Monday, August 26, 2013

Paris Mountain’s Charcoal Kiln, Cemetery, and Trails

Front Gate

Great trip to Paris Mountain State Park last week. Five days at one of the State Park System’s premier Parks.

Tent Pad

Did I mention that Paris Mountain is very tent-camper friendly? Many of the campsites include well maintained tent pads like the one you see in the photo above. In fact, this trip I saw more tent campers than RV campers. Unusual. Almost makes me wish I had my little dome-shaped Tetragon tent with me again. Almost, but not quite. The Aliner sure was a comfort when near-torrential rains fell this trip.

Kiln Sign

I’d hope to learn more about the charcoal kiln and cemetery site in the middle of the campground but didn’t get a chance. The excellent, but dated, article from USC’s Institute of Archaeology describing their 1970 dig, published in 1974, will have to do. Click here to access the full article. It’s not long and worth a read.

Kiln 2

Charcoal making was an important – essential! – activity in early America. Everything from gunpowder to iron production required charcoal. No wonder it became one of our earliest manufactures.  Click here for all you ever wanted to know about production of charcoal and how it’s changed over time. A long, but interesting piece from the U.S. Forest Service.

Kiln 1

It would be nice to have one of the Park’s information boards nearby, since the site itself doesn’t give much away. Just disturbed earth with a surrounding split rail fence.

Hiking Trails

Ask visitors to Paris Mountain what they like best about the Park and nine out of ten will say “the hiking trails.” This 1200-some acre Park maintains several. Click the photo of the map above to go to the site. I count nine altogether. Some comfortable, or easy, like the Turtle Trail I wrote about a few years ago. [Click here to see the photos, and a video]. Others are a real challenge. All are well maintained by Park staff and a host of volunteers. Impressive!

Bird House 2

Now, look at this. It’s a bird house! With a nest in back, by the way. Imagine how many hours went into creation of this delightful display. Just had to show you a photo.


Made in the image of the famous Paris Mountain State Park Office building. Which includes shower areas for swimmers, by the way. A great example of the CCC’s art.

CCC Exhibit

Speaking of which, be sure to go inside to see the CCC exhibit pictured above. Scads of information about this Depression-era undertaking. Make sure you watch the video.


Swimming seems to be making a comeback at some of the Parks I’ve visited recently. Here’s Paris Mountain’s swimming area. The Park also maintains a fleet of kayaks, canoes, and paddle boats for those who want to stay dry as they explore “Lake Placid.”

Well, lots more to describe. But we’re out of space here. Be sure to stop by, even if it’s only for a few hours. Plenty for the day visitor to do as well as the RV camper. Thanks again to Park Manager Jason and his staff for a delightful week.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Paris Mountain State Park


There’s the Aliner and its new tow vehicle. On campsite number 20 here at Paris Mountain State Park. This site has a moderate slope downhill. But in compensation, it’s a pull-through. And, like the rest of the sites at this campground, paved. We’ve had a lot of rain last night and this morning. Even the best dirt-gravel sites would have to be muddy by now. Not here, fortunately.


Here is a view of some more of these paved sites just up the road. According to the Camp Host, nearly all of them were occupied through Sunday. This is a popular Park. Both for camping and for day use.

I know; I know. Real campers don’t need paved sites. But it sure makes a difference when it’s raining so hard frogs seek shelter in the trees! Fortunately, yesterday the rain held off until I got set up outside.

20130819_120154I’ve done several articles on this Park, so no need for general description today. But here’s an interesting new feature. Technology facilitating enjoyment of nature. Snap a photo of any of these images and you have a guided tour of some aspect of the Park right on your smartphone. Haven’t tried it yet but hope to before leaving.


Here’s an example of older technology. An early charcoal kiln, right here in the campground. I hope to learn more about this feature, and about the small cemetery discovered nearby, before leaving. Stay tuned. I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Barnwell County Museum

01 MuseumFront

Next time you’re at Barnwell State Park be sure to save time to visit the City of Barnwell, and especially the Barnwell County Museum.

02 MuseumSign

You’ll have to plan your visit around the Museum’s hours, since it’s now open only 3:00 PM to 5:30 PM, Tuesday through Thursday, and on Sundays. Turn right at the Park entrance and drive south. It’s just under ten miles from the Park gate, if memory serves. Also be sure to enter the Hagood Avenue address in your GPS rather than “Barnwell County Museum” to avoid being directed to it’s previous location.

Speaking of driving, leave a little early and take time to look around Barnwell itself. Barnwell has been an important South Carolina town for centuries – millennia! -- and it shows. Lots to see and learn. More on that after my next visit. But make sure to end up in the Museum parking lot by 3 o’clock. You’ll have a lot to see, and only 2.5 hours to see it.

 03 FrontRoom

Just inside the front door is the reception room. Well, more than a reception room. As you see in the photo above, this room too is full of interesting exhibits. Oh, and take a look at the hardwood floor. Beautiful materials and workmanship. The Museum’s lucky to have this house for their collections.

To your left, near the spinning wheel, have a look at the contraception pictured above. What in the world? It’s a mechanical fly chaser. I’ve never seen one quite like it. Wind up its spring and the wands turn, frightening even persistent flies away from the dining table. Museum Manager Marie Peeples kindly demonstrated it for me. I should have taken video. Maybe this fly chaser is a Barnwell original!

05 Miniatures

As you might expect in a place like Barnwell County, this museum has a huge and diverse collection. What a challenge for the curators! Limited display space; lots and lots of interesting things donated or loaned to the museum over the years.


The collection’s primary theme is geographic. Barnwell County. But Barnwell County has a long and diverse history. From Archaic American Indian to today’s fast-food/ culture. Further, many Barnwell County residents have a keen knowledge and appreciation of that history. They probably expect more from their County Museum than do residents of less historically conscious counties. The Museum’s collection reflects all of this. What a challenge!

09 EarlyNativeAmericanVessels

Look at these, for example. Two incredible examples of both Archaic and Woodland Period American Indian vessels. They’re behind glass, of course, but the interested visitor can get as close as she or he wishes. A rare opportunity.

08 ArrowheadCollection

And look at this interesting collection of American Indian points. Click on the photo above to get a larger view. This isn’t a haphazard bunch of arrowheads spilled out on a felt-lined tray. Each one is unique, representing an important aspect of the topic. The enclosed key provides hints to their provenance.

07 LockKnifePlumb

There’s so much to see here. Items that will take your breath away. I can’t begin to do it justice in this post. You’ll just have to visit. Maybe visit two or three times. I certainly will.

When you visit, be sure to say hello to Museum Manager Marie Peeples. She was a wonderful guide when I visited week before last. Knowledgeable and patient, even after answering hundreds of questions from this curious old recovering academic.

What a great internship opportunity this Museum would be for undergraduates interested in South Carolina history. Plenty to do, and even more to learn. Both the Beaufort and the Salkehatchie campuses are near enough to take advantage of such a program.

Thanks again Ms. Peeples for an enjoyable and informative afternoon. I hope to return for a closer look at your remarkable collection.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

News From Barnwell State Park

Back home from Barnwell State Park. It’s always good to get back home from RV camping. But look at that inquisitive doe who visited my campsite on Monday or Tuesday morning. Then every morning thereafter. What a view out the Aliner’s side window!
A real inspiration as I worked away on the next novel in the Dr. Ray Raether South Carolina RV Travel Mystery series. That doe will somehow have to appear in the next book!
I was able to persuade Park Manager Eddie Richburg to join us again for an hour or so to describe events at the Park since our last visit about three years ago.
With limited staff, he was busy as the dickens. So I cornered him early. On Monday afternoon.
xSwimmingAreaBarnwell is one of South Carolina’s State Parks at which swimming has been reestablished. This photo of the swimming area doesn’t quite do it justice. Sand has been reclaimed from the lake to line the bottom of the roped-off area, and the shore has been cleaned of all debris. Fortunately the two changing areas on either side of the Park Office remain.
ClickToListenHear Mr. Richburg describe this development with a click on the button. Over the years I’ve heard dozens of Park visitors across the State lamenting the loss of their community swimming areas. Good to see it back.
xFishingGearWhile we’re on the subject of the lake, I asked Park Manager Richburg again about fishing at his Park. Some listeners have expressed polite skepticism about his description during the first interview. If anything, he was even more enthusiastic.
ClickToListenI haven’t included everything he said. But here’s a sample. Bass, Brim, Shellcracker, and Crappie. I don’t know what a Shellcracker is, but it wasn’t quite the time to ask. Bass, according to Eddie, get huge here. He’ll explain why if you click the “click-to-listen button.”
xRetailBarnwell, like every other Park in the State system, is under great pressure to generate revenue. That’s not easy! Well, not easy if the Park sticks to its primary public service mandate. One method used by Barnwell and other Parks is to expand sale of retail items such as hats, t-shirts, ice cream, and cold drinks.
ClickToListenTake a look at the photo of Barnwell’s retail sales area above. I mean! The Park Office was cramped as it was. But now, a desk and chair has been removed to make way for the shelves. Not even room to swing a cat, as we used to say OverHome.
xFire PitProfits from retail sales will never cover operating costs at a public facility like Barnwell State Park. So, like other Managers in the State System, Eddie Richburg has solicited contributions from wherever he can. Materials for the new fire rings, like the one you see in the photo above, were paid for by grateful Park visitors.
ClickToListenThen Eddie and Park personnel set them up. That’s one of the Park’s “rondette” cabins you see in the background. This isn’t all.
xPicnicTablesHave you heard about the Park System’s “600 in 60 Project”? I hadn’t. Seems Mr. Mikee Johnson of Cox Lumber Company offered the State Park System wood and materials for several hundred benches and picnic tables. Hardware and delivery included. IF, they agreed to have the tables set up and sited by Boy Scouts within 60 days of delivery.
ClickToListenNow, that’s synergy! Local young people responsible for projects all over the State. Projects that enhance the Parks.
Like Mr. Cox, Park Manager Richburg is a strong supporter of Scouting. He’s been using Eagle Scout Projects to compensate for the Park’s limited budget for years. While at the same time providing young folks in Barnwell County with valuable life experience.
ClickToListenSoon, Scouts will relocate a section of the Park’s nature trail. Relocating part of the boardwalk that raises hikers up out of a wet spot. Now, that’s an enormous job. But Eddie is confident they will meet the challenge.
xTrailMarkersIt doesn’t end there. Another Eagle Scout project has added attractive trail markers throughout the Park’s winding, sometimes confusing, nature trail. Now new hikers on the trail can’t miss turns with these attractive posts to guide them.
ClickToListenI’m not sure, but I think Mr. Johnson of Cox Lumber donated the raw materials for this project as well.
So there you have it. Thanks again to Park Manager Eddie Richburg for his second contribution to the CarolinaConsidered Project. Be sure to stop by the next time your travels take you anywhere near Barnwell or Blackville in Lower South Carolina. You won’t be disappointed.