Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Visit to Barnwell State Park, South Carolina. Part Five: Lunch at Miller’s Bread-Basket in Blackville

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Park personnel are a good source of advice on nearby restaurants. Usually they have a favorite, where the food is good, the service prompt, and the prices reasonable,

At Barnwell State Park, that place is Miller’s Bread-Basket, just up the road in Blackville. I was able to eat there only once during my visit, but hope to be back in the near future. Here’s a short video on Miller’s to whet your appetites:

Another excellent reason to return to Barnwell State Park in the near future.

Thanks again to Park Manager Eddy Richburg and all the staff at Barnwell. You folks run a wonderful Park.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Visit to Barnwell State Park, South Carolina. Part Four: Interview with Park Manager Eddy Richburg

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er 01Barnwell State Park certainly is a beautiful chunk of South Carolina’s Barnwell County. But for Park visitors it’s much more than that. It’s also a collection of CCC-designed and built facilities. From its lakes, to its picnic shelters, to its playgrounds, to its charming park office and flanking bath houses.

But most important, I think, is its friendly, helpful, and welcoming staff. I’ve been able to meet each of the full-time staff members. And found them all as described above: friendly, helpful, and welcoming. You may recall how two of them, well after dark, came by to help me set up the Aliner on site # 15. Without being asked. They just showed up and helped! Only one example.

We all know that this doesn’t just happen. Especially in not-for-profit organizations. Personnel at any institution, large or small, take their behavioral cues from the individual in charge. In this case, the Park Manager.

er 02Therefore, having met the rest of the staff, Park Manager Eddy Richburg’s winning personality came as no surprise. Mr. Richburg is a delight to meet.

He’s well known throughout the Park Service. Several Park System interview subjects over the past year have advised me that Barnwell’s Eddy Richburg would do a great interview.

Well, that’s just how it worked out. I hope his friendly, helpful, welcoming approach to Park and personnel management comes through in this program.

ClickToListenWe began, as usual, with a question about Mr. Richburg’s background. It’s a great story. Mr. Richburg was born in Columbia, but raised in North, South Carolina. “Out in the country,” as he put it. There, he spent much of his time out-of-doors. Fortunately, his parents were campers. They often took Eddy as a youngster to camp at South Carolina’s state parks. In sum, an ideal background for a career in the Park Service. For any career, as far as that goes!

er 03We then turned to Mr. Richburg’s Park System service. Be sure to click on the “listen-to” button below to hear him describe that career. Eddy found his first Park Service job at the age of nineteen at Santee State Park. You may recall our visit there in March of this year. [Click on the link above for a refresher.]

ClickToListenThe only job available at Santee was part-time, in the tackle shop. But Mr. Richburg, even at 19, saw it as the beginning of a Park Service career. There he worked for Park Manager Phil Gaines, now the director of the whole Park System, which made for a good start.

After Santee, Mr. Richburg worked at Aiken, Huntington Beach, Hickory Knob, Lake Warren, Sesquicentennial, and Table Rock, before achieving his current Park Manager position at Barnwell a little over a year ago.

Listening to Mr. Richburg describe these very different Parks gives us an excellent introduction to the South Carolina Park System as a whole. From ocean to mountains to Sandhills to Low Country. You mustn’t miss it.

ClickToListenMr. Richburg was most eager to talk about his Park. So we moved to that topic next. I asked him to give a general description of the Park. Without hesitation he replied, “beautiful and quiet.” And that really sums it up. He then elaborated on the “beautiful” part.

woods 01I’ve been puzzled by the appearance of the wooded areas of this Park since arriving on Friday. Mr. Richburg explained that this is one of the few areas in the Low Country or Sandhills area where hardwoods dominate. Rather than the pine forest we usually find. There are pine trees here. But they tend to be very large, mature trees. It makes a difference that’s very noticeable during a walk along the nature trail. Or as one looks out the RV windows while parked in the campground.

sign 01I asked about the frequent sign posts providing names for trees and shrubs. These, Mr. Richburg said, were done by local Boy Scout troops, and groups of students from local schools. A tangible indication of the excellent relationship the Park maintains with its surrounding community. Mr. Richburg is blessed with the sort of personality that makes such interaction possible. He’s a “people person,” in the best sense of that phrase.

ClickToListenWell. “Beautiful and quiet.” Does that mean there’s really nothing to do here? Not a bit of it. Beginning with camping facilities. Mr. Richburg notes the availability of 50-amp electrical service and sewer hookups on eight of the RV campsites: 18-25. Those of you familiar with State Park RV sites will realize how rare that is.

er 04But visiting Barnwell isn’t like going on vacation. The Park, according to Mr. Richburg, has “more of a home feel” than commercial vacation spots. The convenience and interests of the visitors comes first here. Boat rentals are a good example. Many folks visit this Park just for the opportunity to fish for those aforementioned lunkers in the lakes. Well, the Park allows overnight visitors to rent one of their boats for the whole stay, making it available day and night. Not every Park does that.

er 05At Mr. Richburg’s insistence, we did our interview in one of the five “rondette” cabins the park has for rent. These are beautiful facilities with all of the amenities. Even including 37-inch flat-screen television sets hooked up for satellite reception. He said, “You can sit inside and watch HBO, if you want to,” though he doesn’t recommend it.

Looking at the cabin’s amenities, I was surprised to hear the cost of cabin rental here: $148, all inclusive, for two weekend nights. That’s the year-round price. I mean! What a bargain. Were I not so attached to my Aliner, I’d give it a try.

ClickToListenTime was running short by now. Mr. Richburg was kind enough to come by for the interview on his day off. And I’d promised him it would take less than an hour. As usual, we were over time. But I had to ask a bit more about the campground. And then about the fishing.

Big FishNow, fishing is one of Mr. Richburg’s three passions. The other two, as he told us, are service as a park ranger and hunting. So, I thought he might be a good source of information about fishing these small lakes. Listen to his description. He knows what he’s talking about. He fishes here himself all the time. Six to ten pound bass? Oh my.

er 06Thanks again to Park Manager Eddy Richburg for his generous contribution of time – personal time! – and expertise. Listening to his description, I’m ready to return to Barnwell State Park at the earliest possible opportunity.

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Visit to Barnwell State Park, South Carolina. Part Three: A Walk on the Nature Trail

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01 trailA beautiful day today. Cool, but not cold, with just the right amount of sun. Ideal for a walk along Barnwell State Park’s nature trail.

So, camera around neck and camcorder in hand, off I went for a closer look at the woods here in Barnwell County. Click below for some video of the first half of the walk.

As you can see, this is a well maintained, comfortable trail. Designed, it seems, for those of us who aren’t quite as athletic or mobile as we once were. Much of it, in fact, would be fine for wheeled vehicles, as noted in the video.

02 trailThese plant and tree identification posts are nice to see along the trail. Some of the trees and plants here are quite common. But others aren’t. These signs help us to remember. Traveling the woods without a proper knowledge of the plant life is like visiting a foreign country without speaking the language. We miss a lot! 03 trailThey are simple enough, and inexpensive enough, to become a scout project, or a project for Park volunteers. Or so it seems to me. Now, really, would you have known this was “horse sugar”? I wouldn’t.

04 trailThis CCC-built picnic shelter, Shelter # 1, is in great shape. A fine example of the CCC’s work, beautifully preserved and ready for another few generations of Park visitors. 05 trail ccc bugEven if you’re not picnicking, be sure to stop for a closer look at this and the other CCC buildings here at Barnwell.

06 trail sol blatt centerThere’s much more to see here, including the Solomon Blatt Community Center. Quite a place, with facilities for fairly large conferences, and even barbeque cooking! And, of course the five “roundette” cabins. But you’ll just have to come for a visit to see it all. In the meantime, here’s some more video taken during the second half of the walk.

That’s all for now. But stay tuned, since tomorrow we’ll have an interview with Park Manager, Mr. Eddy Richburg. He’s a park manager’s park manager, well known throughout the Park System. It will be a pleasure to meet him.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Rivers Bridge State Historic Site, South Carolina. Interview with Park Manager, Mr. John White

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05 White

Today we meet Mr. John White, the newly appointed Park Manager and Interpretive Ranger at Rivers Bridge State Historic Site, South Carolina.

01 white interviewI first met Mr. White at Lake Wateree State Park, where he served for many years as a Park Ranger. Only a few years ago I learned of his training as an historian and archeologist, when he helped me plan a visit to pre-history American Indian mounds in the Southeastern United States.

ClickToListenAs usual, we began our conversation with details of Mr. White’s personal life. Quite a story! Click on this button to learn about his background. Graduate degrees in archeology are quite rare in the Park Service. And, just as relevant to Mr. White’s current position, is his long academic interest in military history.

02 white interviewWe then turned to Mr. White’s career in the Park Service, and the significance of Rivers Bridge State Historic Site. ClickToListenMr. White came to the Park Service as a frequent camper! At Lake Wateree State Park. Gradually working up to a regular ranger position.

03 white interview

ClickToListenWhen asked about Rivers Bridge State Historic Site, Mr. White gave his initial impressions of this remarkable place. Now, I’ve yet to meet a South Carolina Park Manager who didn’t think his or her Park was the most beautiful, and most important, in the Statewide system.

ClickToListenBut Mr. White here makes a good argument for his Park. An argument he supports with his rich knowledge of the Civil War, and especially Civil War battles. Including that fought at Rivers Bridge, near the very end of the War. He seems to know the name of most officers involved, on both sides, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Mr. White also described the flora and fauna of this beautiful part of South Carolina. 

04 WhiteIt really is a remarkably beautiful place. As we drove over to the battlefield site, ten or so wild turkeys paraded across the road, not far from the front of the car. Deer, fox squirrels, armadillos, and other animals are everyday sights on the Park.

ClickToListenI asked Mr. White about the part of South Carolina that surrounds Rivers Bridge. And, about the early American Indian sites in the area. Straight away he mentioned the nearby Topper Site, in Allendale County. Where he’s worked as a volunteer on Dr. Goodrich’s excavating teams over the years. 

ClickToListenTime was running short. I’d already taken much of Park Manager White’s Sunday. So we closed with his explanation of the opportunity to learn more about the Civil War here at one of the State’s very few preserved battlefield sites. Having just taken a tour under Mr. White’s direction, I can enthusiastically recommend it to you. Drop by for a visit the next time you’re anywhere near Rivers Bridge State Historic Site. You won’t be disappointed.

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Rivers Bridge State Historic Site, South Carolina. Site Tour with Park Manager John White

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01a RBSHSToday we have a treat. Newly appointed Rivers Bridge Park Manager, Mr. John White, has agreed to take us on a short informal video tour of his beautiful Park.

Now, given time constraints, and my limitations as a videographer, these three video clips represent only a small percentage of what you will see and learn here at Rivers Bridge when you visit.

Mr. White is a trained historian/archeologist with special interest in Civil War battles. So, it’s a real treat to be able to walk the Park with him today. You’re in for a special experience if he’s available to provide a tour when you visit the Site.

Here’s an example:


Somehow, Park Manager White has the ability to make the remains of these fortifications come alive as he describes the course of the battle. I could almost hear the shouts of soldiers and the crackle of small-arms fire as we walked the site.


This can be described without exaggeration as Living History. Mr. White manages to synthesize his many years of academic reading and research with direct observation of this site. And, as significant, to present the results of his work to visitors in a way that non-specialists like me can understand and appreciate. You just have to take one of his guided tours!


So, there you are. My videography skills remain below par, in spite of intensive self-study. But perhaps the quality of Mr. White’s interpretation of this remarkable site comes through in spite of that.


Stay tuned, now. Next we have an interview with Park Manager John White, during which he tells us of his career and training for this important post.

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Visit to Rivers Bridge State Historic Site, South Carolina. First Impressions


Table of Contents

South Carolina’s State Park System includes the preservation and interpretation of sites of historic significance as well as those of natural beauty. I don’t know much about this part of the Park System’s mission. But there are quite a few historic sites throughout the State. You may recall, for example, our visit to that remarkable Dorchester site some months back.

02 RBSHSWell, a stroke of luck made it possible for me to visit another of these historic sites while enjoying Barnwell State Park and its environs. An old friend from Lake Wateree State Park, Mr. John White, was recently transferred to Rivers Bridge as park manager and interpretive ranger.

You may recall mention of John White just prior to last year’s Southeast United States Indian Mound Tour. In addition to being a park ranger, John is a combination of historian and archeologist. [You’ll learn more about that during his interview.] John has forgotten more about American Indian pre-history than I’ll ever be able to read. He patiently provided me with all sorts of information and suggestions as I was planning that long trip.

And, I discovered during this visit, he’s also a long-time student of American military history, with emphasis on the battles of the Civil War. So, his assignment to Rivers Bridge State Historic Site is ideal. 

03 RBSHSThe Rivers Bridge site is about 25 miles from Barnwell State Park. A beautiful drive along those South Carolina secondary roads that I’m always raving about.

The closer one gets to Rivers Bridge, the more frequent the historic site markers become along the road. All sorts of things. But I was surprised by the number of very old church sites. Either the population in this area was much larger than I thought, or these were quite small congregations! Be sure to stop and have a look at a few of them.

04 RBSHSI’ve yet to meet a South Carolina Park Manager who wasn’t sincerely convinced that her or his Park was the most beautiful in the System. John White was no exception. He told me on the telephone that I would see the most beautiful Park in the South Carolina system when I visited. Well, no surprise there!

05 RBSHSBut visit Rivers Bridge when you’re in the area and you’ll see what he means. Not only is it an area of great historic significance. It really is a beautiful site. The sort of natural environment where human intervention has enhanced rather than distracted from the overall effect. Whoever laid out this Park knew what they were doing!


Still, this is an historic site. Perhaps because of that it has more than the usual number of these interpretive plaques throughout the area open to the public. They’re clearly written and informative. If Park Manager White or one of his colleagues isn’t available to guide your tour, you can do quite well on your own by following these plaques.

07 RBSHSAnother point worth mentioning about Rivers Bridge State Historic Site. The paths are clearly delineated, wide, and smooth. Ideal territory for those of us who aren’t quite as mobile as we once were. And easily accessible for wheeled conveyances.

08 RBSHSSo, add Rivers Bridge State Historic Site to your travel agenda in South Carolina. There’s plenty to see here. And to learn. Stay tuned, as Park Manager White takes us on a brief video tour of some of Rivers Bridge’s most important features.

Here’s a brief look at some more of what Rivers Bridge State Historic Site has to offer:


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Visit to Barnwell State Park, South Carolina. Part Two: The Campground

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campsite at barnwell

After checking in and chatting about the Park with a very helpful assistant park manager, I drove back over to set up the Aliner in the Campground.

Most, but not all, of South Carolina’s State Parks have RV camping facilities. These campgrounds vary widely in size and configuration. Some, like Calhoun Falls and Lake Wateree, have smooth concrete campsites. Others, like Barnwell here, have hard-packed earth and sand surfaces.

Barnwell bath houseBath house facilities too vary widely. Some quite old; some quite old but renovated; some quite new. Bath houses vary too in how well they are maintained. As you can see here, Barnwell State Park’s campground bath house is one of the older models. And the facilities inside are far from new.

Barnwell bath house inside 01However, I was surprised to discover how clean the shower areas and other facilities were. I mean! Not a speck of dust anywhere, even in the corners! That’s not easily accomplished with facilities this old. The condition of this bath house would have to please even Park Manager James Christie at Sadlers Creek!

I discovered the reason for the bath house’s cleanliness upon meeting the Camp Host. A lady about my age with strong beliefs about the importance of cleanliness, and the determination to Uphold Standards.

Barnwell campsite 04Speaking of the Camp Host, it was quite dark by the time I finally got around to setting up the Aliner on Site # 15. Although it was a nice pull-through site, I had some difficulty getting things arranged. Before long, the Camp Host aforementioned, and the Park Ranger on duty, were at my site, offering help. Two very competent ladies. Don’t know what I’d have done without them. Just another example of the welcome visitors receive here at Barnwell State Park.

Barnwell campsite 05A couple more points concerning this campground. As you may be able to see in the photo above, each of the 25 campsites is surrounded by beautiful woods. More on the woods at this Park in a moment. But the CCC folks who originally laid out these sites certainly had this in mind as they did their work.

The result of all this is that RV camping at Barnwell State Park is a delight. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and hope to return in the near future. There’s just too much to see and do here for only one five-day visit! 

Barnwell campsite 03Oh. One other important point. Sites 18 through 25 at Barnwell offer 50-amp electrical connections. You folks who travel with large motorhomes will be pleased to hear that. In addition, according to the Reserve America reservation site, sites 18, 22, 23, and 25 even have sewer connections.

Fifty-amp electrical service and sewer hookups are quite unusual within the South Carolina State Park system. Watch for it as you make your reservations. Now, the usual 30-amp service is fine for the Aliner, and I don’t need a sewer connection. But owners of larger motorhomes will be pleased.

So, there you have it. Another delightful place to RV camp in South Carolina. Stay tuned, next we’ll take a walk along the Park’s nature trail.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Visit to Barnwell State Park, South Carolina. Drive Over and First Impressions.

Barnwell Main SignTable of Contents

Barnwell State Park is another of the State’s sixteen or so Civilian Conservation Corps-built Parks.

CCC Sign at OfficeLocated in historic Barnwell County, the Park was created in the late 1930s, and has been popular with the people of Barnwell and its surrounds ever since. This is my first visit to Barnwell State Park, so I knew next to nothing about it before this trip. 

As always, click these photos to access larger images.

Map to BarnwellThe Park is less than 70 miles from home in Columbia. Between Blackville and Barnwell, on Route 3. It’s a pleasant drive, along interesting secondary roads. Through towns, large and small. And across the beautiful flat farmland that characterizes this part of the State. Huge flat fields, much of it devoted to cotton. Those fields, their hedgerows, and the gigantic farm machines required to work them, are a sight to behold.

main gateThe Park’s main entrance, set back a bit from the edge of Route 3, is easy to miss if you’re not careful. The traditional big brown sign is on the left-hand side of the road. So, keep an eye out as you drive from Blackville to Barnwell.

First impressions are important, and Barnwell State Park’s elegantly simple entrance makes a fine first impression. Ryan Gyles PlaqueAs you can see above, it’s marked by four white pillars, complete with a plaque in honor of Dr. Ryan A Gyles, a mayor of Blackville and State Legislator. Dr. Giles was a driving force behind creation of this Park. Good to see his work remembered in this way.

Drive along the Park road that winds past neat, attractive Park Staff residences and through the woods to the shore of this small lake.

Barnwell SP Office Area  (10)

There you’ll find the small Park office, flanked on either side by bath houses. Office Building CloseOne for men; one for women. No longer used as bath houses, of course. Rear View Office Bath HousesBut preserved as examples of the CCC’s work at this Park.

LakeThis small lake is deceiving. It’s one of three on the Park. And, according to Park personnel and visitors alike, it’s full of fish! Everyone I talked with confirmed this story.

Big FishApparently, I wasn’t the first Park visitor who doubted the fish stories. So, they’ve mounted a bulletin board on the rear of the office building where they encourage fishermen to leave photos of their prize catches. Well, these lunkers came from somewhere. Must have been from the lake!

I no longer fish. But this Park looks like another “gem” in the system. Here’s a brief video taken just after arrival:

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