J.L. and I are delighted, that in addition to my two new novels publishing in April, we also will see the debut of our third jointly written guidebook EXPLORING SOUTH CAROLINA STATE PARKS. … Our journey into creating regional guidebooks began with the publication of our hiking guide THE AFTERNOON HIKER, celebrating 110 of our favorite hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains. When the national parks closed for a long stint one year, we started looking for a Tennessee parks book for ideas for new places to hike and explore near our home in Knoxville, Tennessee. Finding nothing, we began our next adventure of visiting all of the 56 state parks in Tennessee over the next two years. It was more fun than we ever could have imagined and DISCOVERING TENNESSEE STATE PARKS published in 2018.
In 2019, as we visited bookstores in South Carolina for book signings for my new Edisto Trilogy novels, set on the coast, bookstore staff members and fans began to push us to create a South Carolina parks guidebook. So off we went on another two year adventure. This book EXPLORING SOUTH CAROLINA PARKS publishes on April first, at the same time as my latest novels DOWNSIZING and EDISTO SONG. Like our other guidebooks, you’ll find it has clear directions to every park, descriptions of the park and the best things to do and see when there, plus over 700 color photos in illustration. It will give you great ideas for parks to visit while traveling in the state.
In preparing to create this new guidebook and after researching the state of South Carolina and its 47 state parks, we decided to break the guidebook into four main regions—Upstate, Midlands, Lowcountry, and Pee Dee. Each area tends to have its own unique flavor—and dividing the parks into regions gave us an organizational method for grouping the parks by proximity.… As we studied about SC’s parks, we found the state also had seven national parks, one we broke into two parks, to make eight. Since many of these were smaller parks spotlighting historic or natural sites near many of the state parks, we decided to also add these national parks into our guidebook, bringing our overall total to 55 parks.
J.L. and I started our journey of exploring South Carolina’s parks in the Upstate area. Thinking of SC as a flatter and less mountainous state than Tennessee, we were surprised to find many of the Upstate parks reminded us of areas around the Smoky Mountains, rich with hiking trails, waterfalls, rugged heights, and sweeping mountain views. About seven of the Upstate parks lie in a string near the SC and NC border along Highway #11, the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Parkway. Parks along this route included lovely state parks like Jones Gap State Park, Caesars Head, Table Rock, Devil’s Fork, and Oconee State Park.
Other parks we found especially memorable in the Upstate region were a second string of parks along the beautiful lakes bordering SC and Georgia, like Lake Hartwell State Park, Calhoun Falls, Baker Creek, Hamilton Branch, and Hickory Knob. These were a paradise of beauty with gorgeous views across the lakes, wonderful camping grounds and picnic areas, walking and biking trails, boat launches, fishing piers, cabins and lodges. …We also discovered South Carolina’s first historic parks in this region—military parks like Ninety Six and Cowpens, plus the old Rosehill Plantation site. We toured the museums, walked the battlefield trails, and explored the gracious plantation house, built in the 1800s. We learned a lot about national and SC state history on these visits.
The midlands parks were spread out in a long region across the middle of the state, spanning from the GA to NC border, with Columbia, the state’s capital near the middle. Here we found more military parks like Kings Mountain, an interesting park dedicated to President Andrew Jackson, born in the state, another plantation site, the vast Congaree National Park, and an array of other rich state parks, each with its own special features. We especially enjoyed Chester State Park, Lake Wateree, and Dreher Island State Park, as well as the Sesquicentennial State Park near Columbia and Aiken State Park not far from downtown Aiken. We saw our first artesian well at Aiken and walked the long boardwalk trail out into the swampy floodplains at Congaree—and learned at Congaree the importance of always carrying bug spray.
In the South Carolina Lowcountry we visited many parks familiar to us near the coast where we’ve so often vacationed—Edisto, Hunting Island near Beaufort, and Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie near Charleston. We especially enjoyed the lighthouse at Hunting Island and finding a strand of rural parks more inland, like Colleton, Givhans Ferry and Lake Warren, taking us into parts of the state we’d never seen, each park with so much interesting diversity. Our favorite discovery in the Lowcountry was Charles Towne Landing right near downtown Charleston—a delightful park rich with history, scenic walking trails, a 22-acre natural zoo, old cabins, statues, and cannons. Wandering the park’s grounds we found the fun, historic Adventura ship on the Ashley River you can climb aboard to explore, marshland boardwalks, and the stunning Antebellum Waring plantation home with its Gone With the Wind oak avenue, ponds, and gardens.
The Pee Dee area of South Carolina in the northeast corner of the state has fewer parks, spread widely over the area. Near the border of North Carolina we especially loved Cheraw State Park, rich with amenities for a great family vacation week, including lakes, trails, camping, a golf course, cabins, swimming and boating areas. We also enjoyed visiting Lee State Park near Florence for its beauty and diversity. We found more artesian wells here, wonderful trails, a beautiful lake, a marsh boardwalk, and nice camping areas. Another favorite park in the Pee Dee region lay south of Columbia—Poinsett State Park. We enjoyed the mountainous terrain here, the gorgeous lake, a spillway falls, and a wealth of great hiking trails.
The Pee Dee area also borders the coast, so we got to return to Myrtle Beach that we hadn’t visited in over thirty years, to explore the Myrtle Beach State Park, SC’s first park opened in 1936. Further south on the coast we spent several delightful hours exploring Huntington Beach State Park where Archer and Anna Huntington once made their home in the Moorish castle still on the grounds. This is a park I’d love to visit again for its natural beauty, lakes, long stretch of coastline, wildlife, and trails.
J.L. and I found our trips all over South Carolina to be a pleasure—and now we find ourselves already plotting and planning the next Southern state we hope to explore for another guidebook! Traveling around to state parks is a beautiful way to sample the scenic wonder of a state and to just enjoy time out of doors.
SEE YOU NEXT MONTH in April! … Be sure to also check out my March Newsletter on my website…. Lin
Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.