Sunday, July 31, 2011

Oconee County’s Issaqueena Falls, South Carolina

Click here for the first post in this series and index.

fallsTalk about unusual names. “Issaqueena” sparks all sorts of associations. And it only gets better once you learn a little about its origins.


Like “Stumphouse Mountain,” Issaquenna Falls, also spelled “Isaqueena,” has inspired more than one origin story. Dr. James Walter Daniels’ popular epic poem, “Cateechee of Keowee,” has offered one explanation since its publication in 1898. Daniels had considerable credibility, as a Methodist clergyman with scholarly inclinations who then lived in Abbeville, South Carolina.

You can read Daniels’ poem in its original form on the remarkable internet site. Click here for access. And pay special attention to Daniels’ introduction.

daniels bookAccording to that introduction, or inscription, Daniels based his Cateechee epic on careful historical research. He claims to present an accurate account of events. And therefore the correct explanation for the name of the Falls. 

Daniels writes that a young Choctaw woman, named Isaqueena in the Choctaw language, was taken captive by Cherokees headquartered in nearby Keowee. There she became a slave in the household of head Cherokee chief, Kuruga, and was called by the Cherokee name “Cateechee.”

While at Keowee this young Indian woman charmed an English trader, Allan Francis, who often visited Keowee on business from the post established some years before by his father at what now is called Ninety-Six, in Greenwood County, South Carolina.

the rideWhen Cateechee, or Isaqueena, heard Chief Kuruga and his lieutenants plotting a raid on the Ninety-Six trading post, she managed to escape and rode by horse to warn her English admirer, Allan Francis, obstructing Chief' Kuruga’s plans to destroy the trading post. The couple married, and eventually returned to live on what now is called Stumphouse Mountain.

There, the offended Cherokee Chief Kuruga managed to recapture both Isaqueena and her husband, Allan Francis. After being detained near Keowee for two years, the couple managed to escape the Cherokee. During this daring escape, Isaqueena leapt out over those very falls, landing safely out of sight of her pursuers on a hidden ledge near the top. The tracking Indians naturally assumed she died of injuries after her brave leap, and thereafter named the falls in her honor.

There’s much more to this interesting story. I urge you to dig into the sources readily available on the Web for additional details. The project is a good place to start. Click the link above to visit. It’s free!

bridge streamWell, back to the present. Here’s a view of the beginning of the trail down to a sturdy viewing platform that gives a fair view of the falls, even with leaves on the trees.

path to viewing platformThe path quickly becomes more rustic at it approaches the platform. But even I had no difficulty navigating it.

Have a look at the embedded YouTube video at the top of this page for a closer look at the viewing platform, and its surroundings. There must be a better view of the falls during the winter when most of these trees have lost their leaves.

covered bridgeIt was hot ask the dickens, and sunny, when I visited the Tunnel and Falls. So, with a promise to visit again in cooler weather, I was back up the trail in no time at all, to enjoy the car’s most welcome air conditioning.

trailheadLots more to see here, of course. I hope to return in the fall, or even winter. Here’s a promising hiking trail sign, just off the parking lot. Even more reason to return.

janie with goats 2Next, we’ll visit Split Creek Goat Dairy Farm in Anderson, South Carolina. So stay tuned.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Visit to Oconee’s Stumphouse Tunnel and Isaqueena Falls

Tunnel Sign 1

Click here for the first post in this series and table of contents

Who could pass a roadway sign pointing the way to “Stumphouse Tunnel” without stopping to check it out? What a name! Even those who know nothing about South Carolina history would find it interesting. The name alone is enough! What in the world is a “Stumphouse”? Let alone, a “Stumphouse Tunnel”!

Historic Marker

Well, when your travels take you up – or down – Route 28 in South Carolina’s Oconee County, just submit to temptation. Make the turn; enjoy driving down the sharply curving switch-backs, glad you’re not pulling a trailer, then park near the entrance of Stumphouse Tunnel.

large picnic shelterHere, you can enjoy Oconee County’s beautiful mountain scenery while experiencing an important part of South Carolina’s history. Here’s a pretty good summary of the tunnel project’s significance, from Wikipedia.

Picnic TableThe current curators of the Stumphouse Tunnel Complex maintain picnic tables, large and small, throughout the site. Ideal for a pleasant lunch. What a nice place for a large family picnic!

gazeboIf you click on the photo above you should be able to see the mountain pond beside this pretty little gazebo. A great place to sit quietly to watch for wildlife.

bear boxSpeaking of wildlife, look at these trash containers! When you see containers like those, be especially careful to pick up every scrap of food, paper, and plastic before leaving. They’re made to be bear-proof. They’re expensive, more difficult to service, and not here just for looks!

Stumphouse Tunnel, it turns out, was named for Stumphouse Mountain, the ruggedly beautiful section of Oconee County through which the railroad tunnel’s promoters hoped to burrow.

rootExplanations differ on the origin of the name. One group, we’ll call them the Modernists, claims the Mountain was named for an enormous hollow tree stump where mid-19th century bootleggers stored their elixir during inclement weather.

Another group, let’s call them Traditionalists, offers an earlier, even more colorful, explanation. They claim 18th Century Cherokee Indians living in the area named the mountain for a nearby large hollow stump that had been adapted for a residence by a local couple. Hence, the “Stumphouse.”

Both explanations make great stories. Both could be true! So, it doesn’t really matter. All we know for sure is that this beautiful section of South Carolina’s Oconee County has been called Stumphouse Mountain for a very long time. And the Mountain gave its name to the railroad tunnel project we’re about to enter.

Tunnel Sign CloseAn internet search for “Stumphouse Tunnel” will turn up dozens, if not hundreds, of references. This is an important historic site. Many of the web pages include beautiful photos and descriptive text. Some of them explain the significance of this historic South Carolina site. Here are two that seem to be especially reliable.

A short description with a photo from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.

And the 1970 U.S. National Park Service form nominating the Stumphouse Tunnel Complex for the National Registry of Historic Places. What this document lacks in color and pizzazz is more than compensated for by its reliable and detailed description of the site circa the 1970s.

Be sure to look through the many other sites for additional information and some stunning photos.

Tunnel Rock DrilledLet’s walk up now toward the mouth of the tunnel. Look at that rock! Preserving evidence of just how the 1,500 or so Irish immigrant workers had to blast and chisel granite out of the way to create this tunnel.

Wall Outside TunnelAccording to the trailside marker, they used “ … only sledge hammers, hand drills, and black powder” to accomplish their work. Here, just beside the tunnel entrance, you see the challenge they faced. That’s granite! No wonder the project ended in 1859 with only 1,600 feet of tunnel drilled.

flatbed carWell, that and flatbed railroad cars of the sort on display nearby. Still, there are easier ways of making a living. That’s for sure.

erosionThe path up to the mouth of the tunnel is nothing to brag about. Erosion, unfortunately, has taken its toll. But if you watch your step, it’s a fairly easy hike, even for ElderHikers.

Tunnel From Within 1Now, this is what you’ll see once inside. Well, it’s what you’ll see if you were sensible enough to bring along a bright flashlight of some kind. I’d left mine in the car, and had to make do with the beams of better equipped visitors, and the flash on my cameras.

It’s dark as the inside of a cow in this tunnel. One wonders why the site’s curators haven’t placed a few electric lights here and there. Even dim ones, if there’s some ecological concern. Since the tunnel walls are well worth seeing.

No sense hanging around in the dark. Time to move on to nearby Isaqueena Falls. So stay tuned.

Click here for the next post in this series.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Oconee State Park & Its Surrounds

2011-07-20 11.03.47

[Click on any photo for a larger image]

Back again at Oconee State Park. Up in the mountains. In the westernmost part of South Carolina. CarolinaConsidered was here just last year, in August. Click here to view those programs. Including a great interview with Park Manager Jo Anna White. So, there’s no excuse for such an early return.

Columbia Weather copyBut Columbia, like most of the United States, has been experiencing a real heat wave. Temperatures well above normal for this time of year. And humidity levels that makes it feel even warmer. Sooo, escaping to the Oconee County mountains seemed a reasonable thing to do. And where better to stay while up than at Oconee State Park!

Not to complain, but it’s been hot here too. Up into the 90s during the day. And humid. So, even here outside activities are pretty much limited to the early morning hours. Still, it seems to be around ten degrees cooler than Columbia.

Oconee State Park is known for a lot of things. Including what has to be the purest, best-tasting water I’ve come across in a long time. Right out of the tap. Forgotten your water filter? No problem here. I’ll be taking some home in jugs. Just like OverHome! All of South Carolina’s state parks have regularly tested, safe water. But some Park’s water tastes better than others. Oconee has to be near the top of that list.

Site # 107In addition to that remarkably clear water, Oconee has some of the nicest RV campsites around. Here you see site 107 in the paved section. Not all sites here are paved. But it doesn’t much matter. The camp hosts and maintenance folks make sure everything is spic and span. Including the surface of the non-paved campsites. No water erosion canyons to navigate here, or bumpy surfaces.

Sorry about tarting up the photo of the site above. I recently got a Droid X smartphone and have found the included camera very good. No zoom feature. But it takes remarkable photos. Add-on “apps” include those that make image editing a – well …… snap. More photos from this remarkable phone as we go along.

That’s all for now. Coming soon, though, is a visit to the nearby Stumphouse Tunnel and Isaqueena Falls. They’re just down the road.

Janie With GoatsAlso coming is a special program on the visit to the Split Creek Goat Dairy Farm I recently made with Granddaughter Janie. 

Click here for the next post in this series.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Morning Fishing With Kevin Skipper

kevin 03

[click any photo for a larger image]

A couple of weeks ago, an old friend, Kevin Skipper, invited me to join him for an early-morning paddle on one of the beautiful small lakes for which South Carolina is so justly famous.

Fishing With Kevin  (2)

Now, you probably know Kevin as a radio and television personality; a financial consultant with Discipline Financial Management. [click here for the website]. But when Kevin has down time – a rare thing for him – his passion is fishing. No other way to put it. He’s a fanatic!

kevin 01And who could blame him. Just look at that beautiful Saturday morning sunrise-painted lake! 

I said Kevin invited me for a paddle. And I fully intended to inflate my Advanced Elements Expedition kayak and get some badly needed upper-body exercise. Brought it with me in the back of the car!

kevin boat 2In the event, that didn’t happen. Kevin arrived at the meeting place with about the cutest little boat I’d ever seen. A “Pond Prowler,” it was called, with two comfortable seats, and even a battery-powered trolling motor. No paddling! How could anyone resist an invitation to try out a boat like that!

lake 01So, as dawn spilled across the lake, filtering through shoreline trees, Kevin outfitted his Pond Prowler and launched it into the water with a minimum of effort. He sat in front with about 50 fishing rods and reels. Well, maybe four or five, anyway.

Kevin 04And I sat in the back with a camera, enjoying the view. Even with those high seats you see in the photo above, the little boat was rock-steady. In fact, stand-up-and-move-around steady!

Which proved a blessing since, as you’ll see if you click the play button on the video above, things got exciting in the little Pond Prowler not ten minutes into our voyage.

Fishing With Kevin  (16)Kevin was more excited by the arrival of that fish than he would have been by a one-day 3,000-point rise in the Dow-Jones average. No comparison! Thank heaven some of the photos came out. I’m certain our Discipline Financial Management portfolio would have suffered grievous loss had the camera failed! 

Thanks again, Kevin, for a great Saturday morning, and for the opportunity to join you on the lake. What a treat!