This round of the vagabond life, I’m trying to stay longer in places. Move less, drive less, relax more. The first few stays were 2-4 nights, just getting up to the mountains without rushing it. With this stop, I’m officially in the mountains, on the southern edge of the Blue Ridge mountains. Hard up against the border between South and North Carolina, I’m staying at popular Table Rock State Park.
The campground has an lower loop open to anyone and an upper loop, where the sign warns against big rigs. Some people know their limits, and others drive their school bus right up that narrow road and make it into a spot. Some clever (and not so clever) backing up is required if you’re longer than 28 feet and want to get into a spot on the upper loop and make the narrow, winding turns. No problem with my 17-foot Alto, though!
My stay was in two different campsites since I reserved late enough beggars couldn’t be choosers. I lucked out with my first spot, a pull-through (no backing!) that was one of the more private sites in the campground. I ended up trading a few nights at the other spot for a few more nights here since someone had canceled out at the last minute.
Being back in the mountains means thunderstorms in the afternoon or evening. It can be blue skies and white puffy clouds at 10AM but by 5 or 6PM, the sky grew darker and then the clouds opened up on us. One afternoon, I was reorganizing stuff in the back of the pickup and noticed the light disappearing. I heard what I thought was wind coming from over the ridge towards me and started for the trailer. The sound made its way through the trees, slowly enough I stopped and looked up the mountain at it. Just before it got to me, I realized that sound was rain, not wind! I’d never heard rain sweeping through a forest before. It was a magical moment!
There’s a lot to do at Table Rock, from rented kayaks at the little lake nearest the campground to a boat launch for us “bring your own” kayakers across Highway 11. Lake Oolenoy had a gentle breeze and a backwater to explore, where I surprised a blue heron who then surprised me. Hereons are skittish things and I never manage to get a good shot of them. So just imaging a big blue bird taking flight about 20 feet away in the photo below, and that’s what happened.
Trails abound, from short strolls to day-long ventures up Table Mountain or along the Palmetto Trail. There were no bear warning signs, either at check-in or at the trailheads, in case you worry about that sort of thing.
My favorite trail was the two-mile CCC Lakeside Loop, which winds around Carrick Creek, past a concrete dam with a waterfall on the other side of it, and opens out into some beautiful water vistas, including one of Table Mountain. There are even benches along the way so you can sit and enjoy the views.
This was my last stop in South Carolina for a long while, and my fellow campers made it a memorable one. They were mostly locals from the looks of the license plates so they knew about the daily, pelting rain. Almost every tent sported some kind of tarp over it. Blue, red, yellow or white, tarps were creatively strung from trees, truck beds, and poles. The people next to me in two tents didn’t have tarps at all. After heavy rainfall throughout the night, they were gone when I looked out at 6AM.
Because of the humidity, box fans were a popular item to cool off people as they sat in front of their campfires. Yes, campfires. It might have been over 80F every afternoon, but South Carolina people apparently believe it’s not camping without a fire. I’ve noticed this at most of the SC parks I’ve visited. I can’t figure out if this campfire thing is genetic or it’s a mandatory lesson in schools to get ‘em while they’re young.
Table Rock State Park (South Carolina State Parks)
- Sites 40 and 32. One of the most unlevel set of sites I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something. Throw the 2×4 chunks in the back, you’ll need them to level out the trailer here. While you’re at it, you might as well throw in a box fan or two if it’s summertime 🙂
- Services: electric, water, dump station, bath houses, laundry machines (free!) at the camp store
- Cell service: Verizon (very weak, but hotspot-doable), ATT (nada)
- Groceries: Ingles and Walmart down in Pickens, about a 15 minute drive one-way.
- Boat launch across the highway
Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.