4.  Emma & Claire! & Exploring the SouthEast…September & October, 2020

Day 19 10.7
Hello South Carolina!  This part of the state is called the Low-Countryclose to the water & swamps.

I started my morning early along a 17 mile scenic drive to Edisto Island.  I think they must have had a recent storm here because there were some trees down & lots of standing water in places.  Along this two lane road, you see many old old homes.  Not the historic mansions you see in Savannah or Charleston, but old homes non-rich people either currently live in or lived in way in the past.  There isn’t much else you pass…no gas stations, grocery stores, or any shopping.  But what you do pass are churches…tons of them.  I’d guess there’s between 15-20….& it’s only 17 miles to get to the island.  So, there must be tons of diversity—at least religious diversity— here.  

This is also the first time I’m noticing this magnificent vine growing everywhere.  It covers trees & walls & old buildings, draping them in a beautiful dark green along with some bright green mosses.

The sun finally came out today!

I took advantage of the nice weather to walk on the beach for awhile…Hello Atlantic!

I drove all around this small island looking for a coffee shop or a park so I could make coffee.  Nothing.  There didn’t look like there was much here.  There are lots of homes here, a bunch of condos & a big section of what looks like time-share properties & a golf course.  It looks like the diversity ends here…from what I saw, it appeared the island is mostly lived on by white retirees….a whole lot of older people living here.  I passed a small mid week Farmers Market & got out & looked around.  There was only one vendor with fruits & veggies; the other dozen or so, sold pork rinds, kettle corn, paintings, photography, lots of handmade crafts & the famous southern Sweetgrass baskets & weavings.

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A peaceful view next to the Market.

I drove back for most of the way I’d come, then took another two lane back road to visit the Charleston Tea Garden…owned by the Bigelow family.  I don’t know if it was the recent storm or not, but there was so much trash along these roads…pretty disgusting.  There were also a bunch of churches along this road too.

The tea plantation included a small gift shop, free hot or cold tea & a 15 minute video tour in which you could also see the machines for taking the tea from leaf to cup.  I thought of my mother in law, a tea drinker, & how she would have enjoyed this place.  You could also walk around outside, in designated areas, along the property.

The tea bush.

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I made my way through all the traffic & found parking in historic Charleston.  I’d decided to eat at Magnolias for lunch.  They offer a southern take on the BLT…made with bacon, fried green tomatoes, lettuce & melted pimento cheese on homemade bread.  As if thats not enough to kill you, you get a side of sweet potato fries.  I ate the first half as intended, but broke apart the second.  I tried the tomato on it’s own, crunched down the bacon, then spread some of the melted pimento cheese on the bread….yummy!

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There is a ton of shopping available in Charleston.  Along King Street, theres a lot of high end clothing & fashion stores; there’s a bunch of antique, fine art & design shops too.  It goes on & on & seems endless.  But the one area I wanted to visit, was the City Market.  These huge old buildings were built around 1805 & have always been some type of market.  Back then, though, it was for meat, fish & veggies.  Now you find all sorts of things for sale…some unique craft items, some crappy items, some food, but it’s all interesting.  The stalls are actually old openings in the side of the buildings.  Only one of the buildings is set up to walk through.  So, I strolled along looking at all the stuff.  Then it was time to move on to these wonderful old homes, alleys, trees, gardens & more.

I do love the architecture here!  I would never want to own one of these old huge homes, but they are amazing to look at (plus the restrictions, limitations & rules in this historic district are endless & expensive.  I don’t think I could ever tolerate a HOA, which is nothing compared to this) & I couldn’t get enough just walking around admiring them.  And its also incredible how old these homes & some buildings are.  Some have plaques stating they were built in the late 1700’s…we have nothing like this back in the midwest.

The larger homes may have front doors, but most all have side porches which seems to be like their ‘front yard’…an outdoor space with greenery & a place to sit or have a garden. 

It’s so interesting how so many are built attached…right next to each other, with their outdoor space in the back.

Rainbow Row.

The pineapple fountain.  Evidently, pineapples can be found all around Charleston…including in some of the historic decor on the homes.  Sailors & travelers would come back from their sea adventures & bring pineapples, & give to their neighbors & friends.

Oh how I wished I’d been on this boat...I’ve always wanted to sail on a tall ship!

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One of the narrow old streets that you see often in the historic section.  And, not surprising, most of the cars you see in the driveways of some of the oldest homes, are very small cars like mini-coopers or small convertibles….these old homes driveways & alleyways & streets weren’t built for our current huge SUV’s, trucks or cars.

The Crepe Myrtle found in South Carolina.

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Cobblestone streets & old cemeteries.

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And, here’s vines again…covering almost anything concrete.  It was so beautiful!  Since none of this is mine to own or keep up, I could easily fall in love with all the natural green on everything!

I’d put in more than a few miles & was ready for a beer.  I chose a brewery outside of downtown called Holy City (because there are sooooo many churches?).  When I first drove into the sort of industrial unimpressive part of town, I thought…kind of icky.  But the inside was great, their outdoor space was fantastic & today included a Farmers Market, the staff was super friendly, the beer really good (I had the Pluff Mud Porter & the Waffle Debacle Imperial Stout) & the very, very, very best soft pretzel I’ve ever eaten…ever, ever, ever!

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Day 20 10.8
It was time to explore some new places, get out of the cities (Ive eaten a ton in the last two days & paid more for parking than I like) & go Up Country & into the hills & mountains.  I took off to drive the Savannah River Scenic byway which goes north & west out of Charleston.  Its a hard scenic drive in that you take about 6 or 7 different two lane roads.  Youre always switching roads, no standard scenic highway signs to follow & I was keeping Mapquest super busy (when I had service.)  I drove past cotton fields, the  trees & scenery were becoming different than in the southern part of the state, & I started to finally see the change in the seasons by the colors in the trees. It was very, very pretty.

Past these cuties along my drive & the timing was perfect!  Claire was just calling me as I was stepping out of the car to take their photoso she got to see them through FT.& I got to see her!!! 

I found a park not too far off the road & stopped & made a salad for lunch.  Soon I was back on the road & found a National Forestthey sure seem hard to find on the East Coast.  Id found directions for a dispersed camping area & weaved in & out & in & out of the backroads trying to find it.  I found the road & slowly drove it for a couple of miles.  It wasnt a bad road, it was narrow & the shoulders were super soft.  I never did find the spotthe road deteriorated after a couple of miles & I had to negotiate a five-point turn just to stay off the tire sucking shoulders.  Now what?  Id seen a camping sign a few miles back, so I backtracked, followed the sign into a National Forest campground.  Yay!  It looked totally empty except for the hosts RV & vehicle.  I parked by the host sign, got out my money (I get 1/2 off camping in NF campgrounds) & my ID & Senior NP pass.  The guy looked like he could have been brothers with one of Lucass good friends.  I was smiling & ready to pay up & enjoy a nice night in a pretty forest campingId been in parking lots up to this point & I needed a break from my survival camping.  

However, he told me he couldnt take my money.  The fee was not posted correctly eitherit would be $7.50 not $6.  No big dealIll pay it!  Buthe wasnt done.  I would have drive two miles back up the road where Id have cell service & make a reservation to camp tonight & use a credit card.  The reservation fee alone is $12.  What. The. Hell.  Not one thing about that made sense.  I get it if the host doesnt want to or isnallowed to take money.  Thats been going on for yearsits much more common to fill out the fee envelope, put in your money & stick it in the slot in the metal post at the pay station (or its also called the Iron Ranger).  So, rather than one camper being in the campground tonight, no one would be.  Before I left however, he was nice enough to call the Ranger & ask if there was dispersed camping in the area.  He told me of a spot, but warned that it would be super muddy & I might be ok since I have 4WD.  Thanks but no thanks.

I felt frustrated by the time I pulled back out on the road.  But, I had seen some beautiful part of the forest & it was still an hour or so before dark. I so struggle to understand processes that make NO sense (Danny says this is why I’ve never been good at jobs that have mandatory meetings & endless rules) & have to work at not overthinking about them. Deep breath. I was so tempted to park at a big trailhead, even though youre not supposed to, but I didnt.  I found my way to Oconee State Park & luckily they had a campsite.  I had to pay $30, but at least I had a hot shower that night before I went to bed (no showers, just pit toilets at the NF campground.which I was happy with for $7.50, but not for almost $20).  They also had no-seeums, so right after my shower, I put a buff on over my wet hair.  That should look extra special in the morning.

I had a new book to read & really enjoyed the luxury of a picnic table.  So, I propped up my feet, made a cup of hot chocolate & read & read & read.

Day 21 10.9
It was 9am when I woke up!  OMGI never sleep that late (I had been up some in the night, but not as much as usual.)  I spent the morning in camp.  I needed to dump my photos on my laptop & make coffee.  I had no internet capability, so that kept my off my phone.  I drove through the park as long as I was there…not much to do, but the trees were gorgeous.

It was time to chase waterfalls all over the south!

I left the park & thought I’d taken a wrong turn, but ended up where I wanted to be.  Funny how that works sometimes. (But more often than not, it’s the other way around.)

You pay a small fee to hike this park, which is noted for a tunnel & a waterfall.  

I knew nothing about this tunnel & didnt even bring a flashlight.  But turned on my phones light & walked into the dark.  I dont know how far it goes, but the path kept getting narrower with water on both sides.  And it was darkreally dark.  I wasnt sure what I was looking for or what the point would be to go to the end.  

So, I turned around & welcomed the natural light from the entry.

Isqueena Falls from the bottom. Quite a hike down there…you had to be very, very careful getting to this spot.

I made lunch at this park, then I drove a short distance to Yellow Branch falls.  It’s a short 3 mile RT hike.

Icky but cool colored thing growing out of a tree along the trail.

Then I drove to see Station Cove Falls…very pretty.

I ended up driving along the Cherokee Foothills Scenic byway…a pretty drive.  I stopped in a town I knew nothing about called Travelers Rest.  I sat in a parking lot  & Googled a bunch..looking for food & camping, then chose a place for dinner called Farmhouse Tacos.  Score!  Trip magic was about to happen.  I sat at the big long bar with only a couple of people around the corner & a solo guy two barstools away.  Immediately the staff was there & super friendly.  They serve street tacos & I ordered two…a Korean short rib & a fried chicken one along with a small Margarita.  OMG!  This was the best food I’d had on this whole trip.  Everything about the meal was great.  

Then, my bar mates, even though farther away than normal, began to talk & we all enjoyed a great conversation.  I’ve really missed this type of interaction this year.  People just aren't visiting as much, me included.  But, tonight was great.  A local couple is who sat at the corner seats & one seat away was another traveler…a pro golfer from Florida that had been traveling since May & headed back to Florida in November.  Bret gave me great tips on what breweries he’d been to, places to eat & cool towns & waterfalls to find.  He wasn’t camping, but his company was paying for hotel rooms & he was traveling to places that also had golf courses so he could play golf along the way.  I ended up ordering the shrimp taco & a pineapple jalepeno margarita before the night was over. What a wonderful night!

Day 22 10.10
Ive heard a lot about Greenville, SC & what a cool place it is to live & play.  Its right down the roadabout 15 minutes from Travelers Rest.  The rain was back today.pouring, so it seemed like a fine day to stay off the trails & backroads & explore a new town.  I was up super early & decided for better or worse, to eat breakfast out.  Really??  After all the food I ate last night, I don’t know why I sometimes come up with these plans.

I at at the Maple Street Biscuit Company taking the recommendation of the guy at the counter.  It wasn’t crowded which had me leary, but I persevered.  And, I ate almost all of this:

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I know…crazy, crazy..  Chicken, biscuit, bacon & maple syrup.  I’m sure I’m going to die if I keep eating here in the south.  After my over-indulgence, I went out to my Camper (thank goodness no parking fees on Saturday) raised the hatch & went for my cooler to get ice & water for my thermos.  I was going to walk all over this wet town today.  A woman & her son, who had also been eating at the biscuit place, were parked behind me.  She asked me if I knew where the Farmers Market was today.  I said I didn’t but it was on my list of ‘things to do’.  She asked me where I was from, but when her son (maybe 18 or 20 years old?) saw the inside of Camper, he went crazy saying how he’d love to do something like travel & camp.  So, a nice conversation began.  We talked for about 20 minutes, more than 6’ apart & in the on & off again rain.  A super nice way to begin the day…meeting kind people.

When I looked across the street at the Biscuit place we’d eaten, there was a line of about 15 or 20 people out on the sidewalk in the rain.  Glad I went when I did.

One of the first things on my list of “to-see” items, was to find 9 mice!  Mice on Main is a sort of hunt you can do.  It’s based on 9 tiny sculptures hidden in various places along Main street in about a 6 block area.  Marvin, the first mouse, is from the book “Goodnight Moon”.  I had some clues listed on my phone, so with umbrella & my raincoat zipped up tight, I went on a mouse hunt.  I found the first one pretty easily…I also found a little girl with her grandparents going on the same hunt.  They were all excited & said I should follow them.  I thought that would be cheating, so I killed a little bit of time doing something else, then when she was mostly out of sight, I went back to hunting mice.

It wasn’t an easy hunt…or maybe her clues were better than mine (or that’s my excuse anyway).  I went up & down the street, missing a couple along the way & walking all the way to Falls Park.  It probably would have been a much more enjoyable day, if it wasn’t pouring rain.

But, the park was really pretty.

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This was the best use of a ‘below bridge’ space I’ve ever seen.  Usually it’s a trashy spot, or place the homeless hang out, or at best, some rocks lining the concrete.  But this was actual usable pretty space…AND IT WAS THE ONLY DRY SPOT AROUND!  Just lovely!

I headed back up Main street & by now I was so wet, my umbrella was dripping from the underneath side onto me.  Yikes.  The Farmers Market, which was on Main, was pretty much rained out.  A few hardy vendors showed up, but they even closed up early to leave & get dry.

My 8th mouse took a long time, & I had been turning circles trying to follow the clues.  I’m sure if anyone was looking at me (which no one was…IT WAS POURING RAIN…ONLY A FOOL WOULD BE OUT HERE TODAY), but I finally found it.  I was down to one left.

But the last one was hidden so well…I thought I’d never find it.  I was about ready to give up.  I’d done my best & was soaking wet to prove I’d been on a wild mouse-chase all morning.  

But then I heard it…a tiny little feminine voice said, “Daddy, look…theres a mouse up there!”.  I wanted to hug that little girl!  I’m so glad there are girls out there so much smarter than me, so much more perceptive than me, girls who can follow clues, girls who aren’t afraid to get wet…very wet!  She might only be about 6 now, but watch out world…she will be mighty, intelligent & fierce when she’s older! (That’s how I felt about her anyway…I’m sure her parents would agree.)

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So, with the mouse-hunt complete, I went to my favorite Southern store…Mast General.  There are 9 of these stores in south, I’d been to two other ones in different towns.  They carry lots of Patagonia, Kuhl, & other outdoor brands in clothes & shoes.  They have a huge gift area, a candy counter that little kids drool over, books, puzzles, some jewelry & some great scarves, hats & gloves.  And, IT WAS DRY INSIDE!  I spent about 40 warm minutes in there & came out with two pair of earrings & a postcard for my Claire project.  

It was time for a beer.  There are 16 breweries here, so it was easy to find one.  I drove out of the downtown to Liability brewing & sat for about an hour, inside, & drank a Belgian Triple.  It was good, I was drying out & the place was warm & did I mention dry?  I bought a 4 pack of their Doppelbock to take home to Danny.

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I asked the staff here, if I were to visit one more brewery in the area, where should I go? (I also mentioned I was a big stout drinker.)  The answer was Eighth State Brewing…known for their stouts.  I worked my way to the brewery, which was set up for outdoor seating only (grateful it was covered seating).  While I waited, only about 5 minutes, I asked the host guy about their beer.  He agreed with the Liability staff, they had the best stouts in the area.  Then he told me they were out of most all of them.  What?  Was he kidding?  No, he said they have sales every Tuesday & they had mostly sold out.  What?  Are they selling kegs? What do they sell between Tuesdays & Saturdays?  I wasn’t even going to ask.  He recommended a stout (I think it was the only they had) that was a collaboration between this brewery & another one.  Then my table was ready.  I think if I’d had to wait another few minutes, for a table, I just would have passed & moved onto some other brewery.  But I ordered & drank a Macadamia White Chocolate Stout.  It was just ok.  I like my stouts plain (quit adding vanilla, chocolate, coffee—ok I like coffee in some—, cinnamon, Mexican chocolate, etc to my stouts.  Barrel age them all you want, but don’t add ‘flavors’.  Just my two-cents worth.)

I backtracked to Travelers Rest & tried to re-create the trip magic I had last night.  That never works.  The food was still delicious, the margarita yummy, but it ended there.

I then landed myself in an urban park to begin working on my website, which I was super behind in doing anything to.  I backed into a space about 4:30 & got into the zone pretty quicklyit was still crappy outside.  When Im going full speed, I totally lose track of time.  It had grown dark & I was just about on my last upload.  I was sitting on my bed in the back, with laptop open & on my lap, computer cords & phones & chargers all surrounding me.  That’s when I noticed a cop car pulled up at an angle by my back door with his blaring headlights blinding me.  I casually opened my door & waved.  Then I just tried to complete my upload, knowing he’d get out of his car in his own sweet time.  He strolled over with his flashlight trained on me now double blinding me & told me the park was closed.  I apologized, telling him I’d lost track of time & would leave ASAP.  He told me I could go to Walmarts parking lot & I said thank you (I didn’t tell him I’d spent the night there last night).  So, while I untangled myself from cords & put away all my electronics, he strolled to the back of the 4Runner & checked out my plates.  Then he said goodnight & drove to the church parking lot right behind my car…& waited while I packed up & left.

I drove to Walmart & parked for the night.  No sooner had I gotten there, than a cop car (don’t know if it was the same guy or not, but if I had to bet, I’d say it was) pulled in the lot, made a slow stroll in his car to the front of mine & sat there for about a minute.  I guess we just stared at each other.  Then he moved on.

The rain came down so hard that night it was crazy.  

Day 23 10.11
I took the drive up to Caesars Head State Park.  There’s some popular falls in the park as well as an Overlook that you can see into North Carolina & Georgia.  But, as the road climbed higher, the visibility got worse.


I made it to the park gate a few minutes before they opened & happy to be off the road in this blinding fog.  I talked to a couple of Rangers who said the Overlook was just steps away, but they doubted I would see much.  I asked about the Falls & they said they doubted I’d see them either if I decided to do the 4 mile hike.  

I walked to the overlook & here was my view:  It’s probably breathtaking on a clear day, but that day wasn’t today.

Once the road dropped down some elevation, I could see clearly again.

Hello North Carolina!  I drove to DuPont State Forest…I have been here before & hiked to these falls, but twice isn’t too many times.  The trees in the forest were even more colorful than any I’d seen in South Carolina.  Hello Fall!

I hiked to the covered bridge which sits above one of the waterfalls.  It was overcast, but dry & I was grateful for that.

High Falls…massive & fierce.

Triple Falls was gorgeous!

Hooker Falls

Done with hiking for the day, as I drove into Brevard, it began to rain again.  I parked downtown & googled about 100 things from breweries to camping to waterfalls to food.  I’ve been here before & there are lots of cute shops, but I only went into the gear store.  The brewery I was parked conveniently across from, inconveniently specialized in Pilsners….ok…so not my kind of beer.  I walked up & down the street just to stretch my legs, but when it started raining harder I decided to head to Asheville.  

I hadn’t planned on spending much time in this awesome artsy brewery-filled town; this will be my 3rd visit here.  But, I do love to eat at one restaurant & decided I’d try it this afternoon.  I made the longish drive, changed into my best  clean clothes (which still look like hiking clothes) found more paid parking (this gets old in big towns) & happily & hungrily walked to the Tupelo Honey Cafe.  However…they were taking mostly reservations & couldn’t seat me unit 8:45pm….I told her that was my bedtime & wouldn’t work.  No, I didn’t really say that, but their food is heavy anyway & I rarely eat that late.  I was bummed, but figured it was doing my heart, cholesterol, wallet & daily calorie count a favor.  But, I’ll be damned if I’ll pay to park & do nothing though.  The downtown seemed dirty, crowded & not as cool as in the past.  Maybe it was the gray day or my disappointment or that the rain was back.  

Bret, my trip magic new travel friend & recommended a couple of breweries to me.   There’s about 500 here in Asheville…no not really,  there are 26, including Oskar Blues & New Belgium from Colorado have opened an additional brewery here.  This part of North Carolina & the east coast has been on the craft beer train early on & you’ll find some of the best beer here.  Unfortunately, even though I’d spent what felt like hours trying to find one or two with barrel aged stouts, I wasn’t having any luck.  I’d been to Green Man last time I was here, & it was just a few wet blocks from me, so I walked there. 

No stouts, but I had a double IPA which was good & found covered outdoor seating.  They only served pints, no small pours, so I didn’t feel like going to another brewery or drinking another IPA.  So, I swam back to my car, paid for my parking & left Asheville.  I was able to find a campsite for $11 at the NF Mill River campground…& most important …they had a host that was glad to take my money.  Makes sense to me!

I was happy to have a campsite in the woods

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