Sunday, May 23, 2010

Aiken State Natural Area, South Carolina. Part I. Arrival and First Impressions.

sign 1 Table of Contents for This Series

  1. Drive over, arrival and first impressions
  2. The RV campground at Aiken and set-up
  3. Campground neighbor offers RV camping tips and advice on insect control while camping
  4. Some of Aiken SNA’s special features
  5. The Cabin Lake area of the Park
  6. The Park Office and its Environs
  7. Interview with Park Manager Troy Crider

Another ideal day for RV travel here in the Midlands of South Carolina. Partly sunny, with just enough cloud cover to avoid sun persecution during the drive to Aiken State Park. Or, Aiken State Natural Area, as it’s now called.

hometoaikensna Again, I left earlier than expected. Just after 11:00 a.m. The Garmin GPS suggested an straightforward trip of about 75 minutes. From Two Notch Road, or Route 1, to Route 302, and from there to Route 53 and the Park road. Faithful to its “Avoid Highways” instruction.

Once on the road, however, I decided to drive into Columbia on one of those multi-laned highways. Route 277. To avoid church traffic congestion along the way. We’ve discussed Sunday morning driving in South Carolina here before. Route One passes quite a few successful churches in the downtown Columbia area. I’d rather take my chances with the fishermen.

Well, the new GPS seemed to take offense at this rejection of its advice. After several indignant suggestions for correcting my indiscretion, it simply froze in place. Refused to register anything. Direction; speed; route repainting. Nothing! I’d been abandoned to my homogenized super-highway fate.

Repentant, I pressed the on-off switch once. The system reset immediately. It then recognized the Odious Highway 277, and continued thereafter without incident on to the Park. Point made, I guess. Beware the wrath of a GPS scorned….

It’s always nice to travel a new secondary road through interesting country. Route 302 fit the bill this morning. New to me, anyway. Plenty of both natural and social scenery on both sides. Passing through the little towns of Pelion and Wagener. A nice drive from beginning to end.

I’ve yet to find that good book or set of articles on the history of South Carolina’s roads. Maybe the South Carolina Highway Department would know of something.

road to park Once past Baughman’s Mill Pond, when, after crossing Route 4, Route 302 becomes Route 53, the scenery changes again. Wetlands here and there. Then a bridge across the South Fork of the Edisto River. With all that implies for the environment. What a difference a change of only 50 to 75 feet in elevation can make! Click on the map out-take above for more detail.

main sign The signs for Aiken State Natural Area were clear. Even I couldn’t miss ‘em. Just turn right on Route 1699, better known as Old Tory Trail, and you’re there. Note too for future reference before you turn the dirt road extension of Route 1699 off to the left of Route 53. We’ll certainly be visiting that part of the Park before long.

one-wayOnce in past the sign and gate the road becomes a one-way 2.1-mile paved loop that passes the main picnic area and pond, the Park Office, the campground entrance, a fishing pond, the canoe/kayak put-in point on the Edisto River, and other Park features on this side of Route 53.

This loop is well worth driving. A convenient overview of much that’s available in this Park. Especially valuable for less mobile folks.

Drive slowly. You’re likely to encounter bicycle riders. And probably some full-time Park residents along the way. This wetlands area is full of interesting animal life. Oh, and insect life as well. Bring plenty of bug spray at this time of year. More on that in a moment.

Click here for the next post in this series.

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