The Midlands of South Carolina

The area between the mountains and the coast in the Carolinas has been named the Piedmont in NC and the Midlands in South Carolina. In mid June 2011 we set out for a week to explore this area. While sitting under our awning one evening we would come to a decision that would dramatically change our lives.  More about that later.

Our camera club, Carolina Nature Photographers Association, has a sub group for those who enjoy non-motorized boating and photography. It was an outing with this group that brought us to the area. We’d made reservations at Sesquicentennial State Park which is just off I77 at Two Notch Road in Columbia, SC. I’d been to Columbia several times for day trips as it’s just two hours from Charlotte, NC. I’d never been to Sesquicentennial State Park. What a gem right in the heart of the city. It’s a large, wooded park with a small lake for boating and fishing. There are two loops of campsites in the campground each with electric and water service. We knew we’d be using the air conditioning as the past few days had brought the first ‘Carolina summer’ days with temperatures in the mid to upper 90s and humidity to match.

Sesquicentennial SP  was built in 1946 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the city of Columbia. There’s an old home on the property and a dedication site explaning the history of the park. Locals just refer to it as “Sesqui”. Runners, bikers and dog walkers frequent this park.

After setting up we decided to hike one of the trails before dinner. Normally I’m coming along behind Steve but tonight I was in high gear and Steve lagging behind. I should have known something was up but chalked it off to a busy day of travel.

CNPA at Goodale SP June 2011

On Saturday we drove about 30 minutes south to Camden, SC and met the group at Goodale State Park. There is no camping facility here. It is a small park formed from an old Civil War era  mill and lake. The lake is the big draw here. If you don’t have your own kayak or canoe, you can rent one at the park office very inexpensively. I’ve lived in the Carolinas for 20 years and had never heard of this place. What a hidden gem! I’m sure it’s pretty all year long. As I write this I’m noting that the park is closed M-TH from Jan.1-March 14.

Floating Hearts

We hit it at the peak for waterlily and floating heart bloom. The lake offers a 3 mile canoe trail through cypress woods with the water plants dancing on the surface. It was a fairyland. There is also a 1.5 mile nature trail on the lakeshore known for it’s pitcher plants. We didn’t take the trail after lunch due to the high temperature. I’m told that the lake has it’s very own mascot alligator. We didn’t see any sign of him.

Spadderdock Reflection


Chari Enjoys Goodale Water Trail


Butterfly on floating Hearts

N R Goodale Canoe Trail
OK, so here we go again with a text size change! I’m obviously picking up the size from the pictures but I can’t figure out how to change it back. So we’ll live with it. ( I’ve just finished previewing the entry and find that the program seems to have fixed this problem in the final product.)
Sunday was another very hot day. By the time we met up with the group at 10AM at the Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter, SC. it was 95 degrees. We knew this would be a short visit.
Swan Lake Iris Gardens is a public park and the only one in the country to have all 8 species of swan. There are ducks too. It was originally property of a local businessman who was attempting to landscape his home with Japanese irises. They had been planted like the bearded iris and had failed to thrive. So he had his gardner throw the plants into the pond. The next spring they bloomed beautifully. One of the largest collections of iris in the country was created by accident. We missed peak bloom period which is in May to early June so the spectacular shots eluded us. There are also numerous other blooming shrubs and cultivated gardens. We did find a school of catfish fry in one of the smaller inlets. By 12:30 everyone was drenched in sweat and too hot to stay any longer. 

Macro Image of Japanese Iris

Steve's Water Lily Pic



Catfish Fry



Daylillies at Swan Lake


Another Iris Close-up

Muscovie Duck

Photogenic Swan

If you are ever in the Sumter, SC area at Christmas do go to see the lighting display at the Swan lake Iris Gardens. They have over one million lights strung throughout the garden.
By mid afternoon Steve was beginning to feel ill. He would spend the
next two and a half days in bed with flu like symptoms. while Steve was sick I read a lot, walked Opal all over the park which was good for both of us. I couldn’t help noticing a family across the way. They were from Florida and travelled in one of those small trailers without windows like you use for ATVs. The three of them (and they were not small people) plus 2 dogs and a cat and all their gear fit in there. We couldn’t figure out how they did it. Must have been a very close family! We were scheduled to leave on Wednesday and spend another 4 days at Lake Wateree State Park.
 On Tuesday we decided that if he didn’t feel any better we’d go directly home and take him to the doctor. Fortunately he awoke on Wednesday morning feeling much improved but weak from ordeal. We checked in with the park office and were able to extend our stay by two more days. Our reservations at Lake Wateree also could be moved. So we spent Wednesday just hanging out at the trailer and taking Opal for some walks.

Bad Hair Day

We’d planned to go to the zoo in Columbia earlier in the week. Steve felt up to it so off we went. Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens is a well established zoo where many of our photo club members have taken prize winning shots in the captive category. Again it was in the mid nineties so we took our time going through the exhibits. We especially enjoyed the baboon family and the antics of the baby. One picture I took with them all sitting around looked like they were trying to teach him to play cards. I’ve called it “The Poker Game”. The koala and sloth were fun too. It was well past 4pm when we arrived at the gorilla den. In the future either I’ll come very early or bring a bottle of Windex to clean off all the kiddie fingerprints on the glass. So if the photo looks a bit smudged you’ll understand.  

The Poker Lesson


Wrinkles Are beautiful



Koala Posing


Say Cheese

 On Thursday we packed up and moved only about 1 hour up I77 to Lake Wateree State Park. Lake Wateree is the last in a series of 10 power generating lakes created on the Catabwa River from Lake James in North Carolina to the midlands of South Carolina. I’ve been here once for the day kayaking and had wanted to come back to camp. If you plan to come and stay Friday to Monday, be sure to make reservations well ahead. Mid week the campground was not busy. There are a few sites that have direct access to the lake. All sites were large, private and wooded with water and electric service. Steve bought a 3 day fishing license for both of us. I hadn’t been fishing since I was a kid going with my Dad. So Steve gave me casting lessons. The weather continued in the 90s and the fish were staying in cooler and deeper water so we didn’t catch anything. Or should I say I managed to hook a tree branch when I forgot the pole was on the boat and went under a tree near shore. The shoreline along the park is undeveloped and full of birds and blooming plants. Our kayak trips were limited to 1-2 hours as the heat wave continued. Then we’d come back to camp, read a book and have a glass of wine while the fan cooled us. Retirement is tough but someone has to do it (and we’re glad it’s us). It was on one of these lazy afternoons that we started to talk about the Idaho property that Steve had bought before we married. He also (for at least the 100th time in the past week) told me how much he disliked the heat and humidity of the Carolina summers. Before long we were seriously talking about building on the land. I feel about severe winters the way Steve feels about the summer here. So we came to an agreement. If we could sell the house in Charlotte we’d move west. We’d stay out there through the holidays as I love being home with all the festivites and about mid-January take the trailer south, west or east for about 4 months. This was a very decisive conclusion to our trip. We came home and began to look for house plans. We contacted a builder in Idaho who’d been recommended to us. We began the process of fixing up the house for sale. Now we’ll be off to check out things in Idaho and another two month adventure in August.

Arrowood in Bloom



Lakeside Daisies


About vagabondpress

Recently retired and "hitting the road". Hobbies include travel, nature photography, kayaking, hiking, good food and good friends.
This entry was posted in kayaking, Narrative, nature, photography, South Carolina, Travel USA. Bookmark the permalink.

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