Sunday, April 11, 2010

Little Pee Dee State Park, S.C. Part II. The Drive Over and Arrival at the Park.

Click here for the first post in this series.

Today is Sunday, April 11th. Another beautiful day for driving. Sunny blue skies. Only a light breeze. And temperatures in the mid-70s at departure time. That was around 10:30 a.m.

Map2 As anticipated, the drive over was a delight. This new Garmin GPS so far has avoided the homogeneous superhighways without routing me onto any of those dubious one-lane dirt tracks.

So I turned north onto Two Notch Road, or U.S. Route 1, with confidence, Route 1 always has something to offer the observant traveler. Natural and Social scenery abounds, from Maine to the Florida Keys, according to road-trip books devoted to it.

For example, a few miles out I passed through the town of “Elgin.” You might wonder how Elgin got its name. Well, that’s right! From the Elgin watch company. I heard this explanation from former South Carolina Governor, John C. West.

Some years ago, members of the South Carolina Legislature and Kershaw County Board learned that the Elgin Watch Company might be persuaded to relocate one of their manufacturing plants to South Carolina. That relocation would mean good manufacturing jobs for folks in the area, and was therefore worth pursuing.

As part of their campaign to persuade Elgin Watch to relocate here, State and County officials working on the campaign proposed that the little town of Blaney change its name to Elgin.

Well! You can imagine the pyrotechnic display that proposal ignited in Blaney. But in the end, the hope for employment trumped tradition, and Blaney became Elgin. If memory serves, the Elgin Watch Company did relocate a manufacturing plant here. But it has since closed. Just a glimpse of the social scenery available along Two Notch Road.

Through Blaney – ‘er, Elgin – Lugoff, and then right through the middle of Camden. Another of South Carolina’s interesting towns. Well worth a CarolinaConsidered post or two when time permits. The Revolutionary War battlefield alone is worth the trip.

Highway 34 Not far past Camden, the GPS instructed me to bear right onto Route 34. Now, that name rings a bell. A glance at the map shows Route 34 beginning around Greenwood, headed east across the state. It’s a great drive, passing through the towns of Chappels, Silverstreet, Newberry, Ridgeway, Camden. Then on to Dillon. Some of those names alone inspire a visit.

Near Darlington, Route 34 takes you past the celebrated NASCAR raceway. I don’t know much about auto racing. But it’s very popular in the Carolinas. And this, I believe, is one of its Cathedrals.

In Lee County, not far after Bishopville, a sign directed me to Lee State Natural Area. That’s another Pee Dee region State Park. I have reservations there for later this month.

And finally, through the town of Dillon. County Seat of Dillon County. More on Dillon later in this series. It’s only eight or nine miles to the Park from here.

ParkPlaces Click on this map to see more clearly the places I’ll be describing here. Just after turning left from Route 57 to the State Park Road, a beautiful herd of cattle came into view in fields on both sides of the road. I couldn’t stop, of course. But it was nice to see.

Driving on, the scenery changed suddenly. Low-growing scrub trees surrounded by bright white sand on both sides of the road. It could only be the Carolina Bay I’d read briefly about before departure. What a sight. I’ll have to come back to take photos.

Then on to the Little Pee Dee River that defines the southern boundary of the Park. Here the Little Pee Dee deserves its name. From the road the River appears to be little more than a creek. Too small, perhaps, for even a kayak.

Then, the scenery changes again as the Park Road skirts the southwestern border of the Park. It’s already obvious that the woods in this area have much to offer. Quite different from what I’ve seen so far around the State.

The parallel light blue lines on the map above indicate a swampy, or wetland, area. As you see, the Park Office [more on that remarkable edifice later], the campground, the playgrounds, and picnic shelters are positioned on drier land toward the north of the Park’s 835 acres. West and southwest of Lake Norton.

CarAlinerArrive Once inside the grounds proper the Park’s trees and foliage are even more impressive. I parked the car with Aliner in tow to walk around a bit before checking in.

Stay tuned for more observations on this remarkable Park. Located smack-dab in the center of some of South Carolina’s most remarkable natural scenery.

Click here for the next post in this series.

Click here to return to the CarolinaConsidered website.

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