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 things 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 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!

Unintended Consequences: Crooked River State Park (Georgia)

Skip to the bottom for a review of Crooked River State Park in St. Marys, Georgia

When Steven first started talking about buying a camper a few years ago, I wasn’t sold on the idea. I was pregnant with our youngest at the time, and I was already anxious about how we’d adjust to being a family of four.

So, we agreed to hold off on adding anything else new into the mix for a few months.

Then, when Jase was a few months old, we found a good deal on a lightly used “starter camper,” and I agreed to give it a try. Everything didn’t always go smoothly, but we still fell in love with camping. Not only has camping brought us closer within our own family, but I also feel like it has given the boys the chance to build stronger relationships with their grandparents.

I lost my own Grandma to COVID a few weeks ago, so I have been thinking a lot about the importance of spending time with our extended family. After my Grandma passed, one of my cousins shared a beautiful tribute to her on Facebook. The post detailed her favorite memories of Grandma. I smiled reading through some of the memories that reminded me of my own visits to Grandma’s house, but I also teared up reading through some of the experiences that I missed out on.

I grew up hundreds of miles from most of my extended family. My parents always made an effort to get us together at holidays or for summer trips, but as I got older it was harder to keep in touch. Now that I have lost three of my four grandparents, I wish I would have spent more time making memories with them. And though it’s largely too late for me, there is still what I hope is plenty of time for my boys to form lifelong bonds with their grandparents.

In fact, being closer to our families was the main reason I wanted to move from Texas to South Carolina after our oldest son was born. Luckily, we live within miles of Steven’s parents and extended family. Unfortunately, my family is a bit more spread out.

But that’s why I’m thankful for camping. All of our parents have campers now, and we typically do a trip or two with each of them every year.

My Dad and his girlfriend, who live in Indiana, upgraded from a pop-up camper to a travel trailer soon after we got our first camper, and we’ve been able to meet-up with them for a couple trips. In fact, one of our first trips was with them in Gatlinburg. Then, a few months ago, my Mom and Step-Dad, who live in Florida, decided to get in on the camping too. This past weekend we met up with them at Crooked River State Park in South Georgia. During these strange times, it’s nice to have an escape that allows us to still spend time with our loved ones.

Unfortunately, with the ongoing COVID crisis, we weren’t able to attend my Grandma’s services last weekend. Grandma was always happiest when she was surrounded by her sons and her grandchildren, and often lamented that we didn’t all live closer. So, I knew Grandma would have been happy to see my boys spending time with their own Grandma, who also wishes her kids and grandkids weren’t so far away.

I wouldn’t have ever imagined buying a tin can on wheels would have led to a greater connection with my parents, but I am very thankful for unintended consequences! I can’t wait for us to all meet somewhere down the road again real soon!

About Crooked River State Park, St. Marys, Ga.

We chose Crooked River State park because it was centrally located between our home in South Carolina and my Mom and Step-Dad’s home in central Florida. The park is easy to access of I-95 near the Kings Bay Naval Base in Kingsland, Ga. There’s a Dollar General, Walmart,  and several other stores within a few miles of the park.

The park itself was very peaceful. The sites were large and well maintained. We stayed on site 11, which was a huge pull through with a gorgeous view of the river. My Mom was on site 39, another large pull through site. Site 11 did not have full hook-up. Site 39 was full hook-up, but the sewer hook-up was on the side that faced the woods/river, which meant the living area faced the road. That was only a minor inconvenience though since there was very little traffic and the park was very quiet.

We were a bit surprised to discover the campground was surrounded by steep cliffs down to the river, which meant we couldn’t access the water for fishing or wading from the site. However, after a quick post on the Georgia RV Camping Group, I discovered there was water access from the river trail near the cabins. We spent time exploring the river bank on Friday, and then Steven and my Step-Dad Tim spent several hours fishing from the bank on Saturday.

The campground is near the coast, but the closest beach is the Cumberland National Seashore, which can only be accessed by ferry or private boat. We decided to save the trip over to the island for another trip, and instead went to explore Jeckyll Island, which was about 45 minutes north. The beach was clean and had parking and facilities. Fernandina Beach near Jacksonville is another option from Crooked River, and is about 45 minutes south of the campground.

The park also had several nice playgrounds, which my boys had to themselves, since we saw very few other kids. Near the playground by the cabins we discovered the park was home to several gopher tortoises, who we enjoyed watching. The park also had a number of trails, a nature center, a bait shop, a boat ramp, and even an outdoor gym.

The only negative was the bugs, which we’d been warned about. If you stay on top of using your bug spray and take your thermacell, you’ll be fine, but don’t forget or you’ll be a tasty snack for the park’s resident no-see-ums and mosquitoes. But I’ll trade a few bug bites for some beautiful sunsets and relaxing time with family.

The Great Escape: Lake Greenwood State Park (Take II)

(Super belated. Sorry!)

I have a confession. I hate fireworks.

Okay, let me clarify that a bit. I don’t hate all fireworks. I just hate when my neighbors shoot off commercial grade fireworks in my subdivision for days before and after any “fireworks holiday.” I know that may make me sound a bit like a Karen, but so be it. I’ve just never understood spending hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars on something you literally blow up. My aversion only got worse once we had kids that we had to try to put to bed in what sounded like a war zone.

Each to their own, I guess.

So, since I can’t stop everyone from living out their pyrotechnic dreams, I made the vow that we were going to get out of dodge for the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve for the foreseeable future. This year we put the plan into action, and headed to Lake Greenwood State Park to celebrate the Fourth.

After our first trip to Lake Greenwood, I was a bit nervous to return, but thankfully, everyone was healthy this time around. We stayed at Campground 2, on site 121. It was a fairly short site, but we didn’t have any issues parking our 24’ Jayco and our Jeep. And the view was awesome! I know I say that a lot, but what do I say, we’ve found some pretty awesome lakefront sites lately.

The only drawbacks of the site were the lack of substantial shade and large rocks that made accessing the water challenging. But did I mention the view? It would be the perfect site for fall or winter, but for July it was HOT. My in-laws tagged along in what Steven affectionately calls the Monstrosity. They stayed on site 124, a large pull through on top of a hill. They struggled to get their 36’ fifth-wheel level on the site, and had even less shade than we had.

We also had a strange incident where some fellow campers decided our site was their personal boat launch. If they had approached us and politely asked if they could tie-up at our site, we probably wouldn’t have thought much of it. But they didn’t say a word to us as they trekked across our site smoking and hauling coolers of beer. Plus, they came back from the fireworks display on Friday night in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday. They may have been great people, but I wasn’t comfortable having people on our site in the middle of the night, so Steven finally had to ask them to move. Interestingly, some of our friends recently had a similar encounter at Lake Greenwood where a family set-up their chairs right in front of their site. So, maybe it’s just something about that park?

Steven caught a fish… by hand! 😂

But despite the heat and small inconveniences, we still had a good time, especially since fireworks were prohibited inside the park. Actually, our site provided a great vantage to watch the fireworks that were being launched on the other side of the lake, but was still quiet enough for us all to get a good night’s sleep. Perfect! I’m sure we’ll give Lake Greenwood another shot, but as mentioned in my Lake Greenwood post, I think we’ll be looking toward the mountains for the Fourth of July next year!

Tried to get a cute Fourth of July picture, but this captures their true personalities better!

Exploring the Upstate: Lake Hartwell State Park

Note: I’m behind. I was planning to write a post about our trip to Lake Greenwood State Park, but… life. So, I decided to go ahead and write about our more recent trip while it was still fresh in my mind.

During our Fourth of July trip to Lake Greenwood State Park, which was beautiful, but sweltering, I repeatedly said that next summer we needed to spend more time in the mountains. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait a whole year. In fact, we only had to wait a few weeks to escape to Lake Hartwell State Park and the mountains of the South Carolina Upstate.

We’ve made a few trips to the mountains, including a trip to Greenbrier Campground in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and a great trip to the Yogi Bear Golden Valley in Bostic, North Carolina, but this was our first time truly exploring the mountains in our own state. I booked Lake Hartwell on a whim last November during the South Carolina State Parks’ Black Friday Sale, which meant we got three nights for the bargain price of $42.

I’d heard mixed reviews of the park, and didn’t have overly high expectations. So, when we arrived I was very pleasantly surprised. We were on site 46, arguably one of the best sites in the park. As is the case at a lot of lake front parks, the sites were a bit tight, but we still had plenty of room. Plus, the view was amazing, and we had shade (win-win)! We also had great water access right from the back of our site. The bottom of the cove was pretty level and didn’t have a lot of rocks or branches, making it perfect for wading. (The only word of caution that I’ll offer is that there is a good bit of red clay on the bank and on the lake bed, so you WILL stain your bedding if you happen to bump into it with wet clothes.)

The drive up to Lake Hartwell was easier than expected too. From Lexington we took 178 up to 85, and we were able to make it in about three hours. Somehow, miraculously, we actually made the whole trip without a single stop, and both kids took naps! We spent Thursday evening relaxing with my Dad and his girlfriend, who drove down from Indiana (they were on site 48, which was smaller and didn’t have great access to the water).

On Friday, we ventured across the state line to Georgia to Harbor Light Marina (highly recommend) to rent a pontoon boat. Everyone at the marina was very friendly, and the boat was practically brand new (we rented the 65hp 18ft pontoon). We cruised up the Tugaloo portion of the lake looking for fish, but didn’t have any luck since the water was so warm. Even without fishing success, we had a great day, and the boys had a successful first boat trip.

On Saturday we decided to venture out and explore. First, we headed up to Stumphouse Park to see the Stumphouse Tunnel and Isaqueena Falls. The tunnel, built in the 1850s, was intended to be part of a railroad line connecting Charleston, South Carolina, to Cincinnati, Ohio, but the project ran into financial trouble and was never finished. (Fun Fact: It was later used to cure blue cheese.) The tunnel really is an impressive sight and a refreshing place to explore since it stays cool inside even in the summer.

The waterfall, one of many in the Upstate, was beautiful too. Unfortunately, our time admiring it was cut short when a thunderstorm brought a lightning strike a little too close for comfort. While we waited for the storm to pass we decided to stop at Mountain Mocha, a coffee shop and café in Walhalla, South Carolina, to get lunch. The food was great and the atmosphere was even better.

But the most memorable part of trip was still to come.

We decided to trek north toward Lake Keowee, and realized we were close to Lake Jocassee. For years Steven has been saying he wanted to drive Horse Pasture Road and take me to Jumping Off Rock Overlook, so we figured this was the perfect opportunity. We almost gave up on the mission when the directions from my iphone sent us to a dead end into a gated community. But after a little research and consulting SC DNR’s maps, we found the correct route. From HWY 178 to Jumpoff Rock is about 10 miles on Horse Pasture Road. The road itself is in good shape, but very winding, so it took almost an hour to make it to our destination.

Finally, we made it to a pipe gate marking the end of the road. The only other indicator we’d found our destination was a small sign nailed to a tree and a rough trail up the side of the hill. From the road you’d have no idea what waited at the top.

After a short walk, you crest the hill and are left awestruck by a panoramic view of Lake Jocassee and the surrounding mountains.

It is truly breathtaking. I didn’t want to leave, but Steven said DNR wouldn’t take well to me homesteading on their land, so eventually we made our way back to civilization.

The next day we even more reluctantly (a common theme on these trips) packed to head home. I may or may not have tried to convince Steven to stay another day. Our little weekend camping trips are our one escape during these crazy times, and even the boys seem more relaxed and centered when we’re out enjoying nature. Thankfully, we have more trips scheduled for August to look forward to, and until then, we have our memories and lots of pictures!

We’re Back!

Did you miss us? Just kidding, we know you did! 😉

A lot has changed in our family and around the world since our last blog three and half months ago.

Just days after we returned from our idyllic trip to Hunting Island State Park in March, COVID-19 arrived in South Carolina. By mid-March, I was working from home and we were social distancing as much as possible. Around the same time, Steven got a much deserved promotion, which took him from working in the field to working in an office.

We decided that wasn’t enough change (ha!), so we also made the decision to trade in our trusty 4Runner in March. We’d been considering making the jump for a while, but struggled with saying goodbye to a vehicle that had become a member of the family. Buying the 4Runner, and learning about other families who were traveling the country and world in their 4-wheel drive vehicles, truly set us on a new path as a family. Yet, with two growing boys, we knew we’d like to find something with more towing capacity, so we could eventually get a little bit bigger camper.

We stumbled on the V8 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, and it seemed to check all of our boxes. One Saturday, right before the country shutdown, we headed to North Carolina to see a Trailhawk that we’d found online. But we discovered the trip was taking a lot longer than Google predicted. Since we had to get back to the boys, we made the decision to stop and look at another option at Stateline Dodge Jeep Chrysler in Rock Hill, South Carolina. We both really liked the Jeep, and the dealership made us a good offer on the 4Runner, so we ended up with the first Trailhawk we looked at in-person.

The following Monday was my first day of working remotely, and I haven’t been back to the office yet, so the Trailhawk hasn’t seen a ton of road time. But the times we have been able to get it out, we’ve really been pleased with our decision. Toyota 4Runners are solid, reliable cars, but the lower trims are pretty lacking in features. So, it’s taken a bit of getting use to all the bells and whistles on the Jeep (we are definitely enjoying the air conditioned seats as summer in South Carolina sets in!).

We ended up cancelling our trip to Barnwell State Park scheduled for April due to the various closures and the general uncertainty about the coronavirus. We also cancelled our trip to James Island County Park for Memorial Day weekend. The campground was accepting people with prior reservations, but the water park, playgrounds and other amenities were going to be closed. So, we made the tough decision to stay home.

Instead, we booked a trip to Pirateland Campground in Myrtle Beach with Steven’s parents the following weekend. It was our first trip towing with the Jeep, and it did great! Steven said he had to keep checking the mirrors to make sure the camper was still behind us. The campground seemed to be taking appropriate precautions: limiting the number of people in the pool area, providing hand sanitizer when entering the store, etc. Although large resorts like Pirateland aren’t usually our cup of tea, we did enjoy being close to the beach and having some fun activities for the kids.

While we were in Myrtle Beach, we didn’t venture out to restaurants or any tourist destinations, and we were fully self-contained in the camper, so we felt pretty comfortable on the trip. However, since we’ve returned Myrtle Beach has become a hot spot for COVID-19, so I’d be more leery to go now. While we were there, we did take the opportunity to visit a few camper dealerships. After having our Gulf Stream Amerilite 198BH for a little over a year, we’d come to realize there were several things we really wanted in our next camper, including a walk around bed, a larger fridge, a full bathroom and an outdoor kitchen. We also knew we wanted to stay as light as possible.

At the first dealership we stopped at, we found a camper that fit the bill: a Jayco JayFlight 224BH. However, I was reluctant to commit until we visited a few more dealerships. We stopped at few more locations, but were surprised to discover bunk models were in very short supply. One salesman said it was due to a perfect storm of limited stock being produced because of factory shutdowns and increased demand from people wanting a safer way to travel. We went back to the campground to think about our next step, and got several calls from the dealership with the Jayco we liked. After some negotiating, we decided to go for it. On Sunday, we packed up our site, drove across the street and swapped campers! You don’t realize just how much stuff you have in your camper until you have to take it all out in a parking lot.

Maybe all the craziness in the world kick-started a midlife crisis because now we have a new truck and a new camper!

After getting back from the beach, we took the next few weeks to prep the new camper. Then we set off on our maiden voyage for Father’s Day weekend. This time, with COVID-19 cases skyrocketing in South Carolina and protests happening across the country, we opted for a more secluded destination: Winfield Campground in Appling, Georgia. Winfield is an Army Corp of Engineers campground on Lake Strom Thurmond about 20 miles west of Augusta, Georgia. It was our first time visiting Winfield, but we weren’t disappointed. We were on site 55, a very large, pull-through site with a great view of the lake. The sites have water and electric and are a bargain at $28 a night. The playground was still closed, but they had a small, but nice beach area that the boys enjoyed.

We absolutely loved camping in our new travel trailer! Although the layout is similar to our previous camper, it feels much more spacious. And the larger bathroom and outdoor kitchen are huge hits! With our Amerilite trying to take a shower always felt like a big production, but showering in Jayco is a breeze. Being able to cook and wash dishes outside also meant that someone wasn’t stuck inside missing out on good conversation and beautiful scenery. We really feel like this is a travel trailer that will grow with our family for years to come.

As it always does, Sunday came too quickly, and it was time to pack-up once again. Luckily, it was only a one week hiatus, and we’re scheduled to head to Lake Greenwood State Park for the Fourth of July. We also have a trip planned to the Upstate to meet up with my Dad and his girlfriend later in July, and in August we’ll be heading south to Crooked River State Park in Georgia to meet-up with my Mom and her husband, who just bought their first camper a few weeks ago.

As overwhelming as the last few months have been, we are thankful to still have our jobs and to be able to keep exploring as a family. We all have more than a little bit of cabin fever from being cooped up in the house so much, so being able to get out and enjoy the outdoors together has been our one glimpse of normalcy. We hope that all of our friends and family are staying healthy and safe, and that we’ll see you somewhere down the road very soon!

A weekend in paradise: Hunting Island State Park

A grinning toddler teeters toward me with an outstretched hand. I offer my palm and he places a small seashell into my hand. Pleased with himself, he sets off to find more treasures.

Meanwhile his brother, shovel and bucket in hand, is on a quest to find the best place to dig for dinosaur bones. The sun is shining and we have the beach to ourselves.

It is a perfect afternoon.

Lately, it seems like our boys grow an inch every night. Everett has gone from a toddler to a little boy and Jase from a baby to a toddler. We needed a getaway to spend quality time together as a family, making memories we’ll remember for years to come.

Luckily, Hunting Island State Park didn’t disappoint. We’d rescheduled this trip several times (thankfully the state parks are always very accommodating with changes), but finally the timing was right. Camping in late February can be risky if you aren’t a fan of cold weather, but we were fortunate with comfortable temperatures and clear skies. In fact, we much preferred this trip to the unbearably hot weekend we had at Edisto Beach State Park last August.

Hunting Island is completely undeveloped. There is only one road in and out, and getting to the park requires a slightly harrowing bridge crossing, but once you arrive it’s the perfect destination for a peaceful weekend. The park has been hit hard by several storms in recent years, so we were a little nervous about conditions. However, our fears proved unwarranted. Though one campground was completely lost to Hurricane Matthew and Tropical Storm Irma, the remaining campground has been repaired and is in good condition.

We stayed on site 157, which was a large corner lot near the playground. The map given to us at check-in showed that the site was a pull-through, and it may have been at one point, but now it is a back-in. The map also shows beach parking, but we discovered there is no parking for beach access in the campground. So, if you want to go to the beach, you must walk from your site. Luckily, it wasn’t a bad walk from our site, but we’re definitely going to keep that in mind when selecting sites for future trips.

We spent most of Friday exploring the beach. It was a nice change from the overcrowded beaches in other parts of the state. We’d go long stretches without seeing anyone else, and it would feel like we were on a private island somewhere in the Caribbean. In a few sections of the beach, there were obvious signs of the destruction caused by the storms, a solemn reminder of nature’s power.

When we checked in we’d been told we could walk down to the lighthouse at low tide, so we decided to give it a try. It was a beautiful walk, but unfortunately, we discovered the lighthouse actually wasn’t accessible from the beach due to a beach renourishment project that began in early February. We did drive down to the lighthouse the next morning, but since kids have to be 48” inches tall to climb to the top, we decided to admire it from the ground.

In addition to the lighthouse, we made stops at the Visitor Center, the Nature Center, the Marsh Boardwalk, and the Campground Store. The Visitor Center has a few alligators living in the pond out front, one of which we were able to see sunning herself on the bank. Everett also really enjoyed seeing the local animals who called the Nature Center home. The boardwalk was an easy walk, but if you have spirited kids, beware that there aren’t any rails on the walkways over the marsh. The Campground Store was well stocked and had a lot of great gifts and keepsakes. We made sure to pick out an ornament for our collection and a few gifts for family members.

If you like visiting restaurants or local attractions while you are camping, you won’t find much near the park, but Port Royal and Beaufort are only about 30-minutes away. We spent Saturday afternoon exploring the area, making stops at the Chapel of Ease and historic downtown Beaufort. The boys particularly enjoyed the Monkey’s Uncle toy store and the playground at the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. On the way back to the campground we made a quick detour to the Carolina Cider Company & Clockwise Coffee, a local joint that had great drinks and baked goods. I recommend the pecan streusel coffeecake (yum!).

Sunday morning came much too soon, as it always does, but we made our way home relaxed and with priceless new memories. We can’t wait to go back!