Redcliffe Plantation State Historic Site

It was a rather warm day when I visited this park. I’d just dropped off someone at the Augusta airport and detoured through Beech Island on my way back to Columbia. The town of Beech Island isn’t an island at all, but it may have gotten its name from a former island on the Savannah River. The town is one of the oldest settlements in SC.

While not large, 396 acres, Redcliffe Plantation packs quite a bit of history. I spent some time walking the grounds after talking a good while with the friendly ranger. The ranger I spoke with in the park store was enthusiastic and knew the stories of the place. I learned quite a bit from her. After our conversation I wandered out, up the red clay hill from which the place gets its name. Redcliffe. It’s covered in a green lawn and dotted with trees. There’s this humongous clump of cactus that catches my eye. It’s not what I expected. The flowers on are pretty.

The antebellum house was owned by the James Henry Hammond. Besides being governor of the SC (1842-1844) , he was also a senator, congressman, and cotton planter. He acquired the property in 1855. The house was completed in 1859 and is an example of Greek-Revival Style. It was remodeled in 1886, restored in the mid 1900s. In 1973 it was donated to the state. Besides the house, there are two slave cabins and a stables.

When it was a working plantation, they grew indigo and sugar cane here. Plus there were orchards and a vineyard.

Tours of the mansion are offered Thursday through Monday at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. Visit the website in case there are any changes. There is a fee for the tour. Again, consult the website for prices.

 

How to Get There:

Off SC125, northeast of Beech Island, on Redcliffe Road.

 

Links:

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

 

What’s Close By:

North Augusta

Aiken

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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.

Main Street

Main Street. Where all the action is. Or used to be. Or where it’s at again. It all depends on where you are. Driving around, you’ll never know what kind of Main Street you’ll find and how you’ll find it. Maybe there’s not much left, physically, but the memories are still there and there’s always something interesting. If you’re lucky you’ll bump into someone who remembers what it used to be, bad or good.

According to the Municipal Association of South Carolina, there are 270 towns and cities with a population of 50 and higher. 270 main streets, they maybe called something other than ‘Main’ Street. 270 downtowns. Somehow I thought there’d be more.

Big or small, I like to take a walk around Main Street, time willing. Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, etc, all have bustling downtowns. In the smaller places, the sidewalks might roll in after six p.m. leaving you amazed the store’s closed so early. It happened to me. Here are a few downtowns, Main Streets, I’ve taken pictures of. Enjoy.

Sumter with Opera House

North

Newberry with their opera house

Mullins

Georgetown                                                    Cheraw

Great Falls

Chester                                                  Olar

 

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.

mccormick-hamilton-branch-sp-16-lake-thurmond

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.

chesterfield-sand-hills-sf-05-horseshoe-mtn-ridge-trail

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.

chesterfield-sand-hills-sf-12-sugarloaf-mtn-view

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.

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.

aiken-aiken-sp-19-edisto-river

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.

aiken-aiken-sp-11-on-boardwalk-trail

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.

aiken-aiken-sp-04-main-pond

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

Pacolet Mills

The Pacolet Mill I wanted to see no longer stands having been demolished in the late 1980’s. I asked the wonderful ladies at the museum why they were torn down. With no one wanting to buy the structures and the city not having the money to keep them up, there wasn’t much choice. While saddened, I could understand the reason. So, I didn’t get to the see the mills, but I did see where they’d been as well as the cloth room and warehouse. Plus there are the mill houses, all part of the Pacolet Mills Historic District. The museum, which used to be the Pacolet Mill office, sits close by the Pacolet River. When you go, make sure to visit it. I really enjoyed my time there.

spartenburg-pacolet-14-mill-village-and-water-tower

There’s more than just mill ruins to see in Pacolet. I misplaced myself for a few minutes and found myself on an interesting road that might have held more buildings from the mill. I wish I’d had more time to check it out. But there’s always a next time. I haven’t seen hardly any of Spartenburg county. I will return.

Pacolet started out Buzzard Roost. A small place, it grew in leaps and bounds when the Spartenburg and Union Rail Lines came through the area in the 1850s. It was at this time the town changed the name to Pacolet, from the river running past. Where the name Pacolet is derived from is unknown, but the two versions offered both include a horse. When you cross the bridge over the Pacolet River you’ll see a statue of a horse, the logo of Pacolet Manufacturing and mascot of the mill’s baseball team.

spartenburg-pacolet-04-pacolet-river

The area includes several sections with Pacolet in the name: Pacolet, Central Pacolet, and Pacolet Mills

In 1903 this area got hit with the worst natural disaster in Spartenburg County when heavy rains caused the river to flood and swept sections of the textile mill along with a church and other buildings downstream. Seventy people died and 600 were left homeless. The mill rebuilt and became one of the largest in the south.

Besides the mills the town has other historic sites including the Marysville School and Mulberry Chapel Methodist Church.

How to get there:

One goes through all three sections, Pacolet, Central Pacolet, and Pacolet Mills via SC150. If you’re coming from I85, take US176 South. If you’re on I26, you can take SC49 (exit 44) east and turn left onto SC56, or exit 52 north. Then east (right) onto SC150.

 

Links:

www.townofpacolet.com

 What’s Close By :

Croft State Park

Pacolet River Heritage Preserve

Walnut Grove Plantation

Cowpens National Battlefield

Sumter National Forest

Rose Hill Plantation

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.

charleston-botany-bay-rd-oak-ave-05

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.

charleston-botany-bay-wma-26-beach

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

SC Hiking Books

When I plan a trip, two of the books I like to consult are these:  Hiking South Carolina by John Clark and John Dantzler and 50 Hikes in South Carolina by Johnny Molloy. I had another, but I prefer these.

While yes, they cover some of the same hikes, they also contain different ones, and one or the other goes into more detail. For example for the Big Bend Falls hike, one books describes just how to get to the falls and the other details the entire Big Bend Trail.

One is not better than the other. If hiking is your thing and, if you can, get both. I snagged both of mine at a book sale. You can find the most recent editions in a hiking store, book store, or on-line. If you can only get one, I’ll describe each and you can make up your own mind.

50-hikes

50 Hikes in South Carolina

In the beginning of the book is a map of the state with the locations of all the trails mentioned in the book. With each hike description there is a topographical map useful in gauging how hilly the terrain is, but get a USGS map if the trail is rough and not well marked. The book, both of them, will tell you which one to get.

Also in the beginning is a table listing the hikes, their nearest city, the distance of trail, and other comments like if there is a waterfall or campground along the trail. The trails are divided into upstate, midlands, and lowcountry so you don’t have to go through the entire book looking for trails that are near to one another.

Each trail description is prefaced with the total distance, the hiking time, vertical rise, and difficulty rating. In the body of the description it tells you how to get to the trail head and describes the hike. There is a photo for each entry.

hiking-sc

Hiking South Carolina

In the beginning of the book there is a state map of all trails listed and a legend (nice) for the maps that accompany the entries. The introduction includes how to be prepared, trail regulations, a section on the natural history of the state. This book includes the longer trails such as the Foothills and Chattooga. It does not include the Palmetto trail. That’s a volume of books by itself.

Each of the 62 entries contains a map, general description, location, distance, difficulty, trail conditions, and fees, if any. The body of the entry tells one how to find the trailhead, a description of the hike, and if there are facilities or lodging nearby. With the hilly trails there’s a graph showing the change in elevation. There are maps, but not topographical ones. Not every entry has a photo.

One thing I liked about the book were the appendixes: For more information (web addresses), Further reading, Hiker’s checklist, and Hike list. This organizes the hikes by distance – short and easy to long and strenuous.

Check these books out. Your local library may have a copy you can check out to see which one you prefer.