Over the last few weeks we have taken a couple days trips to counties that are not too far from Beaufort. We have traveled through these counties on a number of occasions already, especially Charleston so we looked for some different points of interest that we had not yet experienced.
Point of Interest: Caw Caw Interpretive Center
As many people know, Charleston has LOTS to offer a visitor…horse drawn carriage rides through historic downtown, boat rides to Fort Sumter National Monument, tours of Patriots Point or the South Carolina Aquarium. Not to mention the many festivals throughout the year, and of course the beaches. We wanted to stick with our theme of low cost and “off the beaten path” for our county visit, so we decided to visit Caw Caw Interpretive Center. This park is located off of Hwy 17 on the the south side of the Charleston County making it convenient to Beaufort. I have passed the entrance to the park so many times on my way to and from Charleston so I am glad we finally drove back in and checked it out.
There is an exhibit center where you can learn about the history of the park and see exhibits about the animals that live within the park including alligators, birds, and turtles. The land was once used as rice fields, but now offers many trails to walk and enjoy nature. The camp ranger offered the girls a scavenger hunt which kept them entertained on our 2 mile walk and they received a stamp when they completed the hunt. We enjoyed a nice picnic lunch when we arrived and then set off on the board walk and through the salt marshes. While we did not see an alligator on our walk, we did see a bunny which was a highlight for the girls.
Point of Interest: Summerville Sweet Tea Festival
Next stop after Charleston, was a quick ride up the road into Dorchester County. We headed to the town of Summerville which claims to be the birthplace of Sweet Tea and home of the largest Sweet Tea at 2,524 gallons. We were lucky and actually were able to attend the annual Sweet Tea Festival that was taking place within the town square. We were also extra fortunate to be able to have a quick visit with family, Uncle Chris and Aunt Rachel!! We enjoyed the live music and beverages in the town square while the girls enjoyed a watermelon Italian Ice.
I read about the Pickle Festival on the Colleton County website and thought this could be a fun stop for this particular County. Avery really enjoys pickles, so we started to get excited about all the different pickled food to try at the “Pickle Festival”. It actually turned out to be a bit of a hoax since there was no festival going on, but simply the Walterboro Saturday Farmers Market with one guy handing out a pickle to sample. Apparently they try to have “themed” market days to drum up business. Despite being a little let down, we enjoyed this quaint farmers market and our taste of a pickle. We were also able to pick up some interesting pumpkins to start decorating for fall. And course, we loved having Papa with us on this stop!
The Tuskegee Air Monument is also in Colleton County, so we headed to the airport to take a look at this memorial that honors the first black military airmen who spent their final months of combat training at Walterboro Army Airfield. Interestingly, this is also the site of a POW camp during WWII where 250 Germans were brought to work in a lumber mill.
We enjoyed our visits close to home, especially because we had family with us on some of the county stops! We have now officially crossed a milestone with half of the counties marked of the list, only 23 more to complete the state of South Carolina.
Point of Interest: Heritage Gold Mine Park
From Abbeville we drove back down south to McCormick County and stopped at Heritage Gold Mine Park. Our original intention was to let the girls pan for gems, but we were talked into a mine tour. The big girls found some interesting gems to add to their rock collection and then we set out on the tour. After walking up a hill and getting a history lesson on the background of the mine, we walk past where the ground had caved in on the mine at some point. We were then lead down some stairs to the base of a hill with a hole in the side with an iron gate covering the entrance. As we continued to get a gold mining history lesson, Leslie turned to me and asked, “are we going in there?” pointing to the hole in the side of the rock. I told her of course not, but to my surprise that was the entrance to the underground old mine. Bryan had to bend down to get into the “mine” and he could not stand straight up. Despite the little flashlights we had been given to use, it was dark and we kept walking deeper into the mine. This gave me serious anxiety, but the girls seemed to be enjoying the adventure and the crickets that were along the edges. We finally made it to the end, snapped a quick picture and then quickly hurried out to the the light at the end of the tunnel. All I could think about is the tunnel caving in, as it had in the places we were just walking above ground.
Point of Interest: Hitchcock Woods
We stayed overnight in Aiken on Friday and Saturday night, we were able to drive around the town throughout our weekend, but our official stop in this county was Hitchcock Woods. These woods are the largest privately own urban forest in the country. There are 2100 acres of land and close to 70 miles of trails for people and horses to use. On our morning walk came across a couple people riding horses and they allowed Avery and Leslie to pet the horse. It was interesting to see such vast woods in the center of a city.
Point of Interest: Ten Governor’s Rail Trail
Our final destination on our weekend trip, was Edgefield County. We picked up subs and headed to the Ten Governors Rail Trail for a picnic and walk. The county created a trail highlighting the 10 South Carolina Governors who were from Edgefield. There is a different governor featured every .1 miles on the 1 mile path. The path leads you around a lake and over a bridge and then onto the old railroad tracks that have now been turned into the trail. We had a nice picnic surrounded by ducks and then walked the trail. Some of the famous governors we saw were Storm Thurmond who started the trail and “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman.
So, that completed our weekend tour. We have now completed 20 counties and have 26 counties to go!!
It has been awhile since we last intentionally visited any counties on our family county tour, so we planned a weekend to visit some of the counties located in the western side of South Carolina a couple weeks ago. It was a busy and interesting weekend with learning new information, lots of driving, and having car issues resulting in getting new brake pads.
Point of Interest: God’s Acre Springs
We headed up to Aiken to stay the night and stopped in Barnwell County on our way. We visited God’s Acre Healing Springs in the town of Blackville. As the legend goes, during the revolutionary war, soldiers were taken to the spring and healed by bathing or drinking the spring water. Today, pipes of water run freely and people come and fill up gallons and cars loads full of the water. While we were there, a couple was packing their trunk with container after container of water. We let the girls play a bit in the water and filled up a water bottle of the water for later when needed for healing!
Point of Interest: Ridge Spring farmers marker
I had some difficulty finding an “attraction” in Saluda. We originally planned to visit Bryan’s Cafe but when we arrived in town, we found the cafe had been closed and photography business was in it’s place. Luckily, we had already made an impromptu stop in Ridge Spring (population 823) at a farmers marker along the road. Ridge Spring is known for its peach, cattle, asparagus, and pecan farms. This small town had small farmers market with people selling various goods on the roadside. We picked up a couple of gourds that the girls plan on painting for birdhouses. We also purchased some local honey. We visited the town square which had an old painted piano in the gazebo and a train car, that the girls could climb up. One thing we have learned thus far with our county tour is South Carolina has many, many small rural towns and Ridge Spring is definitely one of them!
Point of Interest: Emerald Farm
Next stop was Emerald Farm in Greenwood County. This beautiful 75 acre farm featured so much more than your typical farm experience. They had goats, peacocks and fish that you could feed and walk alongside, but what was truly unique was the train fascination/hobby that these owners showed off. We were taken above the farm store by the owner to see the train exhibit. This room was full of a running trains through expertly designed towns. They host a model railroad group and they work on creating new features to the train exhibit. It was interesting to see this hobby in action. All the little details were rather impressive! Next, we road a little passenger train around the farm. This eight seater train took us through a “village” created by the owners with a town store, saloon, school, and other interesting attractions along the way. We finished up our visit walking alongside the peacocks and feeding the many goats. They also have a small store that sells homemade soap. This stop was one of the girls favorites.
Point of Interest: Erskine College
After having lunch, we headed further north to Abbeville. This is another county I had a little difficulty finding an attraction. Among the farmland and little rural villages, sits Erskine College, located in Due West. Erskine College is a private liberal arts school with a student population of 600. What makes Erskine College even more unique is that it is the first higher education organization in South Carolina to create a statewide charter school authorizer, The Charter Institute at Erskine, which sponsors 17 charter schools across the state. It was rather quiet on campus and we walked around the green space, while Hunter napped in her stroller. We then headed to get some ice cream to energize ourselves for our next county stop!
Point of Interest: Swan Lake Iris Gardens
Our next county stop was Sumter. Bryan grew up in Sumter and his parents still live there so we have actually visited Sumter a number of times. We had lots of fun visiting with grandparents and Swan Lake. It is the only public lake in the United States to feature all eight swan species. They also host a number of festivals throughout the year, including the Iris Festival which is over Memorial Day weekend when the Iris are in full bloom. We saw a number of beautiful, but stinky swans on the lake side of the garden. We then crossed the bridge to the other side of the road and walked along the boardwalk through the cypress swamp. We finished up our visit at the Recovery Wing, a 18 foot stainless steel statue by Grainger McCoy. While the visit to Swan Lake was enjoyable, I believe the favorite part of this county visit was grandparents!!
In Lee County we had two stops. Our original plan was to head to the SC Cotton Museum, but we also passed an interesting attraction that caught our attention. The Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden is located on a small residential road in Bishopville. All of the plants have been sculpted and there is”junk art” sculptures scattered throughout. Pearl Fryar, a local resident, built the gardens that has been internally recognized.
Next was on to the Cotton Museum. As odd as it sounds, one of the main reasons for visiting the Cotton Museum was to see the statue of the bullwievel. We recently read in a book how the bullwievel destroyed the cotton crop across South Carolina. The girls were fascinated to see what one looked like. It actuality, the bullwievel is rather small, but the statue was able to show the details of this beetle. The museum featured the different steps in the production of fabric starting from growing the cotton. The girls were given a very brief background in cotton and able to feel the cotton seeds in the plant. We also learned that Lee County is home of Doc Blanchard, the only Heisman winner from South Carolina.
Point of Interest: Summerton Diner
As we turned back south to head home to Beaufort, we stopped in Clarendon County for lunch at the Summerton Diner. The diner is known for it’s southern cooking and meat and three options. We arrived around noon and the diner was packed but the service was still fast and very friendly. Leslie and Hunter (and me) filled up on the delicious corn bread muffins and biscuits. Avery especially loved this stop since the kids menu also featured a smaller size meat and three option and she devoured the pot roast! This is an easy stop off the highway and is far better than all the fast food restaurants you typically find.
Next stop is the Grand Strand!
We recently spent the July 4th holiday in the mountains of North Georgia and passed through about dozen South Carolina counties on our way. We only were able to make three quick county stops in the upstate. We were lucky to have our friends and travel buddies with us for these three stops!
Point of Interest: Gentry Farms
Our first stop was at Gentry Farms located not too far off I385 in Laurens County. This family owned farm offers u pick blueberries during June through August. They also grow pecans and scuppernongs during the other times of the year. We pulled up and all the kids picked up a gallon bucket and we headed out to pick blueberries. There were tons of blueberry bushes on the farm, all organic, only water used to grow them. It was rather hot, so we did not spend lots of time picking but filled up a quarter of a bucket which only cost $2. What a deal!!!
Next stop was Clemson University where Bryan and I met and graduated from college. Also home of the 2018 College Football National Champions! I always love going back to Clemson and it is especially fun now to share our love for our college with our girls. We drove by and showed the girls where we first met and off course checked out the football stadium. Looking forward to heading back up to Clemson in the fall for a game.
We also drove through the South Carolina Botanical Gardens that is located on campus. On our drive up, we worked on an activity packet about the SC Botanical Gardens that was created by a local girl scout. We learned fun facts, did word searches, and match birds nests to the correct bird. Once in the gardens we walked through the butterfly garden and visited a pond with many turtles and fish. As with our previous stop in Laurens, it was hot, so we did not do too much walking around.
Oconee County has quite a bit to offer in the way of trails and waterfalls. In fact there are around 80 trails on the SC trails website and over 150 different waterfalls. During our last year in college at Clemson, Bryan and I started to get into hiking and visited many of these waterfalls. The girls may be ready for some of the hiking, but Hunter is not quite there yet, so we visited a very easy to access waterfall, Issaqueena Falls. It is a 100 foot waterfall with a nice lookout area.
Located just up the mountain is Stumphouse Tunnel. This tunnel is an incomplete railroad that you can walk into. It was a little scary for the kids because it does get rather dark and very cool. It was used by Clemson University to grow blue cheese in the 1950’s and 60’s because of the perfect temperature for curing blue cheese.
Next stops will be back towards the Midlands!