Best of 2020

I think we’d all agree that 2020 isn’t a year we are going to forget anytime soon.

In fact, it feels flippant to write a lighthearted post about our favorite camping destinations when so much of our world is struggling.

Yet, I also feel like it is important to acknowledge that among the chaos and tragedy there also were moments of calm and joy. Above all else, this blog is a way to record our family adventures for the boys. And when my boys reflect on 2020, I want them to remember flames dancing in a campfire; mist raining down from a waterfall; the sun kissing their skin. I want them to remember that even in the darkness there is beauty.

So, on that note, I’d like to share our five brightest moments from 2020 (click on the hyperlink to read the full posts about each trip):

1. Hunting for treasures at Hunting Island State Park (Hunting Island, S.C.)
Our trip to Hunting Island State Park was our only 2020 trip prior to COVID-19 arriving in the United States. So, perhaps its our hunger for the “good ‘ole days,” but our weekend on this beautiful island tops our list of 2020 destinations.

2. Chasing waterfalls in the North Carolina foothills (Mountain Stream RV Park in Marion, N.C.)
Mountain Stream RV Park was a perfect base camp for us to explore the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. One of my favorite days of the year was spent climbing rocks and searching for crawfish at Tom’s Creek Falls.

3. Hiking Carrick Creek Trail at Table Rock State Park (Pickens, S.C.)
There’s something so rewarding about accomplishing a hike with two kids. Carrick Creek Trail was only 2-miles long, but it was challenging and scenic enough to make for a great family adventure.

4. Driving Horse Pasture Road to Jumping Off Rock (Lake Hartwell State Park in Fair Play, S.C.)
As with some of our other trips, the campground itself wasn’t what made our experience special, but rather the adventures we had during our stay. We loved spending time with family at Lake Hartwell State Park , but the best experince of the trip was driving Horse Pasture Road to Jumping Off Rock overlooking Lake Jocassee.

5. Relaxing at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Tabor City (Tabor City, N.C.)
Twenty-twenty was exhausting, so spending time with family relaxing at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Tabor City, North Carolina, was the perfect way to end the year.

Honorable Mention

Eating fresh caught fish at Crooked River State Park (St. Marys, G.A.)
Finding a good place to fish at Crooked River State Park took a little effort, but the payoff was worth it. Feasting on fish tacos made with fresh white fish caught in Crooked River was the perfect end to another great day.

Birthmas at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Daddy Joe’s in Tabor City, North Carolina

Apparently, people in my family tend to be very fertile in March and April because between the second week of November and January 1st our family celebrates nine birthdays.

In fact, both my son’s birthdays fall the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, which has led us to adopt the term Birthmas to describe the later part of December. And let’s face it, having a birthday so close to Christmas is kind of a raw deal. So, after our second son was born, I decided I wanted to do an annual birthday trip the week after Christmas to help make the boys’ birthdays feel a bit more special.

This year we decided to spend the second half of Birthmas camping at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Daddy Joe’s in Tabor City, North Carolina. We really enjoyed our trip to Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Golden Valley in Bostic, North Carolina, in 2019, so we were excited to finally check out our other “local” Yogi Bear campground. We were able to take advantage of the park’s New Year’s special of five nights for the price of three and booked Dec. 27 – Jan. 1 for a total of $142 per site.

One of the much hyped features of the park is their “quad” sites: four sites organized in a square with a large common area in the middle. We originally didn’t book a quad, but after my in-laws visited the park to scope it out earlier this fall, we changed our reservation. Booking the quad turned out to be a great decision! We were camping with my mom and step-dad and my in-laws, and the kids could roam freely between the campsites and had plenty of room to play. All of the RV sites had full hook-up (water, electric and sewer), and the park also offers cabins and yurts. We did notice the WiFi wasn’t very strong in our section of the park, but the cell signal was great. So, you could easily use a hotspot, if you’re wanting to work or do virtual school from the park. All of the sites are also equipped for cable.

Since the boys have December birthdays, I thought it would be a nice treat to enjoy the park’s indoor, heated pool during our trip. When we arrived, I kept thinking it was strange that no one seemed to be at the pool, but figured it was because the park was capping how many people could use it at a time as part of their COVID precautions. On the second day of our trip, Everett and I decided to go for a swim, and I quickly discovered the real reason the pool was so empty: It was freezing! We toughed it out and made the most of it, but that was our only trip to the pool. I’m sure it’s tough to keep a pool warm when it’s 30 something degrees outside, but we were still a bit disappointed.

The park did have a lot of other amenities to offer, including bike and RC car tracks, playgrounds, ponds for fishing, an on-site ice cream shop, a well-stocked camp store, mini golf, and scheduled activities for the kids. Since COVID is still raging, we spent most of our time hunkered down at our sites, but our interest was definitely peaked. They also have a nice splash zone and aqua play area that looked like they’d be a lot of fun for the kids in warmer conditions. The park was large pretty large, so it was handy that my in-laws rented a golf cart. During the winter months, golf carts are discounted to $30 a day, but in the summer they go up to $60 a day.

The area was more rural, but there was a Food Lion and a few restaurant within a few minutes of the park. We also ventured up to Whiteville, North Carolina, to fulfill Everett’s birthday wish of going to the Dollar Tree, ha! Whiteville was only about 15 minutes away and had a Walmart and more restaurants and stores. We’d talked about venturing down to Myrtle Beach, which was about 45 minutes away, but never got motivated enough to do it. After the chaos of the holidays, it was nice to just relax and enjoy some time by the campfire.

Overall, we had a very relaxing trip and made some great memories with family! I’m not sure what Birthmas will hold for us next year, perhaps a more tropical destination.

Rest and Relaxation: Table Rock State Park

This year has been mentally exhausting.

The shift to remote work meant the lines between my home life and my work life blurred beyond recognition. My brain is constantly abuzz.

Which is why I treasure our camping trips. Yes, the packing and planning adds to the chaos temporarily, but once we are settled into our campsite so much of the stress lifts. For a few days the only decisions I have to make are what’s for lunch and what scenic destinations we should visit next.

Our recent trip to Table Rock State Park proved to be a much needed dose of stress relief. We came very close to cancelling when it looked like Tropical Depression Iota would make the trip a washout, but once again the camping Gods smiled down on us. And, we ended up with sunny skies, warm days and crisp evenings.

This was our first visit to Table Rock, and like many of the other parks we’ve visited, we were pleasantly surprised. The park itself was large, secluded and beautiful. After doing some research we chose site 84 in the White Oaks Campground. Our site had a shallow creek running behind it (which the boys loved!) and a large wooded area on one side. We had to a bit of leveling, but overall the site was well maintained.

My Mom and Stepdad were camping with us and were on site 86, which was on the other side of the wooded area next to our site. The arrangement worked fine, but if we went again, we’d probably do sites 83 and 84 or 86 and 87, just to be a bit closer to one another. We did drive through the Mountain Laurel Campground and though it had beautiful views of the mountains, it felt a bit more crowded and noisy. All the RV sites have electric and water, but are not full hook-up. The dump station is located in the Laurel Mountain Campground, but was easy to access.

Going with the theme of rest and relaxation, we spent most of our weekend enjoying the park itself. The only hiccup we had was firewood that refused to burn, but after scavenging some downed branches, we were back in business. We’d been warned that we wouldn’t get cell signal in the campground, and I was actually a little disappointed that our AT&T phones actually got a good signal at our site. I’d been looking forward to a forced detox. Though the boys did enjoy that they could watch our new FIreTV after the sun went down (which was surprisingly early this time of year!).

On Friday, we decided to venture out to see some nearby sights. First we visited Twin Falls, which was a 15-minute drive from the park. The falls were a short walk from the trailhead parking, and were absolutely breathtaking. The recent rains had the water really rushing. And though we were disappointed that the active hurricane season had taken a toll on the fall foliage, the sparser trees did make for great views of the falls.

Once I’d taken an excessive number of pictures and Steven was able to drag me away from the falls, we headed to the Sassafras Mountain Overlook. The overlook sits atop the highest point in South Carolina, and straddles the South Carolina and North Carolina border. On a clear day you can see 30 to 50 miles into the distance. We soaked up the views and enjoyed lunch on Papaw’s tailgate before heading back to the campground.

Saturday, Grandma and Papaw went out to do some exploring of their own, and ended up at my favorite place Jumping Off Rock. While they were gone we enjoyed a lazy morning, and then decided to conquer one of the park’s trails. We chose the Carrick Creek Trail, a moderate, 2-mile loop. We were quickly reminded that we’re used to flatlands and that our toddler is getting heavy, but the reward was worth the effort. Most of the trail follows Carrick Creek which is full of waterfalls and other scenic features. My Mom and I set out to do the Lakeside Loop later in the day, but were thwarted by a road closure and the quickly setting sun. Next time. We’d also love to eventually make our way up to the top of Table Rock, but that trek might have to wait until the boys are a bit older.

There is so much to do and see in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains that I hate leaving. But, alas, there always comes a time to return to reality, chaos and decision making. So, we savor the time we get enjoying the great outdoors.

Trial by Fire: River Bottom Farms Family Campground (Swansea, SC)

I gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles, heart racing, wondering what I’d gotten myself into this time.

A few hours earlier, I had received a text from Steven saying he wanted me to haul the camper to the campground for the weekend while he finished up at work. I’d been saying I wanted to learn to pull the camper, so I could help him drive and be able to step-in in case of an emergency, but being thrown to the wolves wasn’t what I’d had in mind. That said, I’m not one to back down from a challenge, so I packed-up and headed to my in-law’s house to hook-up.

Before I knew it, the final checks were done, and I was sitting in the driver’s seat trying to remember to breath. Luckily, my father in-law was sitting in the passenger seat coaching me, and we only had an 18-mile trip on backroads to River Bottom Farms Family Campground in Swansea, South Carolina. River Bottom also was the site of our very first camping trip, so it only seemed fitting that it be the destination for another first: my first time towing.

It may have been the longest trip to Swansea we’d ever taken, but we eventually pulled into the campground without any damage to people or property: success in my book! We checked-in, then headed to our site, a large pull-through at the back of the park. With a little more help from my in-laws, I got the rig parked, unhitched, and got to work setting up. It was new territory to be setting up on my own too, since usually Steven does everything outside, while I set-up inside and watch the kids. Finally, I completed my mission and headed home to pack up the rest of our supplies for the weekend.

The rest of the weekend was much less traumatic. We’re lucky to have a campground like River Bottom as our “local” campground. It’s a smaller park, with large lots, full hook-up, fishing ponds, and lots of fun activities for the kids. It’s also close to Columbia, if you’re in town for a football game or want to visit any other attractions. They also have decent WIFI and good cell service, if you want to work or do virtual school from your site. Pricing also is affordable at $38-45 per night, depending on your dates and site selection.

We had snagged a spot for one of River Bottom’s popular Halloween weekends, which run throughout the month of October, and the schedule of activities didn’t disappoint. The boys particularly enjoy the costume contest and the trick-or-treating. This year, our oldest assigned our costumes based on the Jurassic World Lego movie. So, he was the Indominus Rex. I was a raptor. Steven was Owen Grady, and little Jase was a hot dog. Unfortunately, we were robbed in the costume contest again this year. We’re coming for that prize next year!

When we weren’t enjoying the Halloween festivities, the boys enjoyed mining for fossils and gems, jumping on the jump pillow, and playing on the playground. Everett even ran into some friends from his preschool on the playground. The adults enjoyed fishing, sitting by the campfire, and the company of friends. We did get a little bit of rain on Saturday, but nothing severe, and the boys loved the opportunity to jump in some puddles.

On Sunday, we packed-up, and I got behind the steering wheel again. The return trip was slightly less terror inducing, despite damp roads, and I had a sense of accomplishment when we got to our destination. I’m definitely not ready to hit the road alone, and I’m still nervous about the prospect of tackling interstates, but I’m getting there!

River Bottom Farms – March 2019
River Bottom Farms – 2020

Until next time, don’t forget to seek the scenic!

Camping 101: Where to camp?

Anyone who has been camping for a while knows that campgrounds are booking up quicker than ever. In fact, getting a prized site at a popular campground often requires booking a year in advance. So, we would do a few “camping 101” posts to help all the newer campers learn the ropes.

So, you bought a camper! Now what? Finding a campsite is becoming more difficult, but it’s not impossible, if you know where to look. Below is a list of some of the various places where you can camp:

Local and county parks

Don’t forget to look local! Many towns, cities, and counties have parks with RV sites. Some of these parks are smaller and more primitive, while others are larger and offer a range of amenities. For instance, James Island County Park near Charleston, S.C., has a beautiful campground with full hook-up sites and an onsite water park.

Check out our blog post about camping at James Island County Park.

State Parks

State parks are probably the best known place to camp. We enjoy that state parks typically offer a quiet and relaxing environment for a reasonable price. However, if you plan to camp in more than one state, then make sure you research each state’s booking policies. In South Carolina you can book a site at a state park 13 months in advance, but in Florida you can only book 11 months in advance. If you do a little bit of research you can find some gems in the state park systems.

Check out our blog post about camping at Lake Hartwell State Park (SC) and Hunting Island State Park (SC).

Federal Parks

Depending where you live, federal parks can be another great option! As the Army Corp of Engineers (COE) built man-made lakes across the country, they also built beautiful, lakeside campgrounds. The Strom Thurmond Federal Reservoir on the South Carolina/Georgia border currently has seven COE campgrounds operating along its shores. These campgrounds typically don’t offer sewer hook-up, but usually offer large sites, often with great views. They are also very reasonably priced.

You can reserve sites at COE campgrounds on www.recreation.gov. Finding pictures of available sites can be tricky, but if you google “army mil” plus the name of the campground you’re researching it will typically pull up an interactive map with pictures.

Check out our blog posts about visiting Modoc COE Campground.

Private Parks

Another great option is private parks. Thousand Trails and KOA offer nationwide chain of private campgrounds that typically offer lots of amenities. Yogi Bear Jellystone Park™ Camp Resorts is another nationwide chain that offers beautiful, family-friendly campgrounds. You also can find independent private parks, like Riverbottom Farms in Swansea, S.C., Mountain Stream RV Resort in Marion, N.C., or the various resorts in Myrtle Beach. You sometimes sacrifice privacy and space at the larger private campgrounds and they can be a bit pricier than a state park or a COE. However, you also tend to get more amenities.

Check out our blog posts about camping at Mountain Stream RV Park in Marion, N.C., and at Yogi Bear Jellystone Park – Golden Valley in Bostic, N.C.

Boondocking

Boondocking is when you camp on land that isn’t part of a developed campground. Boondocking could be setting up in your backyard or heading out into a national forest. We haven’t really tried boondocking so far because we don’t have a way to run our rig without electricity at this point, and frankly, in South Carolina there’s a pretty small window when you can camp without air conditioning. But, if you have alternative energy sources or live in a more temperate climate, boondocking is a great option! Just make sure you do some research on where you are and aren’t allowed to camp.

Miscellaneous: Harvest Hosts, HipCamp, AirBnB, etc.

As the camping industry booms, many individuals and businesses are looking to get in on the fun! Harvest Hosts seems to be one of the more popular options. For an annual fee, you can camp at a variety of scenic destinations across the country, such as wineries, farms, etc. Sites like HipCamp and AirBnB also offer unique options for campers. I only see this industry getting bigger as more people choose to hit the road in their camper or RV.


We hope this helps give you some ideas of where to find some new places to camp! Don’t forget to seek the scenic, and let us know in the comments what other “camping 101” topics you’d like us to cover!

South Carolina Bucket List

Since we’re based in central South Carolina, we’re always looking for new and interesting places to visit in the Palmetto State. After some crowd sourcing, I created a bucket list of 25 “must dos” in South Carolina.

(All photos were taken by us on our travels.)

  1. Drive Horse Pasture Road to Jumping Off Rock Overlook – Sunset, SC
    We drove Horse Pasture Road to Jumping Off Rock Overlook in July 2020, and it’s my favorite place that we’ve visited in South Carolina so far. Check out our post from that trip to learn more.
    (Read our blog post about exploring the SC Upstate.)

  2. Stand at the top of Sassafras Mountain – Sunset, SC
    We haven’t been to Sassafras Mountain yet, but we plan to go soon. Sassafras Mountain is South Carolina’s highest point at 3,553 feet above sea level. An easily accessible observation tower officially opened to the public on April 22, 2019.


  3. Stroll through the synchronous fireflies at Congaree National Park – Hopkins, SC
    This is another one we haven’t done, but hope to catch next year! Each year for a few weeks in May or June a variety of fireflies (or lightning bugs) that light in unison arrive at Congaree National Park.


  4. Climb to the top of the Hunting Island State Park Lighthouse – Hunting Island, SC
    We fell in love with Hunting Island State Park when we visited in February 2020, but we didn’t climb the lighthouse, which is the only publicly accessible lighthouse in South Carolina since the boys weren’t tall enough. Children must be at least 44” inches to climb the lighthouses 167 stairs. I’ve heard the view is well worth the wait though!
    (Read our blog post about camping at Hunting Island State Park.)


  5. Relax under the Angel Oak – John’s Island, SC
    The Angel Oak is second only to Jumping Off Rock on my list of favorite places in South Carolina. The majestic tree is considered to be the largest Live Oak Tree east of the Mississippi estimating to be 300 to 400 years old.
    (Read our blog post about visting the Angel Oak Tree.)


  6. Kayak through the spider lilies at Landsford Canal State Park – Catawaba, SC
    In 2019, I saw an article on the SC State Parks site about the spider lilies at Landsford Canal State Park, and I knew we had to check them out. The park is home to the world’s largest population of Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies, which bloom in late May. There is an easy trail that leads to an observation deck, but I’d love to go back and kayak down the river for an even better view of the gorgeous blooms.
    (Read our blog post about going to see the spider lilies at Landsford Canal.)

  7. See Campbell’s Covered Bridge in Landrum, SC
    I was unfamiliar with Campbell’s Covered Bridge until I started asking for ideas for this list and it was suggested multiple times. The bridge was constructed in 1909, and is the only remaining covered bridge in the State of South Carolina.

  8. Watch the sun rise over the mountains at Pretty Place – Cleveland, SC
    Symmes Chapel, also known as “Pretty Place,” is located at the YMCA Camp Greenville and offers panoramic views from the top of Standing Stone Mountain. Admission is free, and the chapel is open from sunrise to sunset, unless there is a private event.



  9. Visit Stumphouse Park to see Stumphouse Tunnel and Isaqueena Falls – Walhalla, SC
    Stumphouse Park is home to two interesting sights – Stumphouse Tunnel and Isaqueena Falls. Both are easily accessible and have a storied history. We enjoyed a quick visit before getting rained out in July 2020. 
    (Read our blog post about exploring the SC Upstate.)

  10. Hike to Rainbow Falls at Jones Gap State Park – Marietta, SC
    This is another one that wasn’t really on my radar, but I can’t wait to check it out! It looks to be an easy hike down to the falls.

  11. Take a boat tour of Lake Jocassee – Salem, SC
    I’ve seen the bird’s eye view of Lake Jocassee, but I’m itching to go back and get on the water. The lake features crystal clear water and has a number of waterfalls along its bank, but most are only accessible by boat or kayak. The lake is accessible from Devil’s Fork State Park in Salem, SC.



  12. Walk around the UofSC Horseshoe – Columbia, SC I might be a bit bias on this one, as a graduate and employee of the University of South Carolina, but the historic downtown campus is beautiful! When you step through the brick walls, it’s easy to forget you surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the capitol city.



  13. Explore Historic Charleston – Charleston, SC
    Charleston is full of history! You can walk through the market, stroll down rainbow row, or watch dolphins splash in the harbor from the battery. You also can get some amazing seafood. I still think about the barbecue shrimp and grits at the Charleston Crab House.



  14. Search for megalodon teeth at Edisto Beach – Edisto, SC
    Our oldest son is obsessed with all thing prehistoric, so he always wants to dig for dinosaur bones or hunt for shark teeth. The South Carolina coast is home to a wealth of marine fossils, including teeth from massive prehistoric megalodons.
    (Read our blog post about visiting Edisto Beach State Park.)

  15. Hike 40 Acre Rock Heritage Preserve – Kershaw, SC
    I haven’t been to 40 Acre Rock since college, but I remember being fascinated by the huge granite outcrop. Unfortunately, the rock has been vandalized in the past and has a very delicate ecosystem, so it isn’t typically promoted. If you decide to go, take a trash bag and help clean up any litter you find along the path.

  16. Visit the Boneyard Beach at Bulls Island at Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge – Bull Island, SC
    The name Boneyard Beach provokes images of a secret pirate rendezvous, but in reality the beach is home to significant amounts of driftwood. The remote barrier island is also said to be a great destination for shelling and wildlife viewing. It’s only reachable by ferry.



  17. Go back in time at Colonial Dorchester – Summerville, SC
    The Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site is home to the ruins of a town that dates back to 1697. You’ll feel like you’re being transported back in time as you explore the fort walls made out of oyster shells and the still intact bell church bell tower.

  18. Tour Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie – Charleston, SC/Sullivan’s Island, SC
    South Carolina played a significant role in the Revolution War and the Civil War, Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie give a glimpse into those eras. Both forts are located near Charleston and are open to tour.



  19. Watch the sunset over Lake Strom Thurmond – Modoc, SC  
    At 71,000 acres the Lake J. Strom Thurmond Reservoir (also known as Clark’s Hill Lake) is the third-largest artificial lake East of the Mississippi. The lake borders Georgia and South Carolina on the Savannah, Broad, and Little Rivers. It is home to a number of local, state, and federal parks and campgrounds.
    (Read our blog post about camping at Modoc Campground on Lake Strom Thurmond.)

  20. Hunt for the Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp – Bishopville, SC
    Since the 1980s there have been rumors about a creature living in the swamps near Bishopville, SC. Even if you don’t believe in the Lizard Man, the black water and swampland in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina is a great place to explore.


  21. Go birding at Dreher Island State Park – Prosperity, SC
    Dreher Island State Park is located on Lake Murray, just outside of Columbia, SC. The 50,000-acre, man-made lake is home to an impressive array of birds, many of which can be seen from Dreher Island. The park also has two campgrounds, boat ramps, and hiking trails.
    (Read our blog post about Dreher Island State Park.)

  22. Hike to the top of Table Rock – Pickens, SC
    I visited Table Rock State Park once while I was in college, but I didn’t get the opportunity to hike to the top. The hike is rated as very strenuous and is a 7-mile loop, so I may need to work up to it, but it’s definitely on my bucket list.



  23. Explore Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve – Lexington, SC
    Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve provides a look back in time to prehistoric times when the Midlands of South Carolina where under water. The layered limestone formations feature fossils of ancient marine creatures. The park also is home to a small waterfall and miles of great hiking trails.  

  24. Tour Botany Bay – Edisto, SC
    Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve on Edisto Island offers undeveloped pine hardwood forests, agricultural fields, coastal wetlands and a barrier island with almost three miles of beachfront. The preserve also includes several colonial area structures.

  25. See the Sheldon Church Ruins – Yemassee, SC
    Sheldon Church, located near Beaufort, SC, dates back to 1757. The church was set on fire during both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, but the walls refused to fall. The ruins are located on private property owned by St. Helena’s Church, but can be visited as long as proper guidelines are followed.

Find Your Park: Congaree National Park

I’m almost embarrassed to confess that we live 30 miles from a national park, but had never visited as a family. So, when we found ourselves with a free Saturday, we decided to remedy this oversight.

Both boys must have sensed the impending adventure because they woke up earlier than usual (or maybe they were just excited because their Grandpa was visiting). Soon we were packed and on the road to Congaree National Park in Hopkins, South Carolina.

The 26,276-acre park is located just a few miles south of Columbia, South Carolina’s capitol city, and has more than 25 miles of hiking. We opted for the park’s iconic Boardwalk Loop, a 2.5 mile loop on an elevated boardwalk. As we set out our 4-year-old initiated a game based on finding the most “cool nature things.” The rules of the game were a bit unclear and seemed to change as the hike went on, but there were definitely enough scenic sites to keep the game going.

Congaree is home to the tallest and largest Loblolly pine trees in the world: 169 ft. tall and 42 cubic meters, respectively. We also saw plenty of wildlife, including beautiful spiders, turtles and even a juvenile alligator in one of the park’s lakes. We spent about two hours on the trail exploring, taking pictures, and soaking in the scenery. The trail was very kid-friendly, and our 4-year-old did great keeping up. Even our toddler got down from his carrier and did a section of the trail.

If you haven’t been to Congaree, I’d highly recommend it. The huge Loblollies and 500-year-old cypress trees were a sight to behold. It may have taken us awhile to take our maiden trip to our local national park, but I have a feeling it won’t be our last. I can’t wait to go back and try more of the trails and look for more critters.

Stay tuned for our next adventure and don’t forget to seek the scenic!

EASYRunner Overland is now Seek The Scenic!

When we decided to start a blog and an Instagram account to record our adventures, we chose the name EASYRunner Overland. “EASY” was an acronym of our names: Everett, Alyssa, and Steven Yancey. “Runner” referred to our Toyota 4Runner that kick started our love of exploring as a family. And, “overland” referenced our love of vehicle-based exploration.

When our younger son Jason was born, we questioned if we should change our name to incorporate him. But, nothing seemed to fit. When we started doing more camping, we again considered a name change. Then when we traded our 4Runner in for our Grand Cherokee earlier this year, we knew it was time.

We pondered what we wanted our new name to be for months. We wanted something timeless that would stay relevant even if things in our life changed. We brainstormed ideas, but nothing stuck.

Finally, one day I was thinking about what is at the heart of our adventures. Of course we like traveling back roads and camping, but our true passion is finding beautiful and unique places as a family. And, so our new name was born: Seek The Scenic!

Stay tuned for more updates! We hope to offer some new swag soon. Until then, don’t forget to seek the scenic!

Change of Altitude: Mountain Stream RV Park (Marion, N.C.)

The beauty of living in the middle of South Carolina is that we’re never more than a few hours from the mountains or the beach. For Labor Day weekend we decided to head north for a few days of relaxation in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I booked our trip to Mountain Stream RV Park almost a year ago, so we were excited to finally get a chance to visit the campground in person. On Friday morning we packed what seemed like all of our worldly possessions into the Jeep, hooked-up the camper, and headed up I-26. From the Columbia area it was only about a 3-hour drive to the campground. The drive was pretty easy, except for the last 5 miles on Highway 80, which were very windy and had areas were rock faces were very close to the road.

When we arrived we found a very well maintained park. The sites weren’t huge, but they were well designed, so you didn’t feel like you were right on top of your neighbors. There are only 33 spots, which gave the campground a very intimate feel. All but the last two or three sites backed-up to Buck Creek, providing beautiful views and relaxing sounds of moving water. Some sites even had decks overlooking the creek. We were on site 6, which was toward the front of the park near the store.

The park offered full hook-up, cable, and free wifi. The wifi came in handy since there was no cell signal (on AT&T or Verizon) at the campground. We did find that the wifi was spotty in the evenings, but it worked pretty well about 80% of the time. They did also offer an upgraded wifi option for $4.95 a day or $9.95 for three days.

Given the mountain roads, we were a bit surprised to see that most of the other campers had large fifth wheels or even large class A motorhomes. So, even though the roads were tight, it’s clearly possible to get larger rigs into the park. Just be sure to turn left when leaving the campground because we discovered that the top section of Hwy 80 included a set of switchback turns that are nicknamed the Devil’s Whip.

Before we headed to North Carolina, I posted to the North Carolina RV Camping Group on Facebook asking for recommendations of activities to do while we were visiting. On Saturday, we decided to try a few out.

First, we took a short drive to the trailhead for Tom’s Creek Falls. The trail was pretty easy, our 4-year-old even walked the whole loop without asking to be carried. The fall was beautiful! The boys were able to wade in the water at the base of the fall, and we were even able to climb some rocks to a pool a short way up the fall. We spent over an hour playing in the cool mountain water, searching for “dinosaur bones,” and catching crawfish. There was a steady flow of people coming to the fall, but it never felt overcrowded.

Next we went into town to grab some lunch. We ended up at Smokey Q’s in Marion. The food was great, but I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t have macaroni and cheese as a side option. After filling up on BBQ, we went to do some more exploring. We decided on a scenic drive through Pisgah National Forest on Curtis Creek Rd., another recommendation from Facebook. It was a great drive for those who enjoy getting off the pavement.

On Sunday, we decided we’d try the fall favorite of apple picking. After some quick research we chose The Orchard at Altapass. The orchard itself is tucked along the Blue Ridge Parkway and was gorgeous. When we arrived we found out they’d had such a large crowd on Saturday, and they were completely out of ripe apples. So, we picked up some apple butter and blackberry syrup in the store and headed back out. I did discover later that they had posted on Facebook about being closed for u-pick. Lesson learned.

Some fellow campers had recommended Crabtree Falls, so we thought that would be another option, but we arrived to an overflowing parking lot. So, we decided to save that for another trip too. With the orchard and waterfall a bit of a bust, we ended up exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway and forest service roads. We spent a while exploring the area around an empty campsite near the parkway. The boys loved looking at all the cool rocks. We capped the day off with snocones at Pelican’s SnoBalls, then headed back to relax at the campground.

The signs heading into Mountain Stream say “the prettiest little park this side of heaven,” and I think they might just be right. We had a great weekend enjoying nature and cooler temperatures before the hectic push to the holidays. It was the perfect change of altitude to change our attitudes, and I’m already kicking myself for not booking another trip before we left!