Thursday, August 12, 2010

Table Rock State Park, South Carolina. Part VI More Must-Experience Sites in the Park

Click here for the first post in this series.

table rock Table Rock State Park in Pickens County, South Carolina, presents the visiting writer with a challenge. Which of its many “must-experience” sites best illustrate the Park as a whole. There are plenty to choose from. When surrounding Pickens County is added to the mix, it becomes even more of a challenge.

lodge In earlier posts I’ve introduced the RV campground, the swimming area of Pinnacle Lake, hiking trails, and the recently renovated CCC-built Lodge. In this last post during the current visit to Table Rock I’ll include the Park Office and Visitors Center building and the Nature Center. Let’s begin with the Visitor’s Center building.

vc path This likely will be your first view of Table Rock State Park. Once you turn into the Park Office access road from Highway Eleven. The grounds here are beautifully landscaped and maintained. Manicured, even.

plant plaque Small plaques provide names and information about many of the trees and shrubs here. Very useful. Something it would be nice to see in heavy-use areas at other Parks. Know anything about “American BeautyBerries”? Well, learn about them from this plaque!

vc entry stegenga The Visitors Center building is quite new. Not a CCC creation. But, at least to my untrained eye, built along those lines. Here you see Park Interpreter Scott Stegenga standing outside the main entrance.

vc fireplace 01 The inside of the building is even more impressive. Warm-toned wood planking with stone accents here and there. Like that beautiful fireplace.

vc rocker 01To get a feeling for the decor, look closely at these rocking chairs placed before the fireplace. They’re the real thing. Ordered, according to the Park folks, from the Mast General Store branch in Greenville.

vc rocker 03 Now, rustic furniture like this fits right in here. But it’s not easy to make “rustic” furniture that’s both attractive AND comfortable. Mast’s Amish Western Pennsylvania suppliers have managed to do just that. I sat in one for an hour or so while using the Park’s public WiFi service. Made to order!

vc stained glass Here’s another nice touch in this building. A stained glass window set in one peak of the roof that commemorates the Park’s 1938 establishment. Give it a click to see the colors.

vc roof peak And here’s the opposite wall at the peak of the roof. This is fine work. There’s much more to see within the public areas of this beautiful building.

conference room Including a comprehensive retail area, a large contour map model of the Park and surrounding area, an efficient and busy information counter, and this spacious conference room. So be sure to take time to look around when you come to the Visitors Center.

pumpkintown cafe 01 Man lives not by enjoyment of the great out-of-doors and Parkitecture alone. He also must, from time to time, eat lunch! I had the good fortune while visiting the Visitors Center to be saved from the usual touristy places on Highway Eleven by Mr. Tommy, a retired dairy farmer, and his granddaughter [who once had milked a cow]. They directed me to the Pumpkintown General Store & Cafe that you see above. It’s not far away, and easy to find.

cafe window Now, curb appeal doesn’t appear to be high on the owners’ list of priorities. But the family owning this facility has managed nicely since 1938. And, judging from the food they serve, will continue to do so for a good long while, as we used to say OverHome. The food is wonderful. Simple and skillfully prepared. I had a cheeseburger with French fries and coleslaw. All delicious. Stop by. Overlook the external appearance, and enjoy a wonderful lunch. At very reasonable prices.

The drive from the Pumpkintown downtown metropolitan area back to Table Rock State Park is a delight in itself. If you have a GPS, try a different route back, going a bit out of your way, along the various secondary roads that wind through the hills and valleys. They’re all paved and well maintained. The scenery is spectacular. Both natural and social.

scott recycle Next stop back at the Park is Park Interpreter Scott Stegenga’s domain: the Nature Center. Here’s the boss himself tidying an overflowing recycle bin out front. Note that the Nature Center building has an open walkway that leads out to the trails.

Here’s a brief video peek at the inside of this interesting facility:

trail We’re simply out of time. Photos of the trail, stream, and waterfall will have to wait for the next visit. I’ll surely be back. And I hope all of you get to visit in the near future. Table Rock State Park is a real treasure.

Next on the schedule is Oconee State Park. Another beautiful CCC-built park. So stay tuned.

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