Thursday, June 24, 2010

Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site, South Carolina.

Dorchester Snip Map Next time you’re in or near Charleston, South Carolina, or Summerville, be sure to visit the Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site. It’s only a short distance from the main highways. And well worth the time and effort.

main gateHere you see the impressive main gate. Made of tabby by the way. Get out and have a look before you go in to the Park.

Then drive through, purchase your day pass from the Iron Ranger, and drive down the paved road to the parking area on the right.

display building There you’ll see this small, unassuming building. With an office in the back. It doesn’t look like much from the parking lot. But don’t ignore it in your haste to get to the “real stuff.” Time spent looking through this little building’s displays before tackling the site itself will be time well spent. The displays are very well done. I’m surprised by the amount of information its creators have been able to pack into this small space.

The short videos below provide a virtual tour of some of the Colonial Dorchester Site’s most interesting features. Click the windows below once to play the video here. Click twice to open a larger version in YouTube. Here’s Part I:

And here’s Part II:

This is only a taste of the many interesting exhibits and features of South Carolina’s Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site. Click here to access their official website. Better yet, visit Colonial Dorchester as soon as you can to see for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

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Colleton State Park, South Carolina. Part III Interview with Park Manager Eugene Moore

Click here for the first post in this series.

Givhans Ferry SP Campground Up early again this morning at Givhans Ferry State Park campground. Outside temperature was already well above 70 degrees as I walked over to the bath house. Thankful for a nice shower.

The campground was very quiet, awaiting the chorus of the birds that would begin in a half-hour or so before daylight. I should try to record these early morning bird sounds. They’re quite different in different parts of the State.

garden fenceThen out for a short early morning walk around the campground. The Southern Magnolia Garden Club of Givhans, South Carolina, maintains this Carolina Fence Garden right at the campground entrance. 

flower They’ve planted a wide variety of impressive flowers that attract birds and bees, as well as photographers. Couldn’t resist! 

Soon it was time to leave for the short drive to Colleton State Park, and the interview with Park Manager, Eugene Moore.

moore 02 Good to his word, Mr. Moore was in the office and still willing to take time for the interview. We began, as usual, with his personal background. ClickToListen

Mr. Moore is a South Carolinian through and through. Born and raised in Ninety-Six, South Carolina. Where he has maintained his family and community roots.Like so many of his colleagues, Mr. Moore enjoyed outdoors activities as a child, and often visited nearby State Parks. In his case, Greenwood State Park on Greenwood Lake.

moore 03

ClickToListen Mr. Moore then described his experience working fulltime for seven years at a cotton mill prior to joining the Park Service, and how it helped prepare him for managerial responsibilities later in life. During this time he also managed to work part-time at Greenwood State Park, preparing for his ultimate goal: a Park Service career.

moore 04

ClickToListenWe then moved on to Mr. Moore’s career in the Park Service. From his first full-time Park Service job at Kings Mountain State Park to his present assignment at Colleton. His experience illustrates just how difficult it is to become a Park Ranger. How selective the Park Service is. And how the process works. 

ClickToListen No Park Manager I’ve met so far has been willing to describe his or her Park in a single sentence. But their efforts often provide us with better understanding of the essence of their facilities. Here Mr. Moore stresses the importance of the Edisto River for Colleton State Park.

office 01 And tells us that Colleton is the headquarters for the Edisto Canoe and Kayak Trail that I mentioned a few posts back. That responsibility may explain the new office building facility, or resource center, with its nice conference table. It’s being put to good use here.

ClickToListen I then asked Mr. Moore about the history of the Park. When and how it was built. I knew Colleton was a CCC-built Park. But I didn’t know about the involvement of the WPA. Mr. Moore noted that a few individuals from this part of South Carolina, employed by the WPA, joined the CCC crews. Crews made up of young men “from all over,” as Mr. Moore put it. 

ccc building Mr. Moore also highly rated the work of the CCC crews, and their WPA associates. He said they did excellent work on the Park’s facilities. Buildings that remain in service today.

ClickToListen Mr. Moore then described the Park’s natural environment. Beginning with the plants and trees. Including even blueberry trees!

brochure He mentions the Cypress Swamp interpretive trail that I described in the last post. With its numbered signposts along the trail and keyed descriptions on the back of the brochure you see above. A great resource. He also said the Park’s acreage has never been logged. Which, as we know from other Parks, is important.

The Park also is home to three or more large barred owls. Large       enough to require Park personnel to warn campers who bring pets to keep their small dogs and cats protected. Those owls would make a great photo, but I didn’t get to see one while visiting. Here’s a link to an excellent page of information about the barred owl, including some impressive photos.

csp campground We then discussed the Park’s RV campground and the challenge of erosion control in such sandy soil so close to a major river. These are not the wide, paved campsites of the Corps of Engineers-built Calhoun Falls State Park, to be sure. ClickToListen But these campsites have their own charm. A charm eagerly articulated by campers I met while visiting. I certainly look forward to the opportunity to park my Aliner here for a few nights.

ClickToListen And speaking of campers, I asked Park Manager Moore to describe the Park’s clientele. He became quite enthusiastic describing Park visitors. Even one a number of years ago from England he still remembers fondly. Visitors here at Colleton State Park, it’s obvious, aren’t considered an inconvenience to be endured. Mr. Moore’s attitude may help to explain the effusive praise of the campers I met here yesterday. Good to hear.

comment box In the last post I mentioned seeing a “Comment Box” near the Campground bath house. ClickToListen So I asked Mr. Moore about that. His response was interesting, and reflected the way this State Park is run, I think. Give a listen here. 

By now, the phone in Mr. Moore’s office was ringing nearly every minute, and it was obvious he had things to do. So, I reluctantly closed the interview with a question about the Park’s staff.

ClickToListen Like so many of South Carolina’s State Parks, budget austerity has cut personnel here to an absolute minimum. Colleton State Park is allotted two full-time personnel, and one part-time person during the busier non-winter months. However, Mr. Moore certainly is no whiner! Listen to him describe this challenge, and how he and his “partner” meet it. An inspiration for us all.

Thanks again to Mr. Eugene Moore, Park Manager at Colleton State Park, for taking the time during this busy period for a CarolinaConsidered interview. Click the link below when you have time and listen to the interview straight from beginning to end. It’s a real winner.

ClickToListen Click here to listen to the full interview.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Colleton State Park, South Carolina. Part II More of the Park

Click here for the first post in this series.

csp river view 1 After walking the Cypress Swamp Nature Trail at least once with your brochure, and taking a look at the river from the Canoe Dock, follow the signs toward the campground.

csp campground 1 The campsites here are more open than those at Givhans Ferry. Less private. And not as level. Though certainly not crowded together like most commercial campgrounds. Somehow, though, it’s still inviting.

I stopped and chatted with a few campers. Asking what they liked and disliked about camping at Colleton State Park. None offered any complaints. One family said they camp here regularly, even though they live not far from Edisto Beach State Park! One of the State’s most popular campgrounds, and certainly one of my favorites. Especially during the winter months.

primative camp area Every camper I met mentioned that the Park personnel all are friendly and helpful. Calling each staff member by their first names. A real tribute. Another way a State Park under severe budget pressure can appeal to and maintain its visitor base without spending a lot of money. Though it takes sustained effort and people skills to build that reputation.

bath house As usual, I took a close look at the bath house and its facilities. It’s one of the older models. And there’s only one here for the whole campground, as at Givhans Ferry. Inside, though, it was spotless. Oh, and look closely in the photo above at the brown box just in front of those electrical connections.

comment box It’s a “Comment Box.” Something I’ve not often seen at South Carolina State Parks. Good idea! Campers with both genuine and frivolous complaints are free to record their thoughts and insert them in the box. Confident Park management will read them all. As well as their positive comments, of course. A good way to keep track of performance.

rec building The Colleton campground area also includes another CCC-built facility. A screened “recreation building.” As with most of the Park System’s CCC buildings, this one has been well maintained, but kept as close to the original as possible.

path to river Just before leaving, I walked down the access path to the river bank. This path is somewhat steeper than the Cypress Swamp Trail path, and more of a challenge for less mobile folks. Used mainly by swimmers, I imagine. You’ll find just as nice a view of the River from the Canoe Dock on the Cypress Swamp trail.

park sign So, there you have it. An unexpected visit to Colleton State Park. Another of South Carolina’s “hidden gems.” Where I’m sure you would enjoy RV camping and walking in the woods.

It was well past lunchtime by the time I left the Park. Ranger Larry earlier on had recommended the fried chicken at the Penny Pincher Mart on the corner. So, it seemed only sensible to stop. In the name of culinary research, doncha know.

penny pincher mart So, stop I did. Ms. Ernitha, the fried chicken chef, was at the counter. She served up four pieces of fried chicken – well, one has to be sure about these things! – and several long-sliced fried potatoes. They were delicious. Fully justifying Ranger Larry’s evaluation.

The Penny Pincher Mart has done business on this corner since the 1920s. This is the new building. The original store burned a number of years ago. This building also houses the Candays Post Office.

canadys crossroads Construction of I-95 had a profound effect on the commercial potential of this Canadys crossroads location. But the Penny Pincher Mart has managed to hang on. Serving such good fried chicken, it’s no wonder! Thanks, Ms. Ernitha. I’ll be back.

That’s all for now. But stay tuned for an interview with Colleton State Park Manager, Eugene Moore. It’s a good one.

Click here for the next post in this series.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Colleton State Park, South Carolina. Part I. An unplanned visit.

Table of Contents for This Series

  1. Unplanned visit to Colleton State Park
  2. More on this delightful Park
  3. Interview with Park Manager Eugene Moore

Around mid-morning I drove from Givhans Ferry State Park, where the Aliner was parked, to visit Colleton State Park.

This Park is about 21 miles from Givhans Ferry by river. Something less than that by car.

edisto river upstreamThe river was a temptation. But I decided to travel by car this morning rather than try to paddle the ElderKayak against the current for 21 miles. Even the forgiving current of the Edisto River that you see above.

Route 61 North here is well populated on both sides of the road. Houses, newer and older, usually set well back, with well-tended lawns. Some of the side-roads have interesting names. Like “Heavy Feather” and “Pumpkin Girl.” I’m not making this up, now. Regular South Carolina road signs.

Turn right at the Canadys intersection. You’ll see the Penny Pincher Mart on the corner. More about that enterprise later. Drive another half-mile and the sign for Colleton State Park will appear on the left.

csp office 1 I drove in and stopped at the Park Office. The road in was under maintenance. Though not anything that obstructed auto or RV travel. I’m no road maintenance expert. But it looked as if this effort was intended either to repair or to limit the effects of water erosion.

I later learned that it was much more than a surface scraping. Over the years, repeated palliative scrapings had worn the roadbed down several inches. So this time Park Management applied several inches of stone, gravel, and soil to bring the road surface back where it was originally. Quite a project! A lot of work. But it will reduce the effects of water erosion here for years to come.

csp office 2 It was just after 11:00 a.m. when I arrived at the Office. Ranger Larry was at the desk [didn’t get his last name, unfortunately]. He gave me a comprehensive run-down of the Park facilities and encouraged me to look around.

I asked Ranger Larry how Colleton State Park differs from Givhans Ferry State Park. He said they both are CCC-built Parks on the banks of the Edisto River. Similar environments; similar facilities. Very fair in his assessment.

But Ranger Larry was such an enthusiastic and effective representative of his Park that I asked if he would be willing to do an audio interview. He quickly backed away from that offer, and went to the inner office to get Park Manager, Eugene Moore.

PM moore 01 It was a busy time at Colleton State Park. Even the District Manager was there. But Park Manager Moore kindly agreed on the spot to make time the following morning for an interview. So, off I went to look around outside before he could change his mind!

trail enter It’s impossible to describe any South Carolina State Park in a single word. If pressed, I would use “Understated” to describe Colleton. Unpretentious and Understated. Both traditional South Carolina values! The photo above illustrates the point. Give it a click for a larger view.

The sign says “Cypress Swamp Nature Trail: .3 Miles.” Now, how interesting could that be? Why bother? A .3-mile walk through a swamp?

Well, here’s why.

trail info boxThe red arrow points to the little green box you see above. In it are single-page photocopies of the Park Brochure. The front of the brochure offers a good general description of the Park. But the back is even more interesting.

trail sign post This brochure provides the key to the Cypress Swamp Nature Trail aforementioned. Numbered stations, like the one you see above, have been placed along the length of the trail. Eighteen of them in all. The back of the brochure provides a brief, beautifully written, explanation of each feature.

This trail is an outstanding resource. It alone is worth the drive to the Park. I’ve included a short video above to encourage you to visit. I’m still learning how to create videos, so be patient, please.

board walk 1 Throughout, the path is smooth and carefully maintained. Easy for less mobile folks, like me. Or even for folks who rely on scooters or wheeled vehicles. Where necessary they’ve limited the effects of water erosion with board walks.

trail marker 4 Be sure to take a brochure from the little box and watch carefully on both sides of the path for the numbered stations. It’s an education. Many of my questions about the area plant life were answered – with real-life examples – right on the back of that brochure! I wish every Park had such a program.

trail 2 As Park facilities go, this nature trail wouldn’t have been especially expensive to create. It must require time-consuming maintenance. But still, it easily qualifies as the sort of “High bang; Low Buck” project that warms the hearts of budget-pressed South Carolina Park Service Management. Come have a look. You won’t be disappointed.

Stay tuned for more on Colleton State Park in the next post. It’s a winner.

Click here for the next post in this series.

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Givhans Ferry State Park. Part III. A final look around the Park.

Click here for the first post in this series.

site 11 front Up early this Monday morning at Givhans Ferry State Park. The weekend campers are gone, and only six or seven of the campsites remain occupied. It’s quiet throughout, though quite warm and muggy. Late yesterday afternoon we had a sudden thunder shower. It lasted only a few minutes. Plenty of rain, wind, and even some lightning in the distance.

sinkholes display Let’s have another look around the Park this morning. Beginning with the limestone sinkhole display seen on the left side of the road driving in. Long-time readers may recall similar geological features at Santee State Park.

These two fenced-off depressions look quite small. But given the makeup of the soil in this part of South Carolina there must be others on the Park.

sinkhole sign Here’s a photo of the sign beside the fence. Click for a larger view to read the text more easily. An excellent explanation of this unusual geological phenomenon.

park office 1 Here’s the CCC-built Park Office and Community Building. From the front it looks quite modest.

park office 2 And here’s another view of this historic building from the side. Showing two levels of back porch overlooking the Edisto River. Accessible from the Community Room that takes up most of the building.

overlook shelter 2 The Overlook Shelter in another section of the Park might give an opportunity to see the River while enjoying a picnic.

overlook shelter 1 But the view from the Shelter is a bit overgrown now. It could be impressive after some trimming of foliage.

limestone bluffs signThis sign might explain why the foliage blocking the view hasn’t been trimmed. Click the photo above to read about limestone bluffs in this area, and the rare plant life that their alkaline soil supports. The rarity of that plant life may not have been appreciated when the CCC crews built and named this shelter in the 1930s.

The main feature of Givhans Ferry State Park, though, is the Edisto River. Click below for a short video taken early in the morning before the arrival of folks to wade and swim.

It wasn’t long after I took the video until the water just below the Park Office was crowded with another wave of waders and swimmers. Even on a Monday morning!

swimmers So there you have it. Givhans Ferry State Park. A convenient place for Dorchester and Colleton County folks to enjoy a day wading and swimming in the Edisto River.

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