Monday, August 29, 2011

Visit to Oconee Station State Historic Site.

02 Front sign

Click here to return to Keowee-Toxaway SNA

While you’re camped at Keowee-Toxaway State Natural Area, be sure to take a half-day or so to visit Oconee Station State Historic Site. It’s only about fifteen miles from the Park, and you’ll get to drive at least thirteen of those miles on the Cherokee Highway, aka Route 11. The two miles or so of secondary roads from Route 11 to the Site are even more picturesque.

13 Oconee Station mapHere’s a map of the Site, courtesy of the informative website. Oconee Station opens its gates daily from April 1st to November 30th. And from Friday through Sunday the rest of the year. If you’re not able to visit on a Saturday or Sunday, when the buildings are open from 1PM to 5PM, it’s best to call ahead to make sure someone will be around.

05 oconee town historic markerFolks have been living in this part of Oconee County, South Carolina, for quite some time. No wonder, given the beautiful scenery! Well, before this ever was “Oconee Station,” it was “Aconnee,” or the Cherokee “Lower Town,” according to the historic marker you see in the picture above. Click the photo for a more legible image. The Cherokee abandoned that town in 1755 or so. I don’t know when it was first established. Will have to ask.

So, how did “Aconnee” become Oconee Station? That’s an interesting story. You’ll have to dig a little to find it, though, since like most of the history of this part of South Carolina, customary sources are pretty thin.

Land-hungry Northern European settlers began filtering into the region following the Revolutionary War, a migration that understandably irritated American Indian tribes that had occupied the region for some time. The American Indian lifestyle required large tracts of unsettled land to support their traditional methods of hunting and fishing. Some violent interaction between the American Indians and the American Northern Europeans was inevitable.

01 trading postSouth Carolina’s State Militia, in response, built a series of small forts, or “stations” along what was then the frontier to protect those Northern European immigrants as they occupied land throughout the region. Oconee Station, pictured above, was one of those “stations.” Begun in 1792 it served its military purpose until 1799.

09 rear view of fort trading postAs you see in photos above, these stations were little more than blockhouses into which soldiers and settlers could crowd when necessary. Nothing like the more elaborate military installation at Fort Prince George, down the river a bit.

07 fort wallBut they have been wonderfully restored and maintained. Look at that wall!

10 fort wall closeupAnd here’s a close-up of the stonework on the other side. That gray mortar you see above looks as if it was part of the restoration process. But I’m not sure. Those have to be original stones, though.

By the mid-1700s, this essentially military installation had become a trading post. A focus of commerce in this region with the American Indians. William Richards made a good living here with this trading post and a brickyard. More on that in a moment.

You can read more about this station, or fort, in an interesting 1989 manuscript by Frederick C. Holder with a click here. And the Wikipedia entry for Oconee Station State Historic Site is here. Just click. For more detail, you’ll have to dig around for yourself. Don’t expect too much help from the traditional South Carolina historical sources. They seem to me a bit thin on this part of the State.

06 fort and houseJust steps from the Oconee Station sits the house Mr. Richards built in 1805. It too has been carefully restored. At least on the outside. Failing to call ahead, I wasn’t able to see what it looks like on the inside.

12 side of houseThis house has to be solid as a rock, though, since it was used as a residence until well into the 20th century. Click the photo above for a good view of one side of the house, including the chimney.

11 brick patioNow, brick lasts! At least, lasts longer than wood in this climate. Here you see the remains of what must have been a brick patio area in front of the porch. Holder mentions in his 1989 manuscript that Richards also operated a brickyard here. So be sure to take a good look at these bricks when you visit.

Here’s a short video on the site that I took during my visit.

Stay tuned, since we have one more side-trip to make from Keowee-Toxaway State Park. A nearby museum. The World of Energy.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Return to Keowee-Toxaway State Park, South Carolina.

11 Front Sign

Table of Contents

Keowee-Toxaway has to be one of the nicest RV camping Parks in the South Carolina State Park system. Built on the shore of Lake Keowee around 1970, if memory serves, with generous help from the Duke Power Company that controls the Lake.

You begin to enjoy Keowee-Toxaway well before you arrive. Since travel there from most any part of the State, or from other states, for that matter, takes the visitor over some of South Carolina’s most beautiful roadways.

For example, Route 11, also known as the Cherokee Highway. This road is well worth driving just for the scenery. So once you’re unhooked at your campsite, you may want to go back out the gate and drive ten or twenty miles in one direction on Route 11, and then ten or twenty miles in the opposite direction. It’s worth the gasoline, even at today’s prices! You see a small piece of Route 11 in the photo at the top of the page. It runs right through the Park.

12 Campsite 4 PanoNow, Keowee-Toxaway has only ten RV campsites. In addition to the tent sites just down the hill. Here you see Site # 4, a pull-through at the top of the ridge.

03 mapDid I mention that these ten campsites all have been carved into the side of a steep ridge. This mountainous terrain gives each site an inviting character. And they’re all nice and level, once you get there! Here’s an effort to reproduce the campground map that’s handed out to visitors, with site # 4 indicated by the red arrow. If you click for a larger image you’ll see the lines indicating elevation.

02 Looking toward lakeOnce you’re set up this is the sort of view you’ll have from your picnic table or RV window. Here you’re looking toward Lake Keowee from Site # 4. Leaves on the trees at this time of year block the view of the lake, but it’s there. I’ll try to remember to take another photo from here during the winter, when the leaves have fallen. Quite a sight. A good excuse to come back.

05 picnic shelter and museumThe Park Office was on the other side of Route 11 when the Park was built. Part of the impressive Cherokee Museum complex over there. In the building you see on the left of the photo above.

07 Office former churchBut now it’s in the this interesting structure across the road. Just down the hill from the RV campsites. As you may have guessed, it’s an old church building, moved from its nearby site and renovated here. I didn’t get a chance to see inside this trip, but recall the Park had plans to create a museum area inside. One that would include many of the Cherokee-related pieces formerly displayed across the road and now in storage.

06 new parking lotSoon, the office area, and more important, the trailhead just behind the office, will have a new parking lot. Look at this new construction! I suspect that Duke Power kicked in some support funding here.

08 Canoe-Kayak Boat Ramp ConstructionAnd speaking of construction, even more significant, at least for an ElderKayaker like me, is this new canoe-kayak boat ramp! Look at that! Complete with its own parking area. When completed this will be an ideal place to put in and take out. Parking available just steps away from the water.

10 CabinWell, time to get back outside to better enjoy this beautiful Park. But before signing off, just a word about Keowee-Toxaway’s cabin. They have only one. And it stays rented most of the year. So, be sure to reserve early. Right on the shore of Lake Keowee, with its own private dock. Oh my.

I didn’t get to look inside this trip. But according to a Park staff member, this cabin has three bedrooms, and sleeping facilities for ten people. You can find more detailed information with a click here. It’s not cheap. But if you have any reluctant, or campophobic, family members, this might well persuade them to come out and enjoy the woods and water.

Stay tuned next for a visit to Oconee Station State Historic Site, just a few miles away Click here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

CarolinaConsidered Visits Laura’s Tea Room in Ridgeway, South Carolina. Part Six, the Conclusion.

Click here to return to Part One of this series and the Table of Contents.

Street Sign

By now, Carol was about out of time. She didn’t say a word about it, but I could tell by the looks on the faces of the staff that she was needed. This is a Busy place!

Before letting her go, I had to ask about the Tea Room’s clientele. Where do all of these people come from? Well, as you might expect, Columbia, Charlotte, and Charleston patrons account for a goodly number.

vert price signBut since Carol and her husband advertise in national tea magazines, people driving through South Carolina from all over the United States, and even Canada, stop for tea, and for a look at the building.

Outside buildingEven more impressive, Ridgeway residents too frequently drop in for lunch and a chat. Especially since Carol added the deli area downstairs and the deli menu. I met several Ridgeway residents during two visits, and found them very proud of “their” Tearoom. Oh, and don’t forget travelers who just pass by and see the WiFi sign!

Thanks again, Carol, for your time, and for creating this wonderful institution in Ridgeway, South Carolina.

CarolinaConsidered Visits Laura’s Tea Room in Ridgeway, South Carolina. Part Five

Click here to return to Part One of this series and the table of contents.

table for five

In this interview segment Carol Allen describes what one can expect when they visit to Tea Room to participate in High Tea.

select your hatThe term “participate” is hardly out of place here. It’s a ceremony! Complete with costume, if you wish. See the ladies’ hats available above. Of course, you don’t have to “participate.” You can just attend to enjoy the incredible food and tea. Carol and her Mother, as well as the rest of the staff, take food preparation and presentation very seriously here. And it shows. Have a listen:

Click here for Part Six, the Conclusion, of this interview.

CarolinaConsidered Visits Laura’s Tea Room in Ridgeway, South Carolina. Part Four

Click here for Part One of this series and the table of contents.

laura photo

In an earlier segment of this interview I mentioned that Laura’s Tea Room serves “high tea” between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays. And, as the Tea Room’s website notes, “reservations are strongly recommended.”

more hatsStrongly recommended indeed! If you plan to have high tea during your visit you’d better call ahead. This Tea Room has become popular with folks all over the Carolinas. Not just Columbia and Charlotte. It’s busy! And many of the visitors hope to enjoy Carol Allen’s version of “high tea.” Served, for the sake of customers’ convenience not in the early evening but during lunchtime.

carol allen 2In this segment of the interview, Carol describes the “high tea” experience, the Tea Room staff, and the role of her Mother. Who does all of the baking and kitchen supervision every day. At 90, Carol’s Mother has had plenty of experience. And it shows in the product. You won’t leave hungry, that’s for sure. In fact, “stuffed” is how Carol jokingly describes it. Have a listen:

Click here for Part Five of this series.

CarolinaConsidered Visits Laura’s Tea Room in Ridgeway, South Carolina. Part Three

Click here to return to Part One of this series and the table of contents.

shelf ladder

The Thomas Company building has been a Ridgeway landmark since it replaced the “old building” in the late 19th century. In this segment of the interview, Mrs. Allen tells us how owner, Lee Thomas, employed local contractors and craftsmen for a combination renovation and restoration.

upstairs tea room 1It was an ambitious project, requiring nearly two years. And the effort shows. When you visit be sure to wander around, upstairs and downstairs, paying attention to details such as the original pressed tin ceiling, the beautiful hardwood floors, and the original “mercantile” shelving that has been preserved.

Click here for Part Four of this series.

Friday, August 19, 2011

CarolinaConsidered Visits Laura’s Tea Room in Ridgeway, South Carolina. Part Two

Click here to return to Part One of this series and the table of contents.

thomas company frontIf you click for a larger image of the picture above you can read “The Thomas Co.” up over the awning. It’s still called The Thomas Company, and Laura’s Tea Room proprietor, Mrs. Allen, explains why in the next segment of her interview.

original pressed tin ceilingWhen you visit, be sure to note just how carefully this building has been restored and maintained. Here’s a shot of the original pressed tin ceiling, and what appears to be some of the original, albeit latter-day, electrical wiring. The restoration alone makes a visit worthwhile.

Click here for Part Three of this series.

CarolinaConsidered Visits Laura’s Tea Room in Ridgeway, South Carolina

Programs in This Series

building front with road signsLaura’s Tea Room in Ridgeway, South Carolina, is something! A be-sure-not-to-miss institution. Driving through Ridgeway on Route 21, the way folks used to go between Columbia and Charlotte, it’s impossible to miss. Right on the corner where Route 34 intersects Route 21, as you can see in the photo above. The site of the town’s only traffic light!

I discovered Laura’s Tea Room a few years ago, not long after it opened, while camping at Lake Wateree State Park. Internet access, and even cell phone service, is notoriously sketchy at that beautiful Park. It’s improved some in recent years, but still can be a problem. Anyway, I drove out of the Park in search of a WiFi connection. The town of Winnsboro has many, but I hoped for something closer.

Outside buildingImagine my surprise while driving through the charming little town of Ridgeway to see a sign in front of an inviting storefront advertising the availability of WiFi. Well! I had to stop. What luck!

Laura’s tea room is open Tuesday through Saturday, with tea served 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The new deli serves between 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. And the gift shop is open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. A complex schedule. But you’ll see why when you visit. Click here to access the website.

Returning earlier this year, back in May, I was lucky enough to catch Proprietor Carol Allen for an interview. Mrs. Allen works! So it wasn’t easy to find a time. Have a listen to the first segment of our chat with her, in which she introduces herself and her interesting business.

You can view the video in the small window above, or click it for an expanded view. And be sure to click below to access Part Two of this interview.

Click here to access Part Two of this series

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Calhoun Falls State Recreation Area: A Return Visit

Main Sign Calhoun Falls

[Click any photo for a larger image]

With temperatures routinely rising about 100 in Columbia, it was time to plan camping trips to cooler climes. Oconee State Park, up in the mountains, seemed a good bet. And it was a little cooler. A little, but not much.

Calhoun Falls State Recreation Area too seemed a good bet, located as it is on a peninsula jutting out into Lake Hartwell. Well, I arrived here on Sunday afternoon. And by Monday this was the situation:

temp outside inside

That 107 outside reading was in the shade, now. Thank heaven for a reliable air conditioner. Even on medium temperature and low fan it keeps the Aliner comfortable.

Main Gate Cal FallsStill, even with outside temperatures like this, Calhoun Falls State Recreation Area is a great place to visit. This has to be rated one of the very best, if not the best, South Carolina state park for RV camping in the whole system.

campsite 28 panoAccording to Park personnel, the Corps of Engineers built this Park and campgrounds for the State system. Compared with the South Carolina state park system, the Corps has piles of money. Which may explain why Calhoun Falls has such beautiful RV campsites.

Click on the photo above to see site # 28, the one I reserved for this trip. Beautifully situated, smoothly paved, well designed, and as private as it could be made and still have lakeshore access. Yet, compared with the other RV campsites here, it’s nothing special. They all are at least as nice as this one.

Fish Cleaning Station aI first visited Calhoun Falls State Recreation Area toward the end of March last year, if memory serves. [click highlighted links for related material] Park Manager David Drake then was in the midst of building a state-of-the-art fish cleaning station, out behind the office building. Well, David and a crew of workers, since this fish cleaning station includes ample rinse water, huge grinders [required because Lake Hartwell fish grow so large, doncha know …] and even its own septic tank system.

Click on the photo above to see the result. It didn’t take long for a smiling fisherman to come by with with a nice-sized fish he caught just casting off the bank of his campsite. Not large, for Lake Hartwell, but ideal for a nice meal for two.

Fish Clean Sign 1I asked several Park personnel if visitors were using this new facility. They all said it gets a lot of use. That some folks living nearby even pay the Park’s $2.00 admission fee just to come in to clean their fish!

Most important, it has reduced fish cleaning debris in the area of the boat ramps, and in the trash dumpster areas throughout the Park’s three campgrounds. Fish cleaning residue dumped there in the past attracted flies, bees, and inevitably generated an unpleasant odor around the dumpsters. See the sign above that discourages disposal in the trash dumpsters.

Marina panoLake Hartwell is a big lake that provides diverse habitat for fish. That makes it a favorite location for those fishing tournaments we sometimes see on television. It’s hard not to catch fish in Lake Hartwell. Even from the banks of the Park’s campsites! So, some method of coping with fish cleaning debris was essential.

Smores FlagWhile wandering around the Park Office area yesterday, I came across this little sign. S’mores! An established favorite of campers throughout the country. Trouble is, we often forget to bring the “fixins.” Don’t worry. The store at Calhoun Falls has S’mores kits in abundance! They sell very well here. Undoubtedly encouraged by this sign.

office area panoSo, be sure to add Calhoun Falls State Recreation Area to your RV camping agenda. There’s something here for every age group. You can’t avoid having a great time.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Visit to Split Creek Goat Dairy Farm in Anderson, South Carolina

janie with goats 2Next time you visit Upstate South Carolina save time to visit Anderson’s celebrated Split Creek Farm.

Split Creek is a Grade A Goat Dairy owned and operated since the 1980s by Evin Evans and Patricia Bell. Visit their website by clicking here. There you’ll find a description of the farm, and links to all sorts of information about dairy goats.

farm viewNow, don’t be misled by the fancy website and sophisticated advertising. This is a real working farm. D’GenuWine, as we used to say OverHome! Here, the lucky visitor will see what’s actually involved in the production of milk and other dairy products. A rare opportunity these days. 

work areaVisitors are welcomed at Split Creek from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Monday through Saturday, and from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM on Sundays. I mention this because it helps to make the point that farm life is pretty much a 24/7 responsibility. Animals don’t take weekends off, or go on vacation. And they expect their owners to provide feed, water, and care on their schedule.

Patricia Bell LecturingSpeaking of visitation, I urge you to call ahead to arrange a lecture and tour. During my first visit, I was able to join a tour led by co-owner Patricia Bell. She’s forgotten more about goats than I’ll ever be able to learn. And, she has the enviable skill of presenting her knowledge so that folks like me can understand. A lecture and tour will help you make sense of what you’ll see here at Split Creek Farm. 

the hen housePat Bell, by the way, also is Folk Artist in Residence. See her work with a click here. Be sure to visit “The Hen House,” pictured above, to see examples of her intriguing pieces first-hand.

A visit to Split Creek Farm really begins as soon as you make the turn and pass through the gate. Drive slowly, now. All sorts of domesticated, wild, and semi-wild animals call this magical 40-acre plot of land home. And not all of them accept the primacy of automobiles on their property. Even on the roads. So be on the look-out.

janie and dogLook to the right to see the milking herd and their Great Pyrenees canine guardians in the pasture. Preparing for their next milking. It’s a calming sight, somehow. Helps to put the cares of daily life into perspective. At least for me. Then on down the narrow lane to the parking area. It’s that grassy area on the left, I guess.

ribbonsThere you’ll begin your walk about the farm. You’re free to wander around as you wish. Just don’t open any gates. Be sure to visit the barn and store. I never knew goat cheese and fudge was so good. As you see above, Split Creek regularly wins national-level awards for the products from their dairy.

GulliverIf you’re lucky you may meet Gulliver, a four-year-old pet buck, or more properly, wether, who seems to have free run of the farm. Gulliver is very friendly and considerate of visitors. He seems to love the attention.

goat 1And be sure during your visit to take note all of the different kinds of goats at Split Creek Farm. The milking herd is mostly Nubian, if memory serves.

goat 2But every imaginable breed seems to be represented.

goat 3goat 4Here are a few examples. All adult does, or “nannies,” as most of us would call them.

goat kid 5If you visit during the right time of year you also may get to see kids. This one Pat’s holding above was only a few days old at the time of my first visit. Oh my.

signSo, there’s something for everyone at Split Creek Dairy Goat Farm in Anderson, South Carolina. I’ve been twice, the second time, as you see above, with granddaughter Janie. And I hope to make several more return visits. Enjoy!