Rocky Shoal Spider Lilies at Landsford Canal State Park

18882251_10154495654792539_2927134491790417454_nLength: 1.2 miles /Difficulty: Easy

 

We loved our first visit to Landsford Canal State Park, but the first time we visited the flowers of the Rocky Shoal Spider Lilies weren’t in bloom. The sight of the flowers in bloom was more spectacular than any photo could capture though. This is the largest congregation of the flowers to view them at. I’m a little speechless as to why parks like Landsford Canal and Devils Fork in South Carolina aren’t instead named after the endangered flowers that live there. Oconee Bell State Park and Rocky Shoal Spider Lily State Park don’t sound too bad.

 

 

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Trail Information

Before I get to the flowers I want to talk about the beautiful sights along the trail. There was a lot of wildlife out when we went in mid-May. We saw turtles lounging on rocks, a crane stoically standing over the river and snakes! The way to the spider lilies overlook is an easy 0.6 miles. The out and back trip is 1.2 miles all together.

I don’t want to move on though before pointing out something ridiculous I shouldn’t ever see. We spotted a snake on the way to the overlook. The snake slithered off the trail and into the woods where we watched as it moved along. A couple walking past asked what we were looking at. We’ve had other people in the past walking trails ask the same if we’ve spotted an animal. Always, people have looked and moved on. This guy decided to pursue the snake instead. DO NOT touch wildlife nor follow it. It DOESN’T want your company. I didn’t stick around because this guy was looking for attention, so we left him to look like an idiot in front of his girlfriend. I will never in the future disclose what animal we’ve seen to another passerby hiker again for fear this would happen.

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Rocky Shoal Spider Lilies, or their scientific name, Hymenocallis coronaria, are only native to Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia. There is supposedly a population in North Carolina too though I haven’t found any information on that.The Lillies were discovered in 1783 by William Bartram when they grew in more rivers.  We don’t even have a percentage of the mass loss of shoal lilies. At Landsford Canal they grow in the last part of the free flowing, Catawba River. The hydroelectric damming of rivers has destroyed their habitats. Without rocky, shallow moving water to bulb in, they die.  The blooms themselves only last for one day.

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Park Information

The Rocky Shoal Spider Lillies were nearing bloom the day we visited. I wish I could get better photos of the flower itself, but you would have to paddle for a closer look. I’ll have to make plans to grab a kayak in the future for this. I brought binoculars though, and we peered from the overlook at the beautiful blooms. Landsford Canal State Park is $5 for adults, $3.25 for seniors and kids 6-15, and kids under 6 are free. It is open daily until dusk.

 

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After our trip to Landsford Canal State Park, we dropped into Rock Hill, South Carolina to grab a little food and relax. Rock Hill is around 30 minutes from Charlotte down I-75. Legal Remedy Brewery is a brewpub that has a huge selection of brews on tap. We enjoyed a couple of pints with the IPA and the Strawberry Vanilla IPA being some of my favorites.

Abrams Falls – Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Length: 5 miles/ Difficulty: Moderately Difficult

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We had one whole day in the Great Smokies, and there was a lot to see. Even with our 2 other trips in the past, we feel we haven’t even made a dent on all the sights in the park in seeing. Abrams Falls was calling me on the last trip though, and I had my heart sat on it. We arrived around 5 p.m. to the waterfall. The sign at the start of the trail was warning people the hike would take 3-4 hours. It is possible to do this hike in around 2 hours though as we found.

Continue reading “Abrams Falls – Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee”

Oconee Bells Bloom In South Carolina

Length: 1.5 miles / Difficulty: Easy

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We were surprised to find the Oconee Bell Nature Trail to ourselves the week before Bellfest at Devils Fork State Park. The festival, held March 18th, highlights the blooming of the rare Oconee bells, or as their scientifically known, Shortia galacifolia. Their members of the Diapensiaceae family. The plant is mostly found in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina in the southern Appalachian mountains. This makes for a particular environment for them since they are also only found along the waterside.

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Trail Information

We didn’t have to walk far until we could see Oconee bells. There is a creek running along most of the trail, and whenever the creek can be seen so can the Oconee bells.  Scenic small waterfalls also flowed over the rocks. The trail is an easy 1.5 mile loop. There are a few places on the trail where it does climb uphill, but there are resting spots.

 

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Flower before bloom.
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Flower in bloom.

 

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Flowers before they drop form the shape of a bell.
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After the flowers have fallen.

What I loved was seeing the Oconee bells at all stages of their life. We saw them before they bloom, in bloom, and after they had fallen. The most special stage was seeing them in what I believed was what gave them their namesake. Oconee bells are perennials. The first documented botanist to collect and study the plant was Andre Michaux in 1787. The plant wouldn’t be identified again until 1877. Sadly, 60% of the Oconee bells population was lost under water when rivers were dammed to create Lake Keowee and Lake Jocassee.

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There is other nature finds on this trail including a variety of trees, such as hickory, maple, and oak, plants, shrubs such as blueberry, huckleberry, and sparkleberry, mushrooms, and a lake. The lake was created in the 1950s by a farmer.  Sediments in the water have sparked nature to take back over. Grasses and sedges encouraged more growth for plants that love moisture such as tag alder, maples, and beeches.

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Park Infomation

Devils Fork State Park is $5 per adult to visit. Seniors are $3.25, $3 for children 6 -15, and kids 6 and younger are free. Oconee bells bloom in early spring. The white and yellow blooms with red stems are a beautiful sight.

Chauga Narrows – Sumter National Forest, South Carolina

Length: 1.2 miles / Difficulty: Easy

I’ve had to become more aggressive with the watermark usage since I’ve had photos used, and I don’t remember anyone asking me.  You don’t realize how serious you should take it till it happens. This weekend we did a hike to Chauga Narrows near Mountain Rest, South Carolina. The falls are within the Sumter National Forest. It was a little rainy that day, but it feels like forever since we’ve made it to a waterfall we hadn’t seen.


I forgot to grab a trail photo, but the 0.6 miles to the waterfall on the river is mostly easy. There is a bit of a scramble near the end to get to the base, though.The trail also runs alongside the river most the way, so there are eroded parts where the trail is narrow and has lots of roots. Technically the 25 feet drop and 200 feet run down this part of the river is a Class VI rapid.  When water levels are higher kayakers take on the Chauga River at this part of it.

The upper part of the Chauga Narrows is the most visible, but there is a short drop below it. The rocks are slick and since water levels can get higher I would consider it dangerous to try to venture any further. By the time we make it back to the parking lot the trail has taken us around 1.2 miles. Outside of keeping footing the closer we got to the narrows and climbing down and up for a better view, the trail stays easy.  There are no markings for when you’re about to reach the trail, but it’s an easy find on Whetstone Road and, reach the bridge.  It’s free to park. This is also a popular fishing and camping area on the river.

Perdeaux Fruit Farm – Travelers Rest, South Carolina

If you’re near Travelers Rest, South Carolina during the summer or in the fall then you might want to make a stop by Perdeaux Fruit Farm. We stopped by in early July and by then it was already too late to find a lot of summer produce because they had been cleared out, but they have other seasonal fruits and products that they sell throughout the year. I would just call ahead to see what is available. Thankfully, a few peaches were available, so we grabbed some of those and they were delicious. We discovered this place on our South Carolina Agritourism Paspports, which led us to 15 farms.

Not only can peaches be found here, but blueberries, blackberries, corn, and melons are available during the summer. Personally, I was hoping for a cantaloupe, but because of the drought seeming to cause a shortage and the popularity they were long gone. A small amount of watermelons still remained though. Later in the season they also have muscadines, pears, and plums. They also have a lot of apples from their orchard. Products like apple cider and jellies are made from what they grow too.

The farm shares they grow 12 varieties of fruits, and they make 12 varieties of preserves and sauces. There is a lot to find here and it seems to be a hopping spot. They are open from June till November Wednesday till Saturday from 10 a.m. till 5:30 p.m., and Sunday from 12:30 p.m. till 6 p.m.  Check out the Facebook page for updates of what they have and for exact hours and days of operations as they could change. Perdeaux Fruit Farm is a South Carolina Certified Roadside Market. 

Split Creek Farm – Anderson, South Carolina

I can’t believe it’s nearing the end of the year, and it’s about time to submit the South Carolina Agritourism Passports. In the past couple of weeks we’ve gotten to visit some great farm areas, which to be honest is a nice change up considering some had been unwelcoming or no one was to be found at all.  A little over a week ago we made the rounds near to Anderson where we were visited a great museum in Pendleton and a goat farm after our stop there. Split Creek Farm didn’t feel like only a shop we were stopping, but a farm we could just spend a little time at. I don’t even think it would have been odd to take a seat in one of those chairs and read.

Split Creek Farm is a Grade A Goat Dairy farm, so you can find an array of products from goat milk here like cheese and milk.  This farm started with only 3 goats, and now there is at least 750 goats here. We could find a goat at every corner. Split Creek Farm doesn’t use hormones, herbicides, or pesticides, so the product from here is all natural.Split Creek Farm is also along the South Carolina Heritage Corridor, so it makes a great stop for learning about farming and the local life.

I also liked there was information about the goats and dogs on site. We watched as the dogs kept watch on the goats, particularly the baby goat. I petted the baby goat a little who was cute wearing a little, orange sweater. I would have gotten a photo, but he was gone by the time I was taking pictures.  There was a herding dog active around where we were, and there was a Great Pyrenees, which was in the first photo, being lazy in the sun.

We were shocked to find a pig laying around near the gift shop. We didn’t disturb him, but he was too interesting to not get a photo.  I’ll be honest though, I couldn’t tell which end of the pig was the face until I looked at the photo later.

I also grabbed this funny photo of the chickens and goats hanging out. Goats were doing what they do best and clearing the shrub.

Split Creek Farm is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m., and Sunday from 2 p.m till 5 p.m. They are located in Anderson, South Carolina. 

Tamassee Knob – Oconee State Park, South Carolina

Length: 4.1 miles / Difficulty: Difficult
Nearing the end of the short fall weather we’ve had, we hadn’t gotten in any scenic views. Mostly the culprit had been the smoke in the area from surrounding fires, which didn’t make hiking to any safe. Thankfully, since we hiked to Tamassee Knob rainfall has moved in. Tamassee Knob was a hike I had kept in mind in case I woke up and walked outside to clear air, and a Sunday this past month we did. Despite a slight chill in the air it was just the right temperature for a hike. The hike is near Walhalla, South Carolina. 
The hike starts in Oconee State Park, and the hike wanders out of the park into Sumter National Forest. The Tamassee Knob trail seems to be the newest additions of hikes since it was added to the sign after it was it made.
A 2.1 mile hike leads to the overlook from the mountain of Tamassee Knob. The round trip, out and back hike is around 4.2 miles and it is difficult. Brandon didn’t seem to be as intimidated by the hike as me though, and if you’re not as afraid of falling then you might find this hike easier than I did. The hike starts easy. The trail is mostly level and everything is clearly marked. The trail is well marked with black blazes to show where the trail goes.
After branching off to the trail toward Tamassee Knob the trail begins to get hilly, so there is a lot of travelling down on the way, and the leaves made it feel a little slick to me. Once outside of the park the trail becomes very narrow and has steep drops to the side. I became frightened by the view off the side of the trail if I happened to slip. The way back to the car was not as bad though since I prefer going up hill when I fear slipping downhill.
The hike was well worth some of the few, fall skies we’ve gotten to see this season though. We could see the South Carolina and North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains. I wish there had been some details about what mountains we could exactly see, but Sassafras Mountain seems to be visible from this view, which is the highest mountain peak in South Carolina. This trail is lightly trafficked, but there were quite a few groups of people on the trail for this hike. By the time we reached the knob everyone was gone though, so we had the view to ourselves and we rested till we knew we had to head back to avoid the early, dark day. Now it may appear the trail continues past the knob, but we met a group on the way that said they traveled further past the knob, but they didn’t find any views and turned around. Basically when you’ve reached the rock you’ve reached the attraction of the trail.
There is an admission fee of $2 per adult, $1.25 for seniors, and kids 15 and younger are free to enter Oconee State Park. They are open daily till dusk. 

Mariner’s Nature Trail – Calhoun Falls State Park, South Carolina

Length: 0.5 miles / Difficulty: Easy

Earlier this year we visited Calhoun Falls State Park just as the summer temperatures were heating up this May. Little did we know this would be the last month in a while we would see a good rain too. It seems so long ago now. Calhoun Falls probably sounds like there would be a waterfall in this park, but sadly no. When the lake was dammed a long time ago what might have been a waterfall disappeared.

Calhoun Falls State Park is located within Abbeville County, interestingly named after a city in France. One of the main interests in the area is the state park, which is home to Lake Russell, and the stretch within Calhoun Falls State Park is some of the least developed parts of it if you’re wanting to feel like you’re escaping a bit more. Not far is also Richard B. Russell Dam.

The South Carolina State Park system began leasing 315 acres along the lake to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Lake Russell itself is 26, 650 acres. The name itself is from James Edward Calhoun who was one of the first settlers along the rocky shoals of the Savannah River, which now is emerged in the lake. It leads me to imagine how beautiful and wild this area might have looked before dammed.

The only listed trail in the park is the Cedar Bluff Nature Trail running 1.75 miles one way, and to be honest it was a little too hot for us to want to walk the entirety of that. There was a short trail outside the visitor center we walked to take in some surrounding sights instead.

Perhaps this trail we walked was the Mariner’s Nature Trail? That was the sign we saw when we reached the end of the trail directing us back where we had walked. It was only 0.5 miles total and an easy walk through the woods.

The trail was mostly level, and no one else was walking with us making it a peaceful hike. I can’t imagine what it’s like to even see grass this green again.

There are some views of Lake Russell near the beginning of the trail. After we walked across the bridge the views disappeared for the most part, but it does make for a scenic sight and a great picnic area.

This trail eventually branches off into a cart trail. To be honest the state park in general seemed way more a paradise for people riding on carts to parts of Lake Russell to boat or fish. I didn’t seem many other outdoor activities such as cyclists or hikers out. I thought it was odd that starting the trail there were no signs, and then on the way back we had signs directing us. Even asking at the visitor center about the trails she told us they only had one, and didn’t point out the one right next to the visitor center.

Calhoun Falls State Park is open daily till dusk. It’s $2 per person to enter the park. It’s $1.25 for seniors and youth 15 and younger are free. The state park is located along the South Carolina Heritage Corridor, so it’s a great spot to learn about the area at. The state park is located in the city of the same name, Calhoun Falls. 

Sierra Nevada Brewing’s Mills River Taproom – Mills River, North Carolina

To celebrate 4 years together we made plans for an anniversary day. This involved our hike to Falls Creek Falls and checking out Sierra Nevada Brewing at their place in Mills River, North Carolina to end the day. Mills River is located near Fletcher in between Hendersonville and Asheville. They are originally based out of Chico, California. We had heard a lot about the place, and I have to say it is quite the experience to go here. A long driveway wound it’s way to one of the hugest brewery facilities we’ve seen.

Since we were dining we were sat at one of the tables. This place serves food in the style of appetizers, which was a bit unexpected, but we had heard a lot about the food and lives up to expectation.

We ordered the Cajun style pizza and the pretzels with pimento beer cheese made with their very own brew, Hop Hunter. I have to say the cheese was amazing. Expect the food to range anywhere from $8 to $14 depending on what you order. Much of the food is locally sourced.

Like much of the taproom area the bar is just as hopping if you prefer to not be seated at a table. Now we did love our experience here. The service was good and friendly, but for some reason everything we ordered had to be delivered by a separate part of the room. Our waitress was sometimes busy, so someone else took our order. Teas arrived first and the food followed. The food was given by a guy who may have been a part of preparing it, but I didn’t mind because it was out very quick. We waited on our beers the longest, which is unusual, as they are usually the first to come out. On top of that we thought it would be simple to tell the waitress they weren’t out yet, and she would just get them from the bartender. Instead we had to wait until the bartender himself could bring them to us. It was a bit of an odd order of things, and I’m not sure if that is typical or not. It could make for a frustrating bit of communication though.

Once the beer did arrive it was great. I hadn’t tried the Hop Hunter before even though it’s accessible to try since it’s shipped to where we are. It’s a great IPA though. There are plenty of choices to choose from on tap. 23 to be exact. We also ordered the Estate and Harvest, a single hop IPA. Everything we tried was good from the taproom, and the bottles don’t do them justice. You can also find others you might want to try like the pilsner, stout, porter, and their Oktoberfest on tap.

We were told brewery tours here have to be booked a few months in advance since they are so popular. It is a gorgeous place, and I like how the place used unique ways to conserve energy like the solar panels working the lights in the parking lot. They are open Monday till Thursday from 11 a.m. till 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m till 10 p.m, and Sunday from 12 p.m. till 9 p.m. We thankfully went an hour and a half before closing, so while it was still crowded much of it had backed off.

Walking the Denver Downs Farm Corn Maze in Anderson, South Carolina

Sometimes I have curiosities I can’t explain, and visiting a corn maze was one of those curiosities. At one time fairs seemed to be the fall activity everyone was doing, but now corn mazes seem to the activity everyone is updating their news feeds they are doing this fall. I found that fairs were for the majority over by the end of September, and with limited time I had no ability to make it to one,but the corn maze at Denver Downs Farms made for a great fall activity to carry on the tradition of experiencing fall along with everyone else.

Denver Downs Farms has one of the most popular corn mazes. We could find billboards all across the upstate letting us know about the corn maze. Denver Downs was also conveniently located for us too because it is not far off I-85 in Anderson, South Carolina. 

The tickets to all the activities is $15 per person. For many this is a reasonably, great price to experience all the activities at the farm, and you’re aware you can take advantage of using your entry price for more than just the corn maze. If you are wanting to just experience the corn maze though it might cross your mind this is a steep price for that. Along with the corn maze there were also hayrides and even pumpkin bowling.

At the beginning of the corn maze we were given a map. The corn maze was cut in the shape of Peanuts’ character this year including Snoopy. Since the corn maze had been open a few weeks by the time we went some people had to try to make their own paths, but we still enjoyed wandering through the corn maze. Some people were lost in the maze, and to be honest this included an arguing family about which way they were going. Not sure if that is how they imagine spending the evening. Take a moment to meditate before entering the maze, because it can be a lot of fun and enjoyable if you’re prepared to not panic. Especially when there are many ways in and out of this maze that make that a ridiculous action.

We basically went in a circle around the corn maze. We wrapped around the whole 10 acres before looping out. At one end the corn wasn’t as tall, so you could see the hayrides off in the distance. I imagine this year getting the corn ready for the maze wasn’t that simple since the rain hasn’t been very giving this year.

Throughout the maze you have the option of participating in trivia, which if you complete enters you into a drawing. I imagine if you had kids this would be a fun way to keep them occupied as you walk through the maze. The trivia question was keeping in theme of the corn maze this year with Peanuts questions.

Wild Morning Glories has have been thriving this year. They took over my garden at home, and the one I grew in a pot got huge. It seems at the corn maze the Morning Glories were adding the same pop of color by growing up the corn stalks.

After the corn maze we walked over to the pumpkin patch. I’ve never been to a pumpkin patch, so it was a nice experience. I know technically pumpkins would be on their vines at pumpkin patches, but I think a lot of places are scared people would hurt themselves cutting a pumpkin from the vine since you need a knife.

Gigantic sunflowers lined the side of the pumpkin patch. I can’t say my sunflowers turned out looking like these at all this year. They were beautiful.

We ended the day by stopping by concessions, so I could order boiled peanuts to take back to eat. Have I mentioned I’m addicted to boiled peanuts?  I believe Denver Downs Farm’s corn maze runs from the last weekend in September to the last weekend in October, so be on the lookout for those dates if you are interested in attending that next year. They do have other events throughout the year from concerts to Christmas activities, so there will be plenty to attend if you want to visit the farm. I personally visited to also receive a stamp with the SC Agritourism Passport program, which they are on. They didn’t have the smiley stamp, so I instead received a cool pumpkin stamp that was used to show you had paid to get in.