Our winter trip of 2020-21 commenced on Day Three of a four-day ice “event” in much of Virginia, and of course, especially along the ridges of the Blue Ridge in Southwest VA. It was not a storm, exactly, but a slow accumulation of freezing-overnight precipitation that made getting Roomba (our Alto camper) out of the garage slightly tricky.
With Yak Traks™, Jack was able to use the hand trolly to get it out and situated so we could hitch up, and as it turned out, we didn’t have any trouble hauling out of the driveway (all uphill and around one significant curve).
But with the weather forecast for moderately mild overnight temperatures (in the higher-twenties to mid-thirties, with daytimes in the forties, we made the leap to the sunny south on December 18. Mischief and Chase accompanied us, and I’d earlier in the week dropped Flash off for Marc to falcon-sit while I was gone. We’d also drained the water pipes in the house and artfully arranged a few electric-based heaters around the house.
It was about a 4-5 hour drive to our first destination, Lake Wateree State Park, near Winnsboro, South Carolina, where we met up with camping buddies, John and Mary. We were in site #7, in their Riverside loop, and J&M were next door.
It was chilly, but a significant amount nicer than in Meadows of Dan. We enjoyed some good walks around the camping loop, and one nice stroll into the woodsy Nature Trail on the property, which the doggies enjoyed as well.
Even though Wateree was a layover en route to our main destination, it was a place we’d return to—but not in summer. Fishing and motor boats are big around the lake, and I’d bet the insects and humidity in summer would peel your skin. Jack and I didn’t even take down the bikes from the rack, even though we were looking forward to some good flatland cycling.
Lake Wateree State Park is 238 acres around the Lake. It was opened in 1984 and has always been popular. There are 72 camp sites in the River Campground, 14 of which are waterfront. There’s a park store as well.
The lake itself is 13,700 acres, with about 242 miles of shoreline. It is fed from the Catawba-Wateree River system, many of the waters of which originate in North Carolina. The dam impounding the lake was completed in 1920, and is 3,380 ft. long.
On Sunday, December 20 we moved to Edisto State Park (SC) into site 114 of the Live Oak loop (not the Beach loop). We had a lovely view across the marshland, and watched mud daubing birds work the mud flats at the back of our site. We were able to arrange Roomba to face the sunset over the marsh, so our back was to the loop road.
The bath house is a large pavilion-style structure with a wrap-around porch you climb 4 steps to attain, and the rectangle is divided along its entire length with men’s on one length and women’s on the other, and access to both at each end. The staff keep the bathhouse very clean and disinfected, and masks are not only required, but (for the most part) are actually worn by the majority of the people using the facilities.
J&M were next door in site 113, and their friends, Gary and Diane (in a Airstream Base Camp) set up across from them. There are quite a lot of nice sites in this loop, which everyone “disses” because it’s not beachside. Frankly, as long as you don’t get one of the sites that back up to Rt. 174, where there is lots of road noise, these sites are well-separated from each other, many are quite nicely deep and away from the loop road, and beautifully shady with towering live oaks and palmetto palms to keep things private. At least at this time of year, it was a very quiet and “mature” group staying.
There are, however, feral cats and raccoons in residence. And thousands of squirrels, making the dogs a bit crazy. On the nights we sat outside in the evening, the squirrels, desperate to stock up before nightfall, just pelted acorns and live oak “shrapnel” on our heads. Happily, they went away by nightfall.
On Monday December 21, we all grouped our solo stoves at our site to be sure to watch what was to be seen of the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. This was to happen on the Solstice this year for the first time in 800+ years. Even though we were not standing on the planet at the point where the two most visibly conjoined, we were able to see the two in the sky, right beside one another. So although we didn’t get the “Christmas Star” effect, it was pretty awesome.
We had a “shared” meal with everyone having cooked for themselves, but everyone tasting of one another’s offerings. Gary and Diane had done shrimp two ways (sautéed over their propane stove, and roasted over the solo stove), John had made hassleback potatoes in his dutch oven, and I fixed our “famous” chicken pot pie in our DO. It was a splendid kickoff for our week’s stay at Edisto.
The next day (Dec. 22) we got the bikes down and explored the trail system at our end of the park. The paths are pounded sand, and where there are marsh crossings, they’ve built boardwalks. Bikes are allowed on all of the trails, and they all interconnect. Some turned out to be muddier and more root-ridden than others, but overall, it’s a great system for both cycling and walking, of which we did both.
At the end of the longest trail, called Spanish Mound, we saw this “egret condo” where a hand full of birds were roosted as the evening descended.
At that end of the area is a deep water “river” for larger boat access to the Atlantic Ocean.
One of my first (of many) walks was down the Cabin Road—it is not frequented by walkers nor vehicles (the sign says Cabin Guests only beyond this sign, but I went anyway) and is long enough to be worth the effort: about 1.5 miles round trip. One of the mapped trails crosses the Cabin Rd., starting at one end off the Spanish Mound tr., and ending on Rt. 174 near the causeway, which allows vehicles (and walkers) to cross the marsh and get into Edisto proper.
At the end of the Cabin Road, there’s a sign that says “no pets in cabin area” so I turned the dogs around at that point on my first walk. Adding the cabin loop on a bike ride might add a quarter to a third of a mile onto the total “stop at the no pets” sign total above.
The next day Jack and I cycled the trails, ending up at the Learning Center, which was still open at 3:30 PM. We did not go in, however, as it was getting cool and dark and we didn’t know how long it would take us to get back, since we wanted to explore a couple more of the mapped trails.
When one of the trails terminated at Rt. 174, we just took the road the short way back to the Park entrance. Riding along Rt. 174 is not terrible, as there’s a narrow bike lane on both sides of the road. Even riding along the causeway isn’t too bad—but again, in the summer it is probably much more hectic/busy (along with being sooooo much hotter). In the end, we’d enjoyed a leisurely 5+ mile cycle.
On Christmas Eve, the whole gang of us rode bikes into Edisto proper, and through the beach loop of the state park, which frankly, we all felt we could live without.
With the exception of two or three sites at this beach loop, all are chock-a-block cheek-to-jowl with one another, exposed in full sun like the “ball field” effect we found at Kiptopeke (near Asseteague Island, VA).
But you really can’t beat the proximity to the beach and to shopping that campers there enjoy. Still, I really prefer our Live Oak loop.
Gary and Diane introduced us to a nice community path that goes through a quiet neighborhood, where a couple of folks had set up “birdhouse art” displays along their edges of the path.
Once we ran out of the neighborhood path, we cycled back up the main, four-lane road, where we hoped to meet up with Mary and John, who had separated from us, but no luck. The four of us decided to find some lunch, and fried seafood was on offer at a place called McCrory’s that had outdoors dining. But we took our meals away and crossed the road to the little park and ate in shade and comfort without all the strangers around. While it was a decent meal, it was expensive—maybe not any more expensive than normal for a resort/vacation town like Edisto, but man. I’m not certain my fried shrimp lived up to the $25 price tag.
On Christmas Day, we had to batten down the hatches for squalls we could see coming. “Running before the wind,” we all took a walk on the beach to exercise the doggies off-leash: allowed in most places along that four-lane, which offers plenty of public parking and beach-access points.
And then the storm arrived.
And we enjoyed another beautiful sunset over the marsh.
The 26th was beautiful and clear, with blue skies you could see forever. Still breezy on the beach, we took the dogs back out and ran Mischief with the ChuckIt for a while.
Saw many water birds in the still-choppy surf.
On our last day, we all walked the trails again and we actually saw a dolphin swimming around near that huge home on the deepwater near the trails. I couldn’t capture a photo of it, surfacing occasionally but moving steadily toward big water. That was fun.
Before we leave Edisto, I want to mention a great little fresh produce and more stand called George & Pink’s. There’s a sign for it on 174, and you’re directed down a narrow dirt road that might put off a first-timer. But not us. We carried on and found a great group of fresh produce and got excellent cantaloupe, tomatoes, and some other stuff, including “low country grits” ground locally. There were other items besides produce there, and it was an excellent visit hosted by a friendly lady who might have been Pink herself, but we didn’t ask.
The opposite direction on 174 was our fave for the acquisition of fresh seafood, right up near the road with a food truck that was closed for the season out back. Can’t remember the name of it, but if you see it a built-on, shack-like place with tight parking, that’s it. Beautiful fresh seafood.
Moving day, when we headed to Huntington Beach, was December 28. Had to cross a very cool bridge en route, and Mischief had a pleasant snooze in the back seat.