Weekend Trip to Augusta, GA and Northwestern South Carolina | Part 1 | April 22 & 23, 2016
As I mentioned several times in my post about Magnolia Plantation and Curtis’ Birthday, we really wanted to get out and go for a road trip to celebrate, but it just didn’t work out that weekend. But 2 weeks later, we finally got our chance and we went for it! It had been 5 weeks since we had gotten out of Charleston alone together, and that was just for a day [River’s Bridge]…it had been 7 weeks since we had gotten away with an overnight trip [Crowder Mountain and King’s Mountain]. This sounds so silly to say, but we were going crazy with being stuck at home for so long!
Not wanting to miss church on Sunday morning, we decided to take off on Friday afternoon after Curtis got out of school, and return late Saturday night. We know there are great state parks and hiking possibilities the farther Northwest you go, but we really want to save those for when we have more time to enjoy them. For some reason, we were interested in going to Augusta, GA, and the West side of SC that’s near the Georgia border. We didn’t know what was out there – we had no bucket list items in that whole area – but that’s what made it so enticing. We didn’t know, so we just HAD to find out! We also had a big empty space on our county map with so many unvisited counties, and so many blank highway roads we had yet to drive! The obvious solution here is to go, because we would not feel satisfied until we had.
We made plans, hotel reservations in Augusta, and cookies for the trip, then took off on Friday afternoon. We used letterboxes as a primary trip planner, and planned our route and stops around them. On Friday, all we had to do was drive 3-ish hours to Augusta, then spend the remaining daylight hours touring the city. We began our trip heading West on 26 for a while before heading South to meet up with highway 78 in St. George, SC. There is a certain feeling of ease and enjoyment comes the moment we exit and interstate in favor of back highways. Sure, it may take longer and we have to drive slower, but we always feel so much better acquainted with the land once we’ve seen the parts that lie away from most traffic. We love driving down main street in these small towns way out there, and finding as many county courthouses as we can. (Out of the 14 counties we drove through, we hit 7 county seats and saw most of the courthouses in those!) Once we got out into Bamberg and Barnwell counties, the roads became hillier and the country roads started feeling a bit more familiar. It rained on us a bit as we drove, but not nearly as much as was forecasted. It was just the perfect day for an adventure.
Pictures from Augusta – left: historic church and graveyard; top center: Riverwalk beside the Savannah River; bottom center: reflections across the Savannah; right: Magnolia cemetery/May Park
We made it to Augusta around 6, after taking 78 to 781, then following 278 into the city. We parked downtown with no problem (and no parking fees!) and headed toward the Riverwalk. Even though it was the perfect night, the sidewalk along the river was nearly empty, and we loved our quiet walk here. The waters of the Savannah were so still, the houses across the river reflected perfectly. We talked about how fun it’d be to just take a boat from here to Savannah.
When we reached the end of the sidewalk, we made our way up to the downtown district to walk back to our car. There wasn’t a whole lot to see here, and we got the idea that downtown isn’t a booming place – at least not this Friday evening. Curtis looked through the list of letterboxes here and found there were some in a nearby cemetery – just like the Charleston cemetery in my last post, this was a large one with beautifully detailed headstones and memorials, so we decided to check it out. When we arrived, we realized that the gates would be shut in an hour, so we hurried to find the boxes. Unfortunately, the clues were harder to interpret and the last names we were looking for just took so long to find, so we gave up on our quest as to not be locked in here all night. Now past 8, it was getting dark, so we made our way to the hotel while watching a gorgeous sunset.
The next morning, we packed up and grabbed some breakfast from the hotel before setting out on a full day of exploring. We headed North to highway 28 where we reentered South Carolina and enjoyed more of the hilly country roads. Thankfully, Curtis is very efficient in planning, and noticed that if we were to just stay on this highway, we would actually miss out on a county that was right in the middle of ones we were planning to hit, so we made a quick diversion around Modoc so that we could enter Edgefield county. There was also a letterbox on a road that ran parallel to the highway, so we sought after that. It was hidden in Sumter National Forest near the Key Bridge, and this turned out to be one of our favorite boxes of the day…though to be honest, almost every box we found was great. Most of the locations were secluded and took us somewhere new and exciting, some took us to historical spots, and even those we didn’t find took us through an enjoyable walk in the woods. Anyway, back to the bridge: we took a short walk to find the Key Bridge which was built in the early 1900’s, and found in the Long Cane Ranger’s district of Sumter National Forest. It was so green and lush, with trees hanging over the bridge. Finding secret places with hidden beauty like this is what makes letterboxing fun to us.
top left: Historic Key Bridge; top center: fire tower on top of Parson’s Mountain; top right: the road to the campground/trail; center left: the campground lake; center right: the historic gold mines; bottom: Charlotte at the top of Parson’s Mountain.
Next, we made our way back to highway 28 and made our way to a trailhead for our hike today: Parson’s Mountain in Sumter National Forest. It’s just a few miles South of Abbeville, and we found this hike again thanks to letterboxing. We knew this wasn’t going to be anything like an actual mountain, the term is applied loosely here as the “peak” stands at 832 feet above sea level. Yep, that’s right, over 1000 feet under where the city of Tucson stands. But once we accepted that this isn’t going to be as cool as anything we’re used to, we were really able to enjoy it. Again, we were the only ones out here, besides some ATV-ers using a dirt road that ran perpendicular with the trail.
We actually weren’t able to make it to the trailhead – it started near a campground, and since it was still “off season” the whole road was blocked off. We considered our options, but decided that adding an extra mile each way wasn’t a big deal – it would only make a total of 6 miles, and it was a gorgeous day to be out. We parked next to the gate and began our walk. Since the road was blocked off and we were the only ones here, we let Charlotte run without us holding her leash. She was seriously the happiest pup in the world! She would sprint ahead, stop and smell something, run to catch up with us and walk beside us a bit before continuing the cycle. She found something smelly to roll in and we didn’t even stop her…it was way too cute. (She did pay for it later with a bath though!) Once we reached the trail, we did keep her with us though – we didn’t want her running off trail too much here. It was quite obvious that there was not a lot of traffic around here, as there were many trees down across the trail. Charlotte never ceased to amaze us – she would jump up and over every one, ones that were waist-high on me and took me a considerable amount of time to get over!
The trail itself was easy – as to be expected when you’re gaining hundreds and not thousands of feet of elevation – besides the obstacles in the way. It began by going around a lake and then into the woods. We attempted a box on the way up and were unable to find it, and had no luck on the way back either. I should say Curtis attempted it…I kept Charlotte out of the weeds (and I’m thankful I did, because Curtis spotted 2 snakes back there!). On the last steep leg of the trail, we came across historic gold mines. That’s right, there was a gold rush down here in the early 1800’s! All that stands now are some exploratory shafts that are fenced off, but it was still cool to find – always fun to remember our hiking in AZ and the mines we would find out there!
Parson’s Mountain ended with a little clearing in the woods with a tall fire tower that was fenced off. No good views from the ground level, but I’m sure the top of the tower would have a nice view over the seas of trees. 😉 We found the box at the top of the mountain and enjoyed cookies while stamping in. The weather was just perfect, and we were all alone here – these alone made for a perfect hike. We were just excited to be outside and be doing something active that we both enjoy. Charlotte was excited because peanut butter cookies. It was a great day. 🙂 We made our way back down, taking a different way back to grab another letterbox. At one point, we had to cross a creek, but we found that the bridge was out and had to walk – err, scoot – across a log. Charlotte proudly pranced across the log, back and forth, making sure her mother felt pathetic for not being able to follow her lead. Haha… Then on our way back along the road to the car, we found a dead butterfly and Charlotte did what she always does with dead things: roll in them. Such a special pup…
After that, we headed North to Abbeville…and that’s where the historic portion of our trip begins. Come back soon to read about the rest of our trip, the places we went, and what we learned!