Perfectly Imperfect: Myrtle Beach State Park (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina)

(We also visited Myrtle Beach State Park in June 2019. To read more about that trip, click here.)

In today’s age of social media, we’re constantly barraged with “perfect” images. The flood of curated and filtered content can make us believe our lives need to be Instagram-worthy to be worthwhile.

So, as I reflected on our recent trip to Myrtle Beach State Park, I fixated on the foreboding forecast that delayed our arrival, the less than ideal weather, and the lack of sleep caused by our testy toddler. It wasn’t until we’d been home for a few days that the fog of unmet expectations lifted, and I began to see that our weekend was actually perfectly imperfect.

The forecast got worse and worse in the days leading up to our departure. We don’t mind rain, but riding out high winds and possible tornados in a tin can is another story all together. After being racked with indecision for several days, we finally decided it would be best to wait until Friday morning to head over to the campground. Our decision was ultimately fueled by the thought of having to shelter in a bathhouse with two kids during a pandemic. The risk wasn’t worth the reward in my book.

But, then, conditions changed and the storm shifted to the east. After carefully watching the radar, we accepted that South Carolina had dodged a bullet, which allowed us to head over Thursday night instead of waiting until morning. Hooking-up was easy since we’d already packed everything earlier in the day. Traffic was lighter than usual too, since we were leaving later in the day and many people were waiting out the weather indoors.

We arrived at our site, and made quick work of setting up before settling in for the night. We stayed on site 295, which was on the more spacious back loop. The site was easy to navigate into, even in the dark, and had a large outdoor living area. It was also full hook-up, which is always a nice find at a state park.

We woke to unseasonably cool temperatures and overcast skies, but thankfully the rain held off. We decided to bundle up and head to Murrell’s Inlet to explore Brookgreen Gardens with my Dad and his girlfriend Diane, who were visiting from Indiana. Brookgreen is located almost across the street from Huntington Beach State Park (which you can also visit for free, if you’re staying at MBSP). We spent several hours exploring Brookgreen’s beautiful sculpture gardens before the kiddos hit the wall. We’ll definitely visit again to see the rest of the grounds, which include a section on local history, a small zoo featuring local animals, and even an educational boat tour. (Note: Your ticket, which we found to be very reasonably priced, is actually good for seven days.)

When we got back to the campground, we decided to embrace the weather. Steven built a roaring campfire and whipped up a delicious, five-bean venison chili. I also made a pan of cornbread in our camper oven, without burning it! In retrospect, it was nice to be able to enjoy a few more days around the campfire since the oppressive heat of summer in the South will soon be upon us.

Saturday was chilly too, but the sun finally peaked through the clouds, which lifted our moods considerably. Since Dad and Diane were nearing the end of their trip, we spent the day soaking up the park. We visited the Nature Center, took a walk on the beach, and watched seagulls land on the pier. Everett was captivated by the challenge of completing the park’s scavenger hunts to earn a patch from the Nature Center, and Jase insisted on trying every slide on the playground.

For dinner, Dad visited a market and stocked up on local seafood, which we boiled over the fire. The result was delicious! My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Our trip may have been marred by some less than ideal circumstances, but we enjoyed good fellowship, great food, and beautiful sights. Real life is messy, and sometimes it takes the storms to truly appreciate the sun. Now we’re counting down the days until our next perfectly imperfect weekend.

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.

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!

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!

Christmas Camping Magic: James Island County Park Campground

So, I’m a little hesitant to write this post because I’m worried if I tell everyone how magical James Island County Park Campground is during their Festival of Lights, then it’s going to be even more difficult to find a spot for next year!

I don’t remember where I first heard about the Festival of Lights, probably one of the many camping-related Facebook groups that I follow, but I decided it would be a fun destination for the weekend of Thanksgiving since I’d have some time off of work. When I went to make our reservation back in August, I thought I was lucky and found the very last available site, but knowing what I know now, I think it was likely that I actually stumbled upon a cancellation. Regardless, we were able to secure a spot thanks to a little Christmas magic, and am I so thankful that we did.

After all our multitudes of misadventures earlier this fall – from the “do we have a site or not” fiasco at Hamilton Branch State Park to the late night ear infection at Lake Greenwood State Park – I had some serious anxiety going into our trip. Luckily, most everything went smoothly. Having the day off work meant we were able to take our time packing and getting on the road, and also meant our first daylight set-up in three months.

When we arrived I was pleasantly surprised. I’d had an image in my head of a Myrtle Beach style RV resort with cramped sites and no privacy, but the sites were actually well-spaced and there was a good amount of tree cover to provide a bit of buffer from the neighbors. We were on site 109 – since it was the only one available – and where a little concerned what we’d find when we arrived since the website had a note that said “a tree on site may prohibit awning use.” However, the site was perfect for our camper. We were able to back the camper to the edge of a beautiful oak tree and still have room to put out our awning and park the 4Runner: one of the benefits of a smaller camper and tow vehicle. It also was a large corner lot diagonal from the bathhouse, which worked great for us since my Dad tagged along and camped on our site in his tent. There was a trash dumpster at the edge of the site, but it didn’t cause any issues and seemed to be emptied regularly.

After getting set-up, we were able to relax and enjoy some perfect weather before heading over the Festival of Lights activities. Again, I had a mistaken concept of what the Festival of Lights would entail. Not only did it include a drive through lights display featuring an estimated 2 million lights, but there also was an entire festival village that include gift shops, food vendors, visits with Santa, story time with Mrs. Claus, a carousel and much more! Staying at the campground meant we didn’t have to pay the $20 entrance fee, wait in traffic or fight to find parking to visit the village. It was truly a magical experience. The toddler didn’t even complain about the walking!

On Saturday we spent the morning enjoying the park’s playgrounds and hiking trails, then we took a side trip to somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for years: the Angel Oak. It was a quick jump over to John’s Island, probably about 15 minutes from the campground. The tree is tucked behind a chain link fence along a dirt road, and traffic can be a bit tight getting in and out, but it’s worth it to see a true spectacle of nature. After we got back, the boys and I took a nap and Steven and my Dad went and tried their luck at a fishing hole. Steven was excited to reel in a good size catfish! Later that evening Everett took Steven on a guided tour of the lights, then before we knew it, it was time to start packing up.

Sunday morning Everett and I did make a quick detour into the camp store, which had some great items, including a special addition ornament to commemorate this year’s festival – take my money! I think we could have spent several more days at the campground and not been able to enjoy all of the festivities. I’m definitely hoping we can make a trip to the Festival of Lights an annual tradition. In fact, I tried to book a stay for next year upon returning home, but discovered Thanksgiving weekend 2020 is already booked-up! So, fingers crossed we find another lucky cancellation. I’m also hoping we can visit the park again this summer to enjoy their water park and spend some time over at Folly Beach.

We’re taking a bit of a break from camping this month because we are going to go to Grandma’s house in Florida to celebrate the boys’ birthdays. So, until next time, see you down the road!