Monday, September 26, 2011

Visit to Table Rock State Park, Pickens, South Carolina

table rock and stool pano

We’ve been here before. Last year, in fact, in early August. Click here for the six posts made during that visit, including an interview with Park Manager, Poll Knowland, and Park Interpreter, Scott Stegenga. Well, Table Rock is just as beautiful now as it was then.

2011-09-25 Pano of Table Rock and Lake SmallerThe photo you see above is much of what draws visitors to Table Rock State Park. And visitors are drawn! Last weekend well over 3,000 folks visited the Park. Well, in addition to the views you see above, there was also a well-known folk arts festival. But that’s still a lot of visitors! Be sure to click on that photo to see the lake. More on that in a moment.

First, have a look at this! The grounds of the Visitors Center and Park Office where the Festival was held. I took the photo yesterday, Sunday, the day after the Festival. Not a scrap of paper or trash in the whole area. I looked! And that’s Table Rock again that you see in the distance. It’s hard not to keep taking pictures of that incredible sight.

Be sure to stop at the Office, by the way, to check in. The folks at the West gate don’t have the check-in materials, and you’ll just have to turn around.

hdr of table rock from lakeThis trip – first time in a while – I brought the Advanced Elements kayak along. Hoping to dip a paddle once or twice while here. The weather forecast isn’t promising for this afternoon. So I went over to have a look at the Park’s boat access in preparation. As you can see above, it was just impossible not to take another shot of those mountains!

dockBut you also can see the fishing dock near the boat ramp. Here’s a better view of the dock from halfway up the stairs.

restrooms and parkingThere’s plenty of parking at the top of the boat ramp site, and even clean restrooms! Don’t forget to tip the Iron Ranger if you’re not checked into the Park, of course.

rampAnd here’s the boat ramp. Now, you should notice a couple of things about this boat ramp. First, it’s quite long and steep. Don’t plan on trotting up and down very often from the water to your vehicle parked in the lot. Especially if you have something heavy, like an inflatable kayak, to carry. The second thing to notice is the surface of the ramp. You’ll have to click on the photo to see it clearly. It is roughened to make it an ideal surface for traction up and down. So, there are trade-offs!

Now, this lake is larger than it first looks when viewed from the porch of the Visitors Center. In fact, it’s 67 acres, if memory serves. So, it’s well worth the effort to bring along a boat for a paddle. Hopefully tomorrow. Table Rock has an upper lake too, Pinnacle Lake, accessed from its swimming and boating center just across the road from the Nature Center. No private boats are allowed in Pinnacle Lake. You must rent the Park’s boats, when they’re available. This is the lower lake, Oolenoy, near the Visitors Center. Which looks to me the more attractive. If only because it is larger.

So, stay tuned for a report on kayaking in Lake Oolenoy. Maybe tomorrow. Depends on the weather.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Visit to the Upcountry History Museum, Greenville, SC

On Wednesday while at Paris Mountain State Park, I drove over to Greenville’s Upcountry History Museum. It was a trip well worth taking. Well, not much of a trip, really, since the Museum’s right in downtown Greenville, on Buncombe Street, less than six miles from my Paris Mountain State Park campsite.

Click on that view of the main hall above to get a preliminary idea of the Museum’s themes, and how skillfully they’ve been presented here.

I was attracted to this museum initially by its focus on South Carolina’s Upcountry region. Since beginning to study South Carolina’s history, I’ve found considerably less information about this important region than about the Lowcountry. I wasn’t disappointed.

This is quite a small museum. But I hope the photos on this page, and the short videos below, demonstrate that the curators have made excellent use of their limited space and resources. 

This doesn’t just happen! It’s hard to pack this much information into a small exhibit space without having it appear cluttered or over-loaded. These folks somehow have managed to avoid that.

In my experience, many, if not most, museums can be classified either as entertainment facilities or as educational institutions. The former are more showy; more dramatic, and require only an hour or two to cover. Think of the ubiquitous Ripley's Believe it or Not type museums. Educational museums, on the other hand, tend to be less generally appealing, but offer visitors so much information they require repeated visits and full attention to exhaust them. If then! Yes, yes. A gross generalization …. But one that seems to hold water!

Somehow, this Upcountry History Museum manages to combine the advantages of an entertainment facility and an educational institution. That is, the Museum can be visited for only an hour or two, even with short-attention-span children, and everyone will leave content. Lots of “neat stuff” to see. On the other hand, the museum has plenty of material to occupy the time and attention of more studious visitors. And for several days. I’m certainly planning to return for at least two days! 

Here’s a short video that should give you an idea of what to expect when you visit the Museum.

And another that looks at some of the themes and exhibits of this remarkable institution.

Well worth a visit while you’re in the Upcountry. Or, even a special trip to the Upcountry. South Carolina’s not all Charleston and Myrtle Beach!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Visit to the Greenville, SC, Zoo

IMG_0180_1024x768For some reason, South Carolina’s larger cities seem to take displays of wildlife quite seriously. Columbia has, for example, the celebrated Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, Charleston has the South Carolina Aquarium, another elaborate wildlife exhibition. And Greenville has the Greenville Zoo.

IMG_0260_1024x768Since Greenville’s zoo is just a few miles away from this week’s campsite at Paris Mountain State Park, I decided to go over for a look. This zoo turned out to be a considerably smaller operation than Columbia’s Riverbanks or Charleston’s Aquarium.

But it is well staffed, beautifully maintained, and they’ve obviously made the most of the resources they have available. I enjoyed the visit.

IMG_0178_1024x768Emphasis here seems to be on children. In addition to play areas within the zoo grounds, the playground and picnic area pictured above is maintained as part of Cleveland Park by the City of Columbia. It is enormous! With all sorts of sophisticated play equipment. I’m no expert in this area, but the equipment appears to be designed for even very small children. All sorts of reassuring safety features. While at the Zoo I saw several families leave the zoo area and go straight to the Park’s playground equipment. As if they’d done this before.

Here’s a short video of material gathered during the trip.

Stay tuned for a visit next day to Greenville’s interesting Upcountry Museum. Another interesting facility in downtown Greenville easily accessed by visitors to Paris Mountain State Park.

Click here to visit the Upcountry History Museum

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Visit to Paris Mountain State Park, Greenville, SC

Table of Contents for Programs This Trip

When you hear about South Carolina’s Paris Mountain State Park, one of the first things usually mentioned is its location, just under six miles from the center of downtown Greenville. And that’s true. Generations of Greenville folks, young and old, have enjoyed this Park’s facilities with only a short drive. Or even walk!

But don’t expect to find a typical urban Park when you visit Paris Mountain. Yes, its proximity to a large urban area attracts lots and lots of day visitors. Visitors who aren’t necessarily used to pristine natural environments, and who don’t yet know what’s expected of visitors to such areas. In terms of trash removal and respect for the natural environment.

But the management at Paris Mountain maintains a trash-free, peaceful, and beautiful natural environment here that is a marvel. And they manage to do so with a minimum of fuss.

I visited Paris Mountain for the first time last year, back in July. Click here to access the eight articles from that trip, including interviews with Park Manager Jason Hege, Interpretive Ranger Cathy Taylor, and Jason Daly, president of the Park’s Friends Group. Given the Park’s location I was surprised to find it so clean and well maintained.

In fact, it became something of a challenge to find a piece of trash in the public areas or along one of the several hiking trails. I didn’t find a single piece, if memory serves!

This trip, I found the Park as nice as it was last year, with even a few improvements. Most significant for those of us who require near-constant access to the internet, Paris Mountain now has WiFi! You’ll find the access code posted on the front door.

The campground bath houses have been renovated inside. At least the one near site # 19 that you see in the photo above. showerA contractor was just completing work on the women’s side when I arrived on Sunday afternoon.

The results are excellent. New shower fixtures; new paneling in the shower area; and new paint and trim all around. Bath house facilities is one of the first things that readers ask about. So I pay special attention.

In earlier years, swimming was one of the most popular activities at South Carolina’s State Parks. And many, if not most, Parks maintained swimming facilities.

Now, only a few of the Parks continue this tradition. Paris Mountain is one where visitors can still swim in a natural environment.

At least during the summer season. It recently closed until next season, but you still can rent a canoe, kayak, or paddle boat on the weekends to enjoy the small lake in front of the office building.

campsite 19Well, time to get over to campsite # 19 and set up. As you can see in the photo above if you click for a larger image, this site, like all of the others, is paved.

BAL LevelerBut like many of the campsites in this campground it requires some adjustment to get your travel trailer as level as it needs to be for more than a single night of camping. I was glad to have the BAL Leveler along to square things up. This is a minor price to pay for the opportunity to enjoy this Park and its environs.

This visit I’ll try to get out to see a few of the many attractions in the Greenville area. Such as the Greenville Zoo and a couple of the museums. So stay tuned!

Click here for the Greenville Zoo visit.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Across the Road for a Walk at Sesquicentennial State Park

2011-09-07 12.06.58_982x750

One of the great things about living in Northeast Columbia is the opportunity to visit Sesquicentennial State Park without a long drive. Indeed, the Sesqui main gate is right across the road from us!

IMG_0070_1000x750The Midlands’ hot weather has broken at last. So, with morning temperatures ranging from the upper 60s to the mid-70s, conditions were ideal for a quick visit. Anyway, I needed to renew my annual State Park pass.

IMG_0073_1000x750Since the Office didn’t open until 11:00 a.m. I couldn’t resist a hike around the two-mile lake trail. Well, “hike” really is an exaggeration. As you can see in these photos, the trail is so wide and smooth, “walk,” or even “meander” would be more appropriate.

IMG_0102_1000x750The lake trail crosses at least two inlets that feed the lake. Here’s a short video that describes them.

And here’s another video with scenes from the trail. It hardly does justice to the scenery along way.

Another great visit to Sesquicentennial State Park in Columbia, South Carolina. Thanks again to Park Manager Daniel Gambrell and his crew for maintaining this beautiful facility.

Stay tuned for a trip next week to Paris Mountain State Park in Greenville, South Carolina!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Visit to the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia with Janie

janie museum front

Back in May, not long after school let out for the summer, I had an opportunity to visit South Carolina’s State Museum in Columbia with granddaughter, Janie.

This actually was our second adventure at the State Museum. But we didn’t bring recording equipment along during the previous visit. This time we were prepared!

schoolhouse frontThe exhibits and programs at this museum are remarkable. I don’t know how they manage to do it, given their limited staffing and budget. But somehow they manage.

Since we couldn’t possibly cover every display and exhibit, we focused three that Janie found especially interesting. The first was the one-room schoolhouse you see in the photo above. This is the real thing. Disassembled, restored, and moved here from Spartanburg County in the northwest part of the State.

I was surprised by Janie’s second choice of exhibit: the H. L. Hunley. An experimental Civil War vessel, said to be the world’s first submarine to sink an enemy ship.

janie pottery 2Janie selected the Museum’s extensive pottery exhibit for the final segment of our video tour. This exhibit includes, among others, pieces from the old Edgefield district and the work of celebrated slave potter, Dave.

Click below to view a short video of the visit:

Monday, September 5, 2011

Visit to the “World of Energy” at the Oconee Nuclear Station in Seneca, SC

Click here to return to the Keowee-Toxaway State Natural Area Post.

02 Entrance long

For years I’ve heard about Duke Power Company’s “World of Energy” museum. It’s nearby, in Seneca, South Carolina, only fifteen miles or so from Keowee-Toxaway State Park.

Part of the attraction of this visit was the opportunity to drive two more of the picturesque roads found in this area. First, Route 133, or Crowe Creek Road. And then Route 183, the Walhalla Highway. Talk about natural and social scenery! I should have taken a few photos along the way. But really, these narrow roads weren’t made for cars to stop while their drivers wander around taking photos! Just not enough room.

map to woeI had no difficulty finding the place. Though the Google GPS system lady did tell me to turn right into the Complex, rather than left. A minor inconvenience.

03 LobbyThis is an impressive museum. With, judging from the facilities and intensive maintenance operations, an ample budget.

It’s maintained, of course, by Duke Power to provide visitors with information about nuclear power generation. And, as you should assume, with an emphasis on safety and efficiency. But I found the information provided useful and interesting. Indeed, it helped to balance the negative information pouring from Japan these days from their current political battle over nuclear power generation.

01 EntranceThe Museum’s program began in 1969. Right while the nearby Oconee Nuclear Power Plant was under construction. Visitors were able to look out the windows and watch the plant being built, according to material provided by the Museum.

05 kids roomIt’s been expanded considerably since 1969, with what appears to be emphasis on the younger visitor. Above you see a multimedia room dedicated to the little ones, complete with a miniature conference table. It’s just off the main lobby.

03 LobbySpeaking of the main lobby, it featured an Oconee Nuclear employee art exhibit when I went through. Scheduled to run until September 5th. Here’s a sample of the work on display.

07 butterfly gardenThe museum also maintains a short hiking trail, and even a butterfly garden. These features take advantage of the beautiful natural environment of this site, and support the Museum’s over-arching message of safety and environmental consciousness.

04 topo mapKids of all ages should have a great time here. But adults too will find displays of interest. At least I did. 11 reactor modelThis topographical map is a good example. Yes, children are encouraged to push buttons that illuminate bulbs at various positions on the map. But the display also gives the adult observer an excellent notion of the lake and its surrounding region. I’ve never done museum work, but I can imagine that appealing to both children and adults is a challenge.

09 reactorBe sure to take time to watch the videos offered, and to watch the displays. Interesting stuff. Unless you’re a working nuclear engineer you’re bound to learn something!

Here’s a short video of clips taken during the visit.

So there you have it. A half-day visit to Duke Energy’s World of Energy Museum. I learned a lot about nuclear power generation during my visit, and hope you do as well. Now, back to beautiful Keowee-Toxaway to watch the color of the trees change as the sun sets.