Sunday, March 8, 2009

Keowee-Toxaway State Park. Trip and Arrival

Table of Contents for This Series

  1. Drive down and arrival
  2. The trail and natural bridge
  3. The lake trail
  4. Cherokee interpretive center
  5. “The Market” near Keowee-Toxaway SP
  6. Kayaking on Lake Keowee
  7. Another paddle on Lake Keowee
  8. A walk in the Keowee-Toxaway SP woods

The last Japan Considered Mobile Studio trip took us to the Eastern Shore of South Carolina. To Edisto Island, and the Edisto Beach State Park. This week, our destination is another of South Carolina’s beautiful state parks. But one in the opposite direction. In the northwest corner of the State. Keowee-Toxaway State Natural Area.

Living in Columbia makes travel convenient throughout all of South Carolina. Since a political compromise long ago established this capital city right in the geographic center of the State. Hoping at the time to please quarrelsome Lowland and Upland South Carolina interests. Columbians are fond of saying any location in the state is only a two-hour drive away. Drive two hours to the west and you’re in the mountains! Two hours to the east and you’re on the Atlantic Coast! Well, that’s something of an exaggeration. But not much of one. Even cautious elderly drivers pulling a travel trailer can make it in three hours or so.

GPS seems to have replaced hard-copy maps these days. Though I still maintain both. My reliable Mio GPS is more fond of four-lane, limited-access highways than am I. So this time, the first two-thirds or so of the trip to Keowee-Toxaway was on busy, high-speed super-highways. Zipping along at 60-70 miles per hour. That ended southwest of Greenville, thankfully. And from there, even the Mio GPS agreed to travel smaller and more picturesque roads all the way to the Park. Including a section of the justifiably renowned Highway Eleven. According to the GPS, we reached the Park gates after 136 miles.

Highway Eleven divides Keowee-Toxaway State Park, or “Natural Area,” as some of these parks now are called, into two sections. With 400 or so acres on one side of the highway, and 600 or so acres on the other. More about the interesting features on the east side of the Park in another entry. The RV and tent site camping areas are on the west side of the highway, up on a wooded ridge. And the Park office is located on a knoll just inside the entrance. Be sure to get the combination to the lock when you check in, since Park Staff close and lock the gate each night for the safety of campers.

It’s only a short drive up the ridge, past Residence Road on the left, to the entrance of the camping area. The paved road you see in the photo at the right leads down the hill to the Park’s single cabin. This three-bedroom facility will sleep ten people, according to the brochure. It’s right on the shore of the lake. With its own dock! The Park Service provides cabin renters with everything they need, even linens! Must be a nice facility, though I didn’t get to see it. A sign limits access to only those renting the cabin.

Driving up the hill, I found site number four without a map. The camping area is small, with only ten RV sites. Each with reliable electricity and water connections. That’s not many, compared with other South Carolina Parks. But the side of this relatively steep ridge must have presented quite a challenge to the construction crews charged with creating level, accessible RV sites here. They managed, though. And even paved the surfaces. I walked around to all ten sites for future reference, and didn’t find a single one that would be unsuitable for the Mobile Studio.

Site four is special, though. A “pull-through,” with an incredible view through the trees of Lake Keowee below, and of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. Here are a couple of photos after set-up.

It would be hard to improve on this. Here’s the view from the Mobile Studio’s door, looking west. Note that most of the trees in early March have yet to sprout their leaves. Allowing a glimpse of the lake below. I imagine that won’t last for many more weeks. But the new leaves will create a different kind of scenery.

I get up early, well before daylight, and go take a shower [After a certain age, getting up early is no longer a virtue; it happens naturally.] So to avoid early-morning surprises I always check access to the bath house and shower facilities at every new campsite.

This bath house and restroom facility was especially impressive. The equipment was original, not new, with only minor modifications. But everything was clean as a whistle. In fact, this is the only state-maintained facility I have seen that actually had soap in the soap dispenser! The outside of the bath house was equally well maintained. As was the rest of the campground. Somebody puts some effort into this.

In sum, Keowee-Toxaway is a gem. It may well be the most beautiful Park I’ve had the opportunity to visit. I look forward tomorrow or next day to hiking some of its more accessible trails. After seeking the advice of the Rangers. Here’s a final photo of a typical area of woods, right in the middle of the RV camping area. What a scene!

Click here for the next post in this series.

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