After spending Saturday exploring Greenville, we decided to spend our second and last full day of Labor Day weekend checking out some other sites in the Travelers Rest area. As I mentioned in my review of the Travelers Rest KOA, we had four different state parks to choose from within 30 minutes of the campground: Jones Gap, Caesars Head, Paris Mountain, and Table Rock. We looked into all of them and finally opted for Table Rock because the Carrick Creek Trail sounded like an ideal hike for us.
We spend a lot of time at Georgia State Parks, which are well reputed and generally of great quality; I don’t know if Table Rock is a good representation of South Carolina State Parks, but we were impressed with what we saw. First we went to the Visitor Center to get oriented.
We love a good three dimensional map in a visitor center:
And you absolutely can’t go wrong with a Civilian Conservation Corps exhibit:
There were some lovely views just outside:
Then we drove farther into the park to the nature center where our trail started, stopping on the way to check out the views of Table Rock itself:
And to pay the admission fee. We’re always a little taken aback when we go to non Georgia state parks and have to pay by the person instead of by the car. In Georgia, you pay $5 per car. At Table Rock, the fee is $5 each for adults and $3 for kids 6-15.
Then we parked by the nature center and started our hike. With all three dogs in tow. It was a busy day, with tons of people and dogs on the trails, and it reminded me that we really need to work on getting the terriers to stop barking already when they see other dogs (and squirrels. But that might be asking too much). I overheard one guy muttering under his breath something about wishing our dogs would shut up, and I started to get offended, until I remembered that I really wish they would shut up, too. But after the hike they insisted on snuggling up together in the same crate for the ride back to the campground, so how mad can I be?
Anyway, the Carrick Creek Trail is a two mile hike with moderate elevation changes that takes you through the woods and past big boulders and little water features. Carrick Creek Falls is the biggest of the waterfalls, and it’s just a short ways from the nature center:
We went to the right to start our loop; in retrospect, we probably should have gone left. That would have given us a more gradual ascent and it would have put the more interesting stuff to stop and look at on the first half of the hike.
Abe was tired:
Someday, when Abe is (much) older, we’d love to go back and do the 3.5 mile each way hike all the way up to the Table Rock summit.
We went back to the campground for lunch and then headed out for our second destination of the day: The Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. I had no idea this place even existed, and it hadn’t come up in my initial “things to do near Greenville” research, probably because it’s actually over the state line in Flat Rock, NC. But only a little over 20 minutes from the campground! When I’m 20 minutes from an NPS site, I don’t pass up a chance to see it.
Carl Sandburg was in his mid 60’s when he and his wife, Lillian, bought the North Carolina farm called Connemara. But he would live more than 20 more years and write about a third of his published work there. When he died, Lillian donated the estate to the National Parks Service in hopes of preserving Sandburg’s legacy. I didn’t know a whole lot about Carl Sandburg (despite having a masters in English. The ranger who led our tour pointed out that that, while Sandburg was hugely popular during his lifetime, he’s lost his canonical status somewhat in the past few decades), so I made us all listen to some recordings I found of him reading his poetry online during the drive to Connemara. My children are remarkably receptive to such things; I feel proud that we’re raising such geeky kids.
A few logistical details:
*There’s very limited parking at the site, but there’s plenty of parking across the street at the Flat Rock Theater, that you’re welcome to use when there’s not an event going on.
*Admission to the site is free, but there’s a charge of $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, and free for kids under 16 to tour the home. When we were there, they were waiving the fee because…..
*The house is being renovated right now, so all the furnishings have been removed. They have photos displayed showing what everything normally looks like, and we definitely still felt the tour was interesting and worthwhile. That said, we’d love to go back sometime when everything’s back in place.
*There’s a short but fairly steep walk from the entrance and parking area up to the house. We did see people getting rides on shuttles, so inquire about that if someone in your group has mobility issues.
We started our visit in the Visitor center/gift shop located in the basement of the house. We picked up Junior Ranger books for Gus and Abe, tickets for the next house tour, and then watched a short video while we waited for the tour to start.
The guided tours are limited to 15 people. They start on the front porch, where there is a not so shabby view:
The house, as I mentioned, is empty right now, but we were able to get a good sense of what it’s like. When everything’s in there, it’s just as it was when Sandburg died in the late 60’s. It’s a very approachable, casual house with bookshelves everywhere you look. I would totally live there. I’m not sure what’s going on with Gus in this picture, but behind him you can see the crate that’s there to protect a piano:
This gives you an idea of how they have things set up while restoration work is going on: a few things left out, like this typewriter, and then photos so you can see how things normally look:
I would like to note an important milestone in our family that happened on this trip: Abe stayed reasonably calm and well behaved for an entire age-inappropriate tour! Look how proud Dave looks:
This light fixture caught my attention as sort of representative of the decorating style, such as it is, of the house as a whole. This is a sort of cool art deco-esque light fixture, right? Fluorescent bulbs aside, I would totally hang this in my house. But then it’s all….broken, with the glass missing, and up against those cruddy ceiling tiles, because, I gather, the Sandburgs were too busy reading stuff off all their bookshelves to worry about that kind of thing:
Once you finish the house tour, you get to go see goats. Lillian Sandburg raised a herd of apparently really awesome, prize winning goats and their descendants live on the site today. Right now you’re probably thinking to yourself, “goats?! Why would I even bother to see anything else here instead of just heading straight for the goats?! Are there BABY goats?”
And you’re right. The goats are the best part. And there ARE baby goats.
I’ve never met any prize winning goats before, but I have to say, these were the nicest, chillest goats I’ve ever encountered. I know that’s not what they won prizes for, but that’s why I would give them prizes. You get to just go right in and hang out with the goats for as long as you want.
After we visited with the goats for a good long while, Gus and Abe finished up their junior ranger books:
And turned them back in at the visitor center (where we also bought some goat milk fudge):
And with that our fabulous Labor Day trip comes to an end.
We’ve had a remarkably hard time getting away since then. We keep planning trips, and things keep popping up to thwart our plans. Right now we have a quick weekend getaway planned right before Thanksgiving, but I’m worried I’ll jinx it if I believe it will actually happen.
But! We have an exciting post-Christmas trip planned and another great one for spring break, and we’re hoping that spring will be much better for weekends away as well.
In the meantime, I’m going to dig back in to the summer trip and get the last few installments about it posted soon!