Weekend in Columbia, Part 1 || Friday, June 17, 2016 || Hiking & Letterboxing in Lexington County
Last week was a challenging one for us. Curtis came down with a bad cold, the days of school seem long and never ending, and the heat and humidity are taking a toll on us. (I even turned on the AC twice. That’s how you know it’s bad.) I wasn’t sure if a weekend trip was the best thing with Curtis not feeling 100%, but we really needed a little time away just to clear our minds. This trip was kind of planned at the last minute; we were hoping to go North but I saw there was more rain forecasted there so we decided to put that one off for a bit. We didn’t really know how much we could do just going to Columbia, only 2 hours away, and if it even needed to be an overnight trip. This trip could have been a total bust and left us worse for the wear, but it turned out to be a good weekend for this and now we’re glad we went through with it.
Right before we left on Friday, I was scribbling down addresses for random places I thought would be fun to see, when I noticed that Google Maps was telling me that Columbia was currently under a severe thunderstorm warning. I checked the radar and saw it was heading right for Charleston later in the afternoon. I told Curtis to prepare for a potentially challenging drive, but he was all too excited about it because he just loves a good thunderstorm. (I do too…just from the comfort of my own home with my family at home, all warm and cozy, safe and sound!) And so off we went, heading West on I-26.
As we drove, I did notice ominous dark clouds looming around us…but only on either side of the interstate. We got about 4 drops of rain on the windshield. As we drove, we did see grass and leaves blowing through the air, but if it weren’t for that we would have had no idea that it was anything but pleasant outside. The temperature dropped from 96 in Summerville to 84 when we exited on highway 6 to Swansea, SC. Oh, and there was a weather interruption on the radio saying that there were tornado warnings in Georgetown and Williamsburg counties – ones we would have been driving through about that time if we had gone North. I’m not sure if anything happened with that but I’m thankful that we made the choices that we did!
We drove West on highway 6 through Swansea, and on to our first boxing/hiking spot: Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve. There were storm clouds in the distance, but there was no sign here of any rain fallen that day. We set off on our little hike through the woods, which we had all to ourselves. It felt SO good outside – not humid at all, and much cooler than it had been all week. Praise God.
This area is known for being the home of Peachtree Rock, a giant sandstone rock that was named this because it resembled a peach tree. It was basically a large boulder that stood balanced on a neck with a diameter only a fraction of its size. Sadly, the impressive structure toppled over in 2013, possibly an act of vandals who would continually hop the fence and carve into it. It is unknown whether it was directly knocked over by vandals or if this was caused due to all the carvings into it over the years. Today, the boulder remains exactly as it had fallen on its side, with the chain still blocking off the area. (Click here if you want to see pictures of what it once looked like) It’s pretty sad – that the one really cool rock formation around here had to be vandalized so much. You can see cool rocks all over the Southwest, but people had to go and ruin a rare formation that the South has to offer. (Insert rant about how much we miss the Southwest…I know, we’re all tired of hearing about how it’s so much better than the SE..haha.)
Just past the rock is a waterfall – small, but makes up a little for Peachtree Rock – and then if you continue a half mile down one of the trails, you can see Little Peachtree Rock, which they claim is like the first one. However, unlike the first one, there are no signs showing which way to go see it. There was a map at the beginning of the trail (a quarter mile back from Peachtree Rock) but we failed to take a picture of it, and so navigating the many trails proved to be more difficult than we anticipated. (That’s our advice if you’re wanting to do some hiking here: take a picture of the map on the sign!) There are many trails off in all directions, and the only signs on them say “Hiking Trail Only”. Maybe by not pointing you in the direction of where the smaller rock is, they’re keeping it more protected. We’ll never know what we’re missing though, because while many websites we looked at mentioned that there’s a smaller rock, none of them showed pictures of what it looked like.
All that aside, we still had a lovely, quiet walk in the woods as we wandered around looking for the right trail. We never found it, but there are still little sandstone outcroppings along parts of the trail. We also added 2 more letterbox attempts to our list – not that we expected anything different. We walked back to the car and called it good.
We then continued driving West on Highway 6, through Lexington, saw the county courthouse, and past the Saluda River dam and Lake Murray. The lake was so beautiful and the dam was awesome, but I have no pictures to show for it because there was no way to capture it all while driving. We then headed East towards the greater Columbia area on Bush River Road, and on our way we stopped at Saluda Shoals park to do a little more letterboxing. We paid the $5 entry fee for the park, then parked and set off on one of the paved trails. Curtis suspected that there was once a letterboxing event held at a pavilion here because many of the boxes used it as a reference point. Some of the boxes looked pretty promising, but guess what our success rate was here? If you guessed 0%, you’re correct!! Curtis put in a good honest attempt for at least 5 of the boxes, and then a half-hearted try for a few more before calling it. It was pretty disappointing, we had to wonder if the boxes were actually planted in a different park that had all the same landmarks and names for things and things just so happened to line up perfectly here. Or perhaps there was an event here and people planted event boxes, but listed them on the website as traditional active boxes and left the listings to trick innocent, unknowing boxers like us? Sorry to all those who read this blog and don’t know or care about letterboxing – you just have to understand that this was a big hobby of ours back in Arizona and when we traveled. It’s been super disappointing to live here and see that there are plenty of letterboxes planted in this state, yet we’ve had such bad luck with finding anything – much less finding any boxes that have a quality carve, clever clues, OR a unique or interesting location. For these reasons, I really don’t find the hobby enjoyable anymore, and I really hope that things are better wherever we live next.
ANYWAY, great job if you made it through that rant! We had a nice walk, but I think the $5 entry fee is a little steep if all you’re doing is just walking on the trail through the woods. The trail kind of followed a river, and there would be benches facing the river…but only once did a bench face an actual good view of the river. All the others were looking into trees and weeds. Oh well. There was also this random acorn structure that had us scratching our heads. Overall, it kind of reminded us of Sesquicentennial State Park on the opposite side of Columbia – paved (and some dirt) hiking trails with some water (a river here instead of a lake) and pavilions to rent out for events. I hate to continue to compare SC with other places we’ve lived because that’s not entirely fair, it’s special in its own way, BUT back in our home state, good ol’ Iowa, basically ALL state parks and other foresty hiking areas or lakes are FREE. So maybe that spoiled us for visiting anywhere else. (And before you say that’s because there’s nothing to see or do in Iowa, check out this post and this one, then let me give you a run down of other areas I haven’t written about which have better trails and were more scenic than many parks or outdoor areas we’ve visited here! Just saying.)
After this, we made our way to our cheap-o hotel for the night to rest up for what we had planned the next day…which, at this point, was not much. However, I think it could take me 2 more posts to get through it all, so I guess you could say we found plenty out there! Check back soon to read about the rest of the trip (and I promise I’ll stop ranting about missing the SW and letterboxing…maybe). 🙂
Today’s highlight: Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve. I’ve ranted far too much for one post, but we really did like walking around here and finding peace and quiet here. Walking in the woods can be so relaxing and grounding.