Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cheraw State Park and Golf Course, South Carolina. Part III. Hiking the Turkey Oak Trail and a Quick Visit to the Town of Cheraw.

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trail 01Weather here has improved considerably. So off this morning to hike Cheraw State Park’s Turkey Oak Trail. Well … more of a walk than a hike, really …..

Turkey Oak Trail really is two trails. Intersecting loops, really. I only went a half-mile into one loop. But it was a great experience. Here’s some video of the hike – ‘er, walk:

By then it was time for lunch. Well past time for lunch, in fact. So off I drove to the nearby town of Cheraw to find a restaurant, and to look around.

dizzyCheraw is one of the most interesting towns in South Carolina. Have a look at their town website here. Lots to see and do. One of those places that has succeeded in making its history work for it today. Really a special place. I’ll certainly return to spend more time. Which will provide yet another excuse to camp at Cheraw State Park!

Here’s a short video of my visit to Cheraw:

That’s all for this visit. Next up is Lake Wateree State Park. Another gem in South Carolina’s state park system.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Cheraw State Park and Golf Course, South Carolina. Part II The Golf Course Club House and Park Office

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across lake to officeUp fairly late this morning. Some of the weekday RV campers have arrived. But the campground remains very quiet. Weekday campers are a quiet lot, for the most part. So, great sleeping conditions. Even with the windows all open!

Cheraw Hyduke Interview Photos 03The NOAA emergency weather radio this morning mentioned a strong possibility of windy, rainy conditions. So, before all that started, I drove over to the golf clubhouse to ask Manager Brick Hyduke if I might travel the course in a golf cart later this week to take photos and video. He agreed, and we decided on Thursday afternoon when the weather is supposed to improve.

While there, I just had to take some more video of this remarkable Clubhouse building:

Since it wasn’t raining yet, I hurried over to the Park Office to take some more photos of the surroundings and to walk the boardwalk trail from the opposite direction.

Weather conditions deteriorated more quickly than I expected. Before I could set foot on the boardwalk, strong wind and big drops of rain drove me back to the car. Here’s a brief look at that attempt. Soooo, back to the car and then to the Aliner to wait out the weather. It was quite a wait!

Stay tuned, though. More to come in this series. Next is a quick visit to Cheraw, one of the most interesting towns in South Carolina.

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Another Visit to Cheraw State Park, South Carolina. Part I. Arrival, Campground, and Boardwalk.

Table of Contents for This Series

Cheraw campsite 14Back again at Cheraw State Park and Golf Course. I was here just two weeks ago. It’s unusual to visit the same RV Park twice in such a short time. Since there’s so much more here to see I just had to return.

Well …. That, and really, this is a beautiful place to visit and camp. Even for those of us who don’t play golf! Juniper Lake is ideal for geezer kayaking. For any sort of kayaking, for that matter. And the well maintained walking/hiking trails are interesting and accessible. More on both the lake and the trails later on.

Today, I set up on site 14 again. This time backward, with the Aliner facing the lake. Then took a meandering walk around the campground. Conditions were ideal since the weekend crowd had cleared out, and weekday campers had yet to arrive. Most of the sites were empty, which is unusual here. Not a good idea to try photographing campsites while they’re occupied!

campsite 15Here’s site # 15, just across the road. It’s a back-in with something of a slope. But it’s right on the shore of the lake. Some video of this site in a moment.

sites 4 and 5 at cherawSites 4 and 5 you see above are close together. Also back-ins. Ideal for a camping party with two RVs. And right next door to the Camp Host’s RV. Be sure to meet him before you leave. There are only 17 campsites here. But they’re all as nice or nicer than those I’ve photographed here.

Here’s a video look at some of these sites:

Weather today was ideal for walking. So I wandered on down to have a look at the trail leading to the boardwalk we see on the other side of Lake Juniper.

The path in from the road is a pleasant walk, with interesting woods on one side and the lake on the other.

tree labelsSome of the trees along this trail are labeled. A nice touch. Easier than carrying a guide book around. And, you can be sure you’ve got the right tree! Jot down the names and later find more information on the Web, if you’re so inclined.

This trail is wide and smooth. Certainly not a paved sidewalk. But vehicles that have appropriate wheels for folks with limited mobility should be able to navigate most of it with little difficulty. Nice to know. There are a few bumps made by tree roots here and there. But all I saw were easy to avoid. Vehicles with small wheels, of course, would have difficulty.

bridge 01Before you know it, you’re at the iron bridge over Lake Juniper’s spillway. This is a very nice spot. The lake, the bridge itself, and a view of water crossing the spillway just below. Oh my. I’ve tried to take some video. But, my video still is very much a work in progress …. It doesn’t do justice to the scene.

boardwalk 01I don’t know how Park personnel manage to maintain these boardwalks. I’ve seen quite a few of them now, especially in the Pee Dee and Low Country. The boardwalk at Woods Bay comes immediately to mind.

That Woods Bay boardwalk must have been a challenge to lay out and build. Let alone to maintain once built! Be sure not to miss it when you visit Woods Bay. Or at any of the other Parks with boardwalks.

Here’s some video of that hike.

campground entryBack to the campground. Nearly time for dinner. And I certainly don’t want to miss the sunset across the lake from the campsite.

sunset 01It didn’t disappoint!

sunset 02

Stay tuned, now. Much more to see here at Cheraw State Park and Golf Course. I hope later in the week to take a tour of the golf course itself. We’ll see.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area, South Carolina. Part V. A Walk in the Park

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site 58 03Time today to meander around this beautiful Park. Sadlers Creek occupies what has to be some of South Carolina’s most desirable recreational real estate. Right on the shore of Lake Hartwell. Of course, officially it’s under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the State Park Service leases the land and facilities. But that’s not unusual, and hasn’t been a problem.

I’m certainly no park expert. Just an avid and frequent visitor of Parks around the State. But it certainly appears to this amateur eye that Sadlers Creek represents an opportunity for impressive returns from even modest additional investment.

It’s a delightful place to visit just as it is. But I’ll bet it could be even better with additional investment of funds for resource maintenance and enhancement. The Park already has an experienced, resourceful, and unusually dedicated Manager. One who’s demonstrated during his years at Sadlers Creek that he knows how to make every dollar received do the work of two dollars. All together, a great public investment opportunity once additional funds become available.

campground 2 roadHere’s the road leading out of Campground Number Two. We’ll pass the tent sites on the left and RV campsites with electricity and water on the right. Through a pretty wooded area. Until we reach the paved road.

Here’s a video look at some of the Park’s facilities in this area, including the recreation hall, another of those elaborate playground areas, a basketball court, and a baseball field that also serves at dusk as a cafeteria for the Park’s substantial herd of white-tailed deer.

The entrance to campground loop one is just down the road from here.

campground one entranceIt’s closed now for the winter. But will open again next season. There are a few choice lakeside sites in campground # 1 too. Reserve early! 

There you have it. I’m out of time. A few more of the many interesting things to see and experience here at Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area. Many thanks to Park Manager James Christie, Ranger Matthew, Miss Betty in maintenance, and Camp Host Mike, for a great visit. I hope to return in the near future.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area, Part IV. RV Campsite # 58 and Around the Park

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site 58 01

During my visit with Park Manager James Christie at the Park Office, I asked if I might cancel my reservation for site # 44 and move to site # 58. He checked the computer and concluded I could make the change if I were to leave on Friday morning. Done!

You can understand why when you take a look at the photo at the top of this post. Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area’s RV campsite # 58 in camping loop two has to be one of the best sites in the whole South Carolina Park System. If I ever make a list of favorite sites statewide, this one will be included!

site 58 02The surface isn’t paved. But the gravel surface is solid and level. And it’s wide enough to easily turn the Aliner around to face that beautiful view of the lake. Of course, like the rest of the Park, the site was spotless when I arrived.

site 58 03Now, look at that view! Especially impressive at sunset. But beautiful at any time. This is the view I had while working on the computer in the Mobile Studio parked on site # 58. I’ll certainly be back.

Remember, though, this loop of the Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area campground is closed during the winter months. According to to ReserveAmerica website, Loop 2 closes in November and opens again in mid-March. Best to check with the Park Office, though.

other campsites in loop 2And 58 isn’t the only beautiful site in this area. Any of the campsites on this peninsula, throughout the fifties and early 60s, would be ideal. The rest are back-in sites. But they’re all unusually wide. Even I could back into them. Which is saying something!

bath house 01The bath house nearest to site # 58 proved to be as clean as the one near site # 44, where I showered Monday morning. They must be washed and mopped at least twice daily. Maybe more.

bath house 02But not only clean, these facilities appear to have been upgraded wherever possible. In ways that didn’t cost a huge amount of money.

For example, take a look at the new water-saving toilet flush handle above. Installed on the original equipment. The same was true in the shower area. All of the hardware up to date, and tightly seated in the walls. And the walls themselves carefully tiled. Keep I mind that this in one of the older-model bath houses. It’s been here for a while.

To me, this suggests that the Park’s budget hasn’t allowed for construction of new bath houses. Or even for major renovations of the existing facilities. But that the limited funds available have been applied skillfully. Where they would have the greatest effect. That, and the constant attention of what must be one of the best maintenance crews in the Park System! It really does make a difference to RV campers who rely on these facilities.

Well, we’re out of time already. Stay tuned, though, for more from this remarkable Park.

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Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area, South Carolina. Part III. Kayaking on Lake Hartwell

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Lake Hartwell is a delight for those of us who prefer smooth water kayaking. And Anderson County’s Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area is an ideal launch site.

lake hartwell 01 The Park includes a wide, gradually sloping boat ramp, with plenty of surrounding parking.

boat ramp lawn I didn’t see any tables here. But the surrounding lawn would be a great place for a picnic.

heron-like stump Just beside the boat ramp I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a large great blue heron. Or thought I did, anyway. It was very close. I grabbed the still camera, quietly turned, and snapped a photo of this peculiarly shaped stump. I wonder how many early-morning fishermen have seen this and thought it to be a heron! Well …. the photo here doesn’t do it justice. You have to have been there, as they say.


shore at 58 However, today I didn’t need that concrete boat ramp. It’s possible to launch right from the shore at Campground Loop Two’s site number 58. The lake is down about five feet now, extending the shore out considerably, as you can see in the photo above. But the ground is solid enough for a convenient launch.

Here’s a short video taken at the outset of today’s paddle.

I’ve still got a lot to learn about shooting and processing video. It takes time! So many variables. Oh well, it’s fun to do. Of course, I can’t take the camcorder out in the kayak. It wouldn’t respond well to a dunking. So these videos are taken with a digital Canon pocket camera that fits into a small waterproof bag.

They’ll get better! Hopefully …..

shore from kayak Back in to dry off the kayak and enjoy other parts of this beautiful Park. So stay tuned for more material.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area, South Carolina. Part II. An Interview with Park Manager James Christie

james christie 01

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Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area runs with a minimum of staff. The Park Manager, Mr. James Christie, his assistant, Ranger Matthew, Miss Betty, who handles maintenance, and a camp host. That’s it! For the whole Park. With a few volunteers from time to time. So I feared Park Manager Christie might not have time for an interview this visit.

james christie 05 When I stopped by the office Monday morning, he was there, busily answering phones, talking with visitors, and even straightening up tables on the Pavilion porch. Still, he agreed to sit down for a while to record an interview.

james christie 04 As usual, we began with details of Mr. Christie’s early life. He was born and raised in the charming South Carolina town of Inman. “Peach Capital of the World,” Inman is In Spartanburg County. Now part of the Greenville-Spartanburg metropolitan area. As Mr. Christie explains, though, it was smaller when he was coming of age there.

ClickToListen Mr. Christie emphasizes the importance of his involvement in Scouting while growing up in Inman. Where he became an Eagle Scout. He’s not alone. Many Park Service personnel mention the importance of their Scouting experiences when asked to explain how they became interested in the out-of-doors.

ClickToListen How many of the Park Managers we’ve interviewed have graduated from Clemson? There’ve been a bunch! And Mr. Christie gets added to that List. Here’s a link to Clemson’s undergraduate program in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management. It describes the curriculum and the various minors. Looks like a good program.

ClickToListen Mr. Christie has been with the Park Service for nearly 28 years. That makes him one of the most senior Park Managers now serving. Here he describes his career to date. Including experience in parks large and small. james christie 02 Parks as large as Hunting Island, where he was assistant manager for six years, to Lake Warren State Park, a day-use facility. With Hickory Knob somewhere in between.

Mr. Christie was selected to open both Aiken State Park and Lake Warren State Park. A credit to his reputation in the Service. Listen as he describes arriving at Aiken State Park to a trailer with no water and electricity, the differences between Hickory Knob and Hunting Island, and preparing Lake Warren to meet visitors’ expectations. All interesting material.

ClickToListen While describing his career, and how each Park assignment was different, Mr. Christie made some interesting general comments on the challenges of park management. Specifically, the need to balance preservation of the State’s natural resources with public demands for access to those resources. He puts it well here. Have a listen.

james christie 03 We next turned attention to Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area itself and its visitors. Here Park Manager Christie describes the origins of this beautiful Park. It was built in the late 1960s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. And then leased to the State of South Carolina for management. An interesting arrangement. We’ve heard before about the relationship between state parks on the shores of Lake Hartwell, and other Corps of Engineers-managed lakes in the State.

ClickToListen The lake, of course, is the main feature of this 395 acre Park. I didn’t realize Lake Hartwell was so large. 56,000 acres, according to Mr. Christie. With over 920 miles of shoreline. Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area on its eastern shore includes some of the most beautiful miles of that shoreline. A kayak paddle along this shore is a near-mystical experience. More on that later.

lake hartwell 01 The opportunity to access Lake Hartwell conveniently isn’t the only reason folks visit Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area, however. Mr. Christie and I sat during our conversation on the porch of the Pavilion building that houses the Park Office. This porch, or meeting area, is special. About 1,200 square feet, it seats up to around 120 people comfortably at picnic tables. It’s popular for weddings, big family reunions, and corporate picnics. It commands a spectacular view of the Lake.

ClickToListen And, the pavilion is surrounded by playground equipment for folks of all ages.  Everything from those complex small child playgrounds to volleyball courts and, of course, horseshoe pitches.

playground 01

ClickToListen Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area maintains two hiking trails. Well, the longer trail, four miles or so, actually is multiple use. Both mountain biking and hiking. The shorter, three-tenths of a mile trail, is only for hiking. Mr. Christie describes both trails as quite accessible. Appropriate for geezer hikers, in other words. But still with enough diversity to be interesting. No hard-to-climb hills. Park staff and volunteers maintain these trails in top condition throughout the year.

lake hartwell 02 Our time was getting short by now. But I still had to ask him about RV camping opportunities and the Park’s wildlife. Sadlers Creek maintains nearly 60 RV campsites with water and electricity, and a number of rustic tent sites with only central water. More on the campsites later. One loop remains open year-round. Which means the bath house is heated! This looks to me like an ideal Park for winter RV camping.

ClickToListen As you might imagine, the Park is full of wildlife. Mr. Christie said there are more than 30 deer in the herd that roams the Park. I’ll try to get some photos and maybe video later on. Plus wild turkey, all sorts of birds, raccoons, and even fox squirrels. The deer often come to the edge of the large ball field near the campground to feed toward dusk. Folks line up in cars along the road to watch. I’ll give it a try later in the visit.

Thanks again, Park Manager Christie, for your information and most generous allocation of time. You and your colleagues maintain a wonderful facility. I look forward to spending more time here in the future.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area, South Carolina. Part I. Drive Over and First Impressions.

sadlers creek homepage Table of Contents for This Series

map to sadlers creek Up early this morning to a beautiful day for driving. Cool and sunny. Can’t ask for better. As you can see on the map above, Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area is a “fur piece,” as we’d say OverHome, from Northeast Columbia. About 135 miles. Both Google Maps and the GPS estimated a driving time of around three hours.

So, off earlier than usual. At around 9:20 a.m. The only heavily urbanized part of the route was through Columbia itself. There, fortunately, it was early enough to avoid all but the most spirited of the church crowds. There were fisherman on the road already, of course. Some towing boats. But not many. So I zipped through Columbia with no difficulty, and was soon on Route 378.

Highway 378 is another of those charming South Carolina roads. Every drive, I plan to learn more about its history, and the history of other interesting South Carolina secondary roads. Have to make time for that before long.

Highway 378 at Saluda takes you through one of South Carolina’s few traffic circles. A traffic pattern so rare here, in fact, that during World War Two it was once mistaken by an Army Air Force pilot for a bombing practice target. And bombed!

Alaman left on your corner, as square dance callers used to say – maybe still do! – then take the second turn here onto Highway 178. This is another of those great stretches of South Carolina road. Well worth driving slowly to enjoy the scenery. It too must have an interesting history.

Routes 29 and 187 After several more of these roads, you’ll find yourself at this four-way-stop corner. The intersection of Routes 187 and 29.

shiloh baptist church While here, take a moment to see Shiloh Baptist Church, with its impressive pillars. One of those well-established brick churches found throughout South Carolina.

silos Another sight, quite different, greets the traveler on the other side of the road. Impressive pillars in their own right. Pillars of successful agronomy! If you’re lucky, you may see a herd of sleek cattle grazing through the fields beside the road here. It’s a wonderful sight.

But a campsite awaits at Sadlers Creek. So I’d better get along. Continue north on Route 187, then turn left at the sign onto Sadlers Creek Road. It’s less than a mile, so keep a good lookout.

main park sign Here’s the Park sign. Look at that! Sadlers Creek isn’t a Park, it’s a State Recreation Area. Suggesting that Sadlers Creek may have a bit more to offer.

Back in April of this year, Lee State Natural Area Manager, Bryn Harmer, explained the difference between South Carolina’s parks and natural areas. Click here to hear her explanation again.

pavilion 01 Drive straight through the gate, not forgetting to tip the Iron Ranger, and turn left at the sign for the Park Office. Soon you’ll arrive at the Pavilion. The building you see above. More later on this interesting structure.

Check in with the folks in the Office, then drive back out to your RV campsite. Or tent site! Sadlers Creek maintains an abundance of both.

site 44 01 Here’s site # 44 in Campground Loop Two. The one I reserved some time back through the handy ReserveAmerica website. If you haven’t been using ReserveAmerica, give it a try. Convenient and reliable.

site 44 02 Site 44 is a pull-through, and a level one at that. Not a speck of trash. But the view down toward the water is less than inviting.

grill and table at 44 I set up, though, and went to check out the nearby bath house.

Digital image  That was a pleasant surprise. Even late Sunday afternoon, all areas were spotless. Here’s the shower. Very clean tile. Notice the new fixtures. Even a new-looking shower curtain. Somebody’s paying attention here.

Digital image  The rest of the bath house, at least on the men’s side, was equally well maintained.

Digital image  Fixtures new and polished. Everything ship-shape. I get more e-mail inquiries about the condition of campground bath houses than about anything else. It makes a big difference to many RV campers. Someone here at Sadlers Creek recognizes that and applies the attention and resources necessary to keep them looking spic ‘n span.

walk to peninsula tip Following the bath house visit I walked on down toward the end of the peninsula upon which Campground Loop Number Two is located. Well!

view of lake 01 As you can see in the photos above, there I found a number of beautiful campsites with great views of Lake Hartwell. Hmmm. All of them appear to be vacant now. Maybe I’ll ask at the office tomorrow if it’s possible to change sites.

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