Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lee State Natural Area, South Carolina. Part I. Drive Over and Arrival.

Table of Contents for This Series

  1. Drive over and arrival at Park
  2. Park’s Interpretive Center and Reception Area
  3. Must-see places near the Park Office
  4. A stroll around the public areas of the Park
  5. Interview with fellow camper Leo on RV camping and alternative energy
  6. Traveling Lee State Park’s Loop Road
  7. Visiting Nearby Woods Bay State Park, a Carolina Bay
  8. Dinner at nearby Turbeville’s Chat ‘n Chew Restaurant
  9. Interview with Park Manager Ms. Bryn Harmer

Another beautiful day for travel. Sunny, temperatures in the mid-70s. With just the hint of a possible rain shower. Lee State Natural Area, or Lee State Park, is fairly close to home. So this trip I didn’t leave Columbia until nearly 1:00 p.m.

Lee Route The new Garmin GPS continues to perform beautifully. No complaints at all about its accuracy or route selection. The purplish-pink line marks the route on the map above, Once again avoiding those homogenized superhighways.

Two Notch Road to Route 34 to north on Route 15 in Bishopville. Then right on State Park Road to the Park entrance. Hard to get lost! Didn’t even have to circle once.

The whole trip, even this secondary roads route, was only 50 miles, taking about an hour and fifteen minutes. As the map shows, travelers less fussy about natural and social scenery, or in more of a hurry, could make the trip in much less time by taking I-20. Just exit at Interchange 123 and head north on Lee State Park Road. Can’t miss it! A convenient approach too for RV travelers from out-of-state looking for a nice camping experience.

Park Map Here’s a map of the whole Park, showing the locations of the entrance and of the Park Office.

Park Entrance Don’t be misled by the name. State Park Road is a well maintained two-lane hard-surfaced highway. It’s impossible to miss the Park entrance on the west side. This scene prepares you for what is to follow.

CCC entry sign First, notice the stone pillars on either side of the road. And the “CCC 1935” sign prominently displayed. Lee isn’t the oldest Park in the System. But it’s among ‘em, as we say OverHome.

That CCC sign is a guarantee that facilities here have been carefully planned, built with plenty of available labor, and built to last. More on the CCC’s Park work in a later post. It also means this Park will provide a real camping experience. Not an inexpensive alternative to a weekend at a hotel.

Entrance Flowers Look at these azaleas just inside the main Park entrance! The photo hardly does them justice. Displays like this were blooming throughout the Park. Just the right time to visit.

turtle Distracted by the sight of so many azaleas and other shrubs blooming along the way, I nearly missed this turtle. She was in the mowed grass area only about 20 feet from the road. Clearly visible to all passers-by.

I don’t know much about turtles beyond avoiding the business end[s] of snappers. It looks as if she has laid six or seven eggs. Though compared to the size of the turtle, the eggs are huge.

I stayed well back when taking the photo, hoping to avoid causing more anxiety. This is a turtle clearly in need of Tamia Nelson’s Turtle Rescue services! Be sure to check Tamia’s site for more information about turtle rescue by clicking here. As well as everything else Outdoors!

ofice 1 A left turn at the intersection takes you directly to the Park Office. A modest building at least one generation away from the original CCC structure. Once inside, though, its educational resources are far from modest. More on them too in a later post.

In the Office I met Ranger Lester Shelley. Mr. Shelly was born and raised in Marion County, near Mullins. He’s been with the Park Service since the 1990s. Ranger Shelly is naturally helpful. And, he’s an excellent source of information about this part of South Carolina, as well as about the Park. He patiently answered my many questions and then directed me to site # 15 in the Campground Loop.

campground map Lee State Park’s campground is divided into two loops. The first, with 25 sites and a central bath house, is for regular RV camping.

The second, with another 23 sites, is described as an “Equestrian Campground.” Designed for folks who bring along horses with them when they camp.

horse post Sixteen of those equestrian sites are large pull-throughs. Complete with hitching posts, and a nearby sturdy corral structure. I don’t know much about horses. But this looks like the real thing.

corral corral sign The Park also maintains a large equestrian show ring and other horse-related facilities in another area.

site 15 Sites and roads in the campground area all are hard-packed sand. Above is site number 15, with the Mobile Studio Aliner and its Elderly Town Car tow vehicle. Nearly every campsite in the Park is this nice. Plenty of room; level; no crowding; with trees and shrubs as buffer zones.

campground view Here’s a view of campsites on the inside of the loop, closer to the bath house. All level and comfortably spaced.

Some RV campers avoid hard-packed sand sites. And I suppose they are more difficult to maintain. These have been kept in fine shape, however. And, later on in the day I noticed another advantage. Just an hour or so after it rained like the dickens, the surface of site # 15 was quite dry. The water just soaked down through the sand. No mud or mess.

Out of time now. But stay tuned for more on this beautiful State Park.

Click here for the next post in this series.

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