 miles turn left onto Park Rd and look for the signs.

 

Links

http://southcarolinaparks.com/goodale/introduction.aspx

 

What’s Close by

Town of Camden

Battle of Camden Site

Hamilton Branch State Park

I enjoyed my walk around the Hamilton Branch State Park, a peninsula jutting out into Lake Thurmond. I strolled along the water’s edge marveling at the red rock. It was a picture taking paradise and a blue butterfly obliged by wanting its picture taken. There were ducks and geese. And other birds, but I’m a lousy bird watcher so I’m not quite sure what kind. On the other side of the peninsula, the rocky shoreline makes a gentle arc around the bay. Tall pines shade the road leading into the park and the wind blowing through swept out the heat. It was July when I visited so you know it was hot, but not in the 100s thank goodness, but a balmy high 80’s that would eventually rise into the low-middle 90’s.

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Hamilton Branch may be the smallest of the three parks nestled in the woods along Lake Thurmond, but it’s plenty big enough at around 730ish acres. It offers about 286 campsites that I’m told fill up fast in the summer. 171 of those have water and electricity while the rest have 50 amp service. Plus there is primitive group camping AND, I was very happy to see this, 13 camp sites with water. I stress the latter because there’s where I like to camp. I don’t like parking between the behemouths.

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While this park doesn’t have much in the way of formal hiking, you can walk take the 1.5 mile Paleo Hiking trail or, if you have a bike, there’s a connector to the 12-mile Stevens Creek Bike Trail. The former takes one through the forest where a variety of animals live.

Other ammenities are picnic shelters (3), fishing, two boat ramps, swimming, and a playground for the little ones.

 

How to get There

The park’s physical address is 111 Campground Rd, Plum Branch, SC.

Located on US #221 / SC #28 between Modoc and Parksville, 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) south of McCormick, SC.

 

Links

http://www.southcarolinaparks.com/hamiltonbranch/introduction.aspx

 

What’s close by

 

Lake Thurmond Visitor Center

The city of McCormick

Baker Creek State Park

Sandhills State Forest

I felt compelled to visit Sandhills State Forest upon hearing about Sugar Loaf mountain. The idea of a mountain in this part of the state intrigued me. Not that I expected a full blown mountain there, but I did picture a tall outcropping of rock. The forest is located in Chesterfield County, close to Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge and I set out to visit both to get the lay of the land. I found that it takes more than a day to properly visit both.

Since my initial goal was the ‘mountain’ I took Gas Line Road (from US1, north on Hartsville-Ruby Road and right on Gas Line, a dirt road) Sugar Loaf is a ways in the forest. Drive slow as there are horse trails in the forest.

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Having never been here before, I took the first hill I came to and climbed up the steps thus finding myself on Horseshoe Mountain instead. No worries though, it was a nice hike. The trail on the ridge leads by big boulders and great views. When ascending or descending the mountains, use the steps to lessen erosion.

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Next I climbed Sugar Loaf. There’s a platform on top that offers really nice views of the surrounding area. Definitely worth the trip.

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Sugar Loaf Mountain stand a hundred feet above the rest of the area. It’s made of sand deposited by a historic sea and was at one time capped with ferrous sandstone. That ‘topping’ has pretty much eroded away. It’s and unusual geologic feature with plants not usually found in the piedmont area like mountain laurel.

Sand Hills State Forest stretches throughout Chesterfield and Darlington counties. Most of it is along US1 and there’s a big section between US1 and US15. It’s over 46,000 acres of infertile land that the federal government bought under the Resettlement Administration. The landowners were resettled on fertile land.

Hiking is free. There is a fee to ride your horse, for horseback riding. Check in regards to hunting and fishing. There are 13 fish ponds open year round. No ATV’s are allowed. Camping allowed. Check for prices.

Headquarters for the forest, where you can get maps, is located at 16218 Highway 1, Patrick SC

How To Get There:

US 1 goes right by and through the State Forest. Sugar Loaf Mountain can be reached from Hartsville-Ruby Road.

Links:

https://www.state.sc.us/forest/refshill.htm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWYq6RnNm8A

What’s Close By:

Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge

Cheraw State Park

Cheraw

H. Cooper Black Jr. Recreation Area.

Columbia Resources

I was surprised to find there are so little resources on tourist places in Columbia. Even the web sites didn’t do much for me although they offered some tidbits. Maybe because I already knew the sites they highlight. Maybe because they didn’t offer information on what I am interested in – low cost/no cost activities, walking tours, green spaces, and historical areas. The brochures I picked up at the visitor center are more chock full of ‘stuff’ than the websites. Book wise was the pretty much the same as the websites, general information only and emphasis on restaurants, shopping, and the higher priced activities.

Book wise the South Carolina travel books will have to do, but the websites are a better alternative.

 

Brochure Names (with associated web address)

Columbia South Carolina 5km/10km Historic Capital City Walk (www.columbiacvb.com)

General Sherman’s March on Columbia, South Carolina – Self Guided Tour (www.shermansmarch.com)

Home Places, Work Places, Resting Places: African-American Heritage Sites Tour (historiccolumbia.org)

Three Rivers Greenway (www.RiverAlliance.org)

 

Web Sites

http://www.columbiacvb.com/

http://www.historiccolumbia.org/

http://www.sciway.net/sc-photos/richland-county/

Aiken State Park

I visited the park in winter and was kind of hoping the mosquitoes weren’t so prevalent. But this was a few months past the historic 2015 flood and that might explain the number of those insects out for my blood. Bring bug spray. But don’t avoid the park. It has some very nice trails running through including a canoe trail along the South Edisto River. I don’t have a canoe, but you can rent one there. At the moment canoe rentals are only for the lake so check the website to see when they are offering rentals again.

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I like to start my forays in the park at the visitor center, to get a map and a stamp for the Ultimate Outsider book. From there I viewed the lakes and started out on a trail, going deep (okay so not so deep in the woods, but it sure looks like from within). My interest was piqued by name of one of the trails, the Jungle trail and I had to investigate. I mean, who doesn’t want to walk the Jungle trail. Despite the mosquitoes it was a fun hike. It really did look like a jungle. I ended up walking partway on the road that winds through the park in order to see the boat launch. I had to see the South Edisto River, the longest free-flowing blackwater river in North America.

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The park is interesting too because it was built by African Americans employed by the Civilian Conservation Corp of the Great Depression. Check out the exhibit.

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How to Get there

Located on SC53. From I20, take exit 33 toward Wagener on SC39. Turn right on SC302 (in Wagener),then straight onto SC53 (SC302 will make a sharp right, you go straight.)

Links:

http://southcarolinaparks.com/aiken/introduction.aspx

What’s Close by:

Aiken

Hitchcock Woods

Hopeland Gardens

Fall

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I realize I’m a little behind here talking about fall colors, but maybe there’ll still be some color when this piece is published. Fall is a great time to take daytrips. You don’t even have to go that far, just drive around town and admire the trees in people’s yards. In Chester I saw the most spectacular sights of bright yellow leaves under a bare tree. It was like shards of the sun had fallen. Didn’t get a picture of that, but did get another nice fall view there.

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Chester State Park

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Sesquicentennial State Park (Columbia)

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On a stone wall around Old Brick Church in Fairfield County

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Also in Chester County, in the town of Chester, Brainard Institute

Harbison State Forest

I’d heard plenty about Harbison State Forest, but never visited until a national hike day, or maybe it was visit a park day. Whatever day it was, I went. Harbison Forest is located in Columbia along the Broad River. It’s not difficult to find being just east of Broad River Road. I pulled in the parking lot, nice and shady, paid my five dollars and studied the trail options.

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In this 2,177 acre park there are plenty of trails to choose, twenty miles worth! Choose from the easy Discovery trail, 0.5 miles, to the six mile, difficult Lost Creek trail. The 4.4 mile, moderate Firebreak trail which interconnects to other trails. Or you can customize your trip if you wish, like I did. I can’t even tell you which ones I used. 

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The trails are for use for hikers and off road bicycling except for two which are for hiking only. Listen out for the call from a rider to announce themselves. There’s a canoe ramp that provides access for kayaks and canoes.

Harbison State Forest is one of the largest urban green spaces located within a city limits in the eastern part of the U.S. It’s named after Samuel P. Harbison who is/was from Pennsylvania. He provided much of the funds needed for the land to be purchased. Thank you, Mr. Harbison.

How to get there:

Take I-20 to exit #65 and go northwest on US #176 (Broad River Road) 5.9 kilometers (3.7 miles). The forest will be on the right side of the road.

Links:

https://www.state.sc.us/forest/refharb.htm

What’s Close by:

River Front Park and Historic Columbia Canal

Riverbanks Zoo

Lake Murray

Botany Bay WMA

The highlight of the day was to be Edisto Beach State Park. I never got there. I ended up tramping all over Botany Bay WMA (Wildlife Management Area) and by the time I left there wasn’t enough time. I mentally put this on my ‘a place to bring visitors’ list.

The park is closed on Tuesdays so I arranged to go on another day of the week. I arrived early and stopped to take a picture of the Mystery Tree, a leafless tree on the south side of SC174 festooned with the theme of the month. It’s right opposite Botany Bay Road. Drive slow down this oak lined road. It’s truly picture taking worthy. I can’t say how many times I stopped to snap a quick photo.

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At the information kiosk, stop to sign in and grab the driving tour guide. The a 6 1/2 mile loop dirt road winds through the park. It gives plenty of stops along the way to discover the 4,600 + acre preserve with ponds, coastline, pine forests, wetlands and other characteristics of a barrier island.

My first stop was the hike to the two plus mile long undeveloped beach with the ‘boneyard’ of dead tree skeletons. The beach here is eroding and the salt water destroys the palms and other trees creating a sight one rarely sees. Collecting shells is forbidden and people have created shell trees, hanging them on the bare branches.

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Next up on the tour are the grounds of Bleak Hall Plantation. To see are two buildings from the 1800’s, the ice house and a carriage house. You can take the trails on out to the marshes or continue on the driving tour to visit the fresh water ponds, moss draped oaks, and the many species of wildlife and flora. I saw egrets and pelicans and fiddler crabs and deer. There’s much more of course to see. There’s the ruins of the Sea Cloud plantation house and a brick beehive, which fascinated me. I’d never heard of one before. This one was built by slaves in the 1700s.

Give yourself plenty of time to see this place. If you camp at Edisto Beach S.P. this would be a great trip. You can ride your bike on the loop as well

How to get there:

Take SC Highway 174 towards Edisto Beach. Turn left onto Botany Bay Road, located about 8.5 miles south of the McKinley Washington Bridge. Follow the dirt road about 2 miles to near where the road dead-ends. Turn left at the gate and into the property.

Links:

http://www.sciway.net/sc-photos/charleston-county/botany-bay.html

What’s Close by

Edisto Beach SP

Scenic SC174

Mysterious Tree

Poinsett State Park

I’m going to keep with the Poinsett theme by detailing Poinsett State Park in Sumter County. It sits amid Manchester State Forest. On your drive there make note of the forest on the east side of the road. It’s the Poinsett Electronic Combat Range and used for military maneuvers.

It’s a nice drive into the park. My first stop was up, onto a hill, one you don’t really expect in this part of the midlands. From the picnic hut is a grand view of the surrounding countryside. From there I drove down back to the main road and to the lake, a mill pond. The dam was initially built to impound water for rice cultivation and then the pond was used to power a mill, parts of which are still evident. One can go fishing and boating on the lake.

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After visiting the dam I took the Coquina Trail. The name comes from the coquina stone that can be found throughout the park. This stone is a limestone with shows fossil seashells, evidence that once, long ago, this used to be ocean.

Besides this trail there are the Laurel Group Trail, Hill Top Trail and the Scout Trail. One can also access the Palmetto Trail. I made sure to walk on that aways. I’ve only walked short stretches of the Palmetto Trail, but one day I hope to do a long stretch.

Poinsett State Park is known for it’s interesting mix of flora and terrain. It combines sandhills with the Piedmont with the coastal plains and mixes in a bit of Blue Ride mountains. I didn’t expect to see such hills as I found at the picnic shelter.

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The park is named after Joel Poinsett, the first ambassador to Mexico. His grave is north of here in Statesburg. He was also an amateur botanist. There are cabins one can rent here and a campground. The county of Sumter donated 1,000 acres. It was opened 1936. It was the first of the SC parks to be built by the CCC and many structures they built are still used.

How to Get There:

North of US76/US378 on SC261, past Wedgefield.

Links:

http://southcarolinaparks.com/poinsett/introduction.aspx

What’s Near by:

Stateburg

Sumter (the town)

Manchester State Forest

Congaree National Park