Friday, May 14, 2010

Poinsett State Park, South Carolina. Part VIII Walking the Coquina Trail

Click here for the first post in this series.

trail head Another beautiful day here at Poinsett State Park in South Carolina. Sunny, with a few clouds. And not oppressively hot. Ideal for a walk around the Park’s “Coquina Trail.”

Here’s a link to a page from the South Carolina State Trails Program for a detailed description. With even a map! All told, only 1.5 miles.

bridge Not long at all. And well maintained throughout. But only the first eighth-mile or so is suitable for hikers with baby strollers or in wheel chairs. Here’s a picturesque CCC-built bridge that crosses a spillway stream from the Lake.

trail 1 A bit further on, as the trail begins to ascend the steep hill above the Lake opposite the Park Office, the going gets a bit more rugged. Certainly not anything to challenge even a modestly prepared walker, like me. trail 2 But steeper, and a bit rougher, than would be comfort-able to navigate for vehicles with small wheels. I’d foolishly forgotten to bring along my walking stick. But really didn’t feel the lack of it on any part of the trail. Still, no place for a wheel chair or baby stroller, I’m sure, after the first eighth-mile or so.

steep bank The side of this hill is remarkably steep. Bringing to mind the mountains of the Upstate region rather than the Sandhills of the Midlands. Fortunately, the trail ascends the hill gradually. With even a switchback in one place. Here’s a photo taken looking down from the trail toward the lake.

shelter Here, just before the halfway point, and near the the highest spot on the trail is a welcome CCC shelter. Coquina stone and wood. With benches along three walls. Step in and take a rest. Even if you don’t need one. The surrounding plant life is amazing. And you’ll be surprised by what you may see and hear in the way of animal life. The deer, squirrels, and birds here seem accustomed to hikers. A great spot from which to enjoy what Poinsett offers us.

half way Then on to the halfway marker. Here it is. Notice the white blaze below the half way letters. That white blaze marks the trail throughout its course. Impossible to get lost here. So, just relax throughout and enjoy the incredible scenery.

hilltop trail Turn here to continue on up to the highest part of this hill. It’s a little steeper, but not far at all. Nice to have the trails laid out here in a way that offers the hiker alternatives. Truth be told, I didn’t ascend to the hilltop this time. It looked attractive. But I had to save something for the next visit!

trail 3 From here the trail begins the descent to the level of the wetland area at the head of Levi Mill Lake.

wetland area There’s a nice view of this marshy area from here. All sorts of different plants. I didn’t see any wildlife at all. But it must have been there in abundance.

laurel group Here’s the marker for the “Laurel Group” part of the trail. I passed up that opportunity as well. It must have been stunning just a couple of weeks ago. Imagine it! Mountain laurel draped with Spanish moss. That sight alone makes the visit worthwhile. Park Manager McCants told me that I could see a few ironwood trees near that trail. Well, next visit.

wetland 2 At the bottom of the slope the trail crosses the marsh we saw from above. Look at this!

walkway And Park personnel thoughtfully maintain walkways and mini-bridges across the wettest part of the trail. Throughout I didn’t get my feet wet a single time.

lake view Before I knew it I was back on the other side of the Lake. Walking along parallel to the Park Road, between the Lake and the road. This is a very different view of the lake than that I had yesterday from the kayak.

alligator sign And, in case the well maintained trail and wooden walkways lull us into forgetting we’re in the forest, here’s a sign describing the American alligator. I didn’t see any of them, unfortunately. But they must have been around somewhere.

office furniture Before I knew it, I was past the boat slips and back at the Park Office building. It was a short walk. Those chairs looked inviting.

So there you have it. Poinsett State Park’s Coquina Trail. A wonderful walk in the woods here in one of the most unusual environments I’ve encountered.

Thanks again to Park Manager Zabo McCants, Ranger Brad, and their colleagues for maintaining this wonderful facility. It’s hard to imagine while here that Columbia is less than 45 minutes away by car. Come by and camp for a few days. You won’t be disappointed.

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