Choose Your Own Adventure: Twin Lakes Campground (Pendleton, SC)

Some camping trips are filled with visiting a full itinerary of scenic destinations, others are spent relaxing at the campground, and some trips are spent arguing with tiny versions of yourself until you are completely exhausted. (I’ll let you guess which category our trip to Twin Lakes Campground fit into.)

My intent for our trip to Twin Lakes Campground in Pendleton, South Carolina, was to explore an area of the state where we hadn’t spent much time, but once we arrived our boys decided they had different plans.

You see, Everett and Steven recently started watching Bear Grylls’ new, interactive Netflix series You vs. Wild. The show is similar to the “Choose Your Own Adventure” children books that were popular in the 90s. Everett has watched every episode and has taken to reenacting his favorite scenes. So, when we pulled into our campsite, he was in heaven: the rocks, “cliffs,” and lake were the perfect place for him to test out his newly acquired wilderness knowledge.

Twin Lakes is a 152-acre, 102 site lakefront campground managed by the Army Corp of Engineers. The sites have water and electric hook-ups, and are very economical at $26 a night. Reservations can be made at www.recreation.gov and a site map can be found here. We stayed on site 33, which is in the middle of five sites out on a point. We had no problem navigating into the site and had plenty of room for our camper and tow vehicle. The site was surrounded by Lake Hartwell on three sides and offered great views of the sun setting over the lake. It also had a large, level living area that included a fire ring and grill. A playground and bathhouse were a short walk from the site.

A gently sloping hill led down to the lake, but accessing the lake was a bit tricky due to a drop-off and rip rap surrounding the point. But Everett didn’t mind: navigating the terrain was a perfect way for him to sharpen his survival skills. However, supervising his antics near the water’s edge about gave me a heart attack. On future trips, I’d like to try a site with a more level “yard” area. Some of the sites in 60s looked to be bordered by a nice grassy area, and were also close to a beach area and playground.

We did convince the boys to go on an excursion to the South Carolina Botanical Gardens on the grounds of Clemson University. It was free to access the trails and there were lots of interesting sights to see. I would definitely recommend visiting the gardens, if you happen to be nearby. We also swung by Mac’s Drive-in, a local restaurant, for lunch. The food was great, but be aware, it’s not an actual “drive-in” and they only take cash or check.

The rest of the trip we alternated between playing “Bear Grylls” with Everett, which entailed helping him decide whether to rappel or free climb, hunt or forage, trap or fish, and on and on, and trying to convince him to leave the campsite. In the end, he had a blast, but we were exhausted. After a particularly overwhelming day on Saturday, we came to an agreement that on future trips we’d have a day where the Mommy and Daddy choose the adventure and a day where the boys get to choose our itinerary.

Camping with kids is an adventure in its own right, and each trip we are discovering what works and what doesn’t work. And even though this trip did come with more parental drama than we would have liked, we still enjoyed spending some time in nature and making memories together as a family. In all honesty, I wish we had gone with the flow and embraced that the boys wanted to enjoy our site. Not every trip needs to be filled with activities: lesson learned.

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