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

 

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Train Depots

Aiken Train Depot

I’ve always been a fan of train locomotives and the railroad. I’ve traveled on a variety of trains, no Amtrak, but on some special excursions from kiddie trains to old time trains powered by locomotives. I decided to indulge my interest in railroads by stopping at train depots and taking pictures of them and learning more of the railroad industry in South Carolina. At the website below one can see how the industry grew throughout the years starting in the 1830’s when the Charleston to Hamburg line started. There’s also a list of all the Railroad lines, passenger and freight, that existed in the state from the Air Line Railroad to the Wilson to Summerton Railroad. There’s more too so check it out.

http://www.carolana.com/SC/Transportation/railroads/home.html

Two other good website not to miss are:

http://scdepots.com/ and http://www.sciway.net/sc-photos/tag/trains-depots/

The former lists the train depots by county. Click on a county name and find all the depots by county. The latter, Sciway, has always good information but its list is not as intensive as scdepots.

The South Carolina Railroad Museum in Winnsboro has a website: http://www.scrm.org/ Check it out to see when the train trip is scheduled to run. And, of course, don’t miss The Best Friend of Charleston Museum (http://bestfriendofcharleston.org/) which features a replica of the first train in South Carolina.

Focus on Columbia

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I’m going to be limited where I travel this year so I’ve decided to concentrate on sights in and around Columbia, our state’s capital. Every month I’ll go visit a new place for me, or maybe an old one. In January, I went to Riverbanks Zoo, but I’ll do a post on that later. Right now I’ll put links for places I’ve already written a post. There’s plenty to see and visit so keep tuned.

City of Columbia

https://47parkssc.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/columbia/

Congaree National Park

https://47parkssc.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/congaree-national-park/

Harbison State Forest

https://47parkssc.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/harbison-state-forest/

River Front Park

https://47parkssc.wordpress.com/2016/08/15/river-front-park-historic-columbia-canal/

Sesquicentennial Park

https://47parkssc.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/sesquicentennial-state-park/

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/

Courthouses

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Whenever I visit a county seat, I make sure to drive past the courthouse and take a photograph of it. Courthouses tell nice stories of history including how the county was formed. Some are pretty old, from around the time the county was created, and some fairly young. The styles vary with some ornate and picturesque and others looking like regular government buildings. Robert Mills, SC’s leading architect from the early 1800’s had his hand in a few like the one in Winnsboro (Fairfield County.)

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I’ve lived near two courthouses, the one in Hampton County which was built in 1878 and remodeled a few times. The last time they moved the fountain from the front to more to the side. The annual watermelon festival is held on the grounds of it. The Allendale courthouse was a few blocks from where I lived. The interior burned at the time a fact I didn’t hear until my mother asked me about it the next day. Even with the main road one block over I didn’t hear the sirens of the fire trucks roaring past. It’s since been renovated. Sad to say I don’t have a picture of it.

Here are a few more courthouses I’ve encountered in my travels.

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Union (Union County). This impressive neoclassical building was completed in 1913, replacing the Robert Mills courthouse of 1825. That was torn down in 1911. The police station down the road was also designed by Robert Mills.

Winnsboro (Fairfield Connty) This was designed by Robert Mills and built 1822-23. The distinctive circular staircase and piazza were added when the building was remodeled in 1939. This was when they covered the brick exterior in sandstone plaster. I think I would prefer to see the brick, but that’s just me. The picture is at the top of the post.

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Greenwood (Greenwood County) A much more modern building that was built in 1967 to replace a previous building from 1898.

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Chester (Chester County) This was built in 1852.

Sumter  sumter-sumter-downtown-03-courthouse-sumter-statue

Newberry newberry-newberry-37-newberry-county-courthouse

McCormick mccormick-mccormick-04-mccormick-co-courthouse

To learn more about courthouses in SC, check out the website at sciway –

http://www.sciway.net/sc-photos/tag/courthouses/

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

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.

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.

sumter-poinsett-sp-14-the-waterfall

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

Poinsett Bridge

My trip to Poinsett Bridge began with the hunt for South Carolina’s only remaining covered bridge, Campbell’s Bridge. From there we drove back to SC11 and took County Road 42/Callahan Mountain Road toward North Carolina. Not knowing exactly where the bridge was, I drove right by it. It being a narrow road, I continued down before I found a place to turn around. It’s a lovely road anyway and no hardship to drive. I don’t know if it’s still there, but we saw a rusted up truck in a kudzu patch that made for a nice picture taking opportunity.

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Poinsett Bridge sits on the 120 acre Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve. There’s not much parking and take care to watch for pedestrians. The stone bridge is a short stroll away. It sits over Little Gap Creek and is surrounded by trees. I’d love to come here in the fall. When I went it was summer.

The bridge is thought to be the oldest surviving bridge in the state and is believed to have been designed by Robert Mills. Built in 1820, it was one of three stone bridges that stood on the route known as Saluda Mountain Road, part of the State Road that ran from Charleston to North Carolina and into Tennessee. The State Road was a toll road.

greenville-poinsett-bridge-03-with-jon

Poinsett Bridge, named after Joel Poinsett is constructed with locally quarried stone. There is a fifteen foot Gothic arch for the creek to run through. One can view it easy from paths that span out alongside the creek.

How to Get There:

It is off SC11, near Traveler’s Rest. The address is 580 Callahan Mountain Road/Rd 42,

Link:

http://greenvillerec.com/parks/poinsett-bridge/

What’s Near By:

Campbell’s Bridge

Jones Gap State Park

Ceaser’s Head State Park

Table Rock State Park