Visited October 10 – 14, 2016
Our four-month, 10,000-mile, Florida to Canada trip (since retiring in June), was winding down to just several days left before returning to Florida. From Murphy, NC, we headed south to the upstate region of South Carolina. Upstate is beautiful, with National Forests to the north and west in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains and a chain of three amazing lakes–Jocassee, Keowee, and Hartwell–that stretch through the region from the border of North Carolina into Georgia. They’re all like giant jigsaw puzzle pieces with curvy edges–peninsulas and coves surrounding beautiful water in lots of shades of blue.
We were visiting two sets of friends from our first park ranger job decades ago, so that added to our excitement and made for a great ending to this phase of our trip. We camped with Judy and Jim at Mile Creek Park on Lake Keowee, a gem of a park that they’d like to keep secret but I can’t not rave about (my use of a double negative equals a double positive in this case)! Every site is either right on the shore or overlooking it, with views of clear aqua water and tree-lined shores in every direction. Of course, there are housing developments going up around the lake as the secret gets out, but they didn’t spoil the view of this lovely area for us.
If you camp for less than a week, the sites are first come, first pick, so Judy and Jim arrived early in the morning to reserve the best ones, which they know to be the most coveted! Their generosity and hospitality knows no bounds because not only did they secure the best ones right on the shore, they gave us the BEST of the best and paid for it. They also had a gourmet grilled chicken salad lunch, prepared by Chef Jim, waiting for us when we rolled in a few hours after them. Do you see how we continue to be overwhelmed by the kindnesses of our friends and family across this country?! I’ll say it again–we are exceedingly blessed!
We had the best time catching up and camping together, enjoying our mutual love of God and His Creation. We had great campfires, walks in the park, and sightseeing drives. They have a vintage “canned ham” travel trailer, as Judy calls it, which they have skillfully and creatively restored. From their home in nearby Anderson SC, they have done a lot of camping excursions in this region and know it well. They took us down a dead-end road that ended up being an access point to a hiking trail leading to an amazing waterfall! We tried to go up another mountain trail by car, leading to a great lookout point, but it turned out to be a heart-stopping (for me), steep, off-road trek through soft and rocky and pot-holed terrain that our Corolla just isn’t built for! Tom “never-say-die” Linley was spinning our wheels determined to press on, but I “don’t-want-to-die” Linley requested (okay, begged) him to turn back. Even though we didn’t make it to the top, we created vivid memories getting halfway up! 😉 Another day, we went to their favorite spot on nearby Lake Jocassee and it was warm enough for Tom and Judy to go swimming. Judy was pleased to break her record for latest calendar date swim—mid-October! 🙂
Tom and I drove to Greenville, less than an hour away, to meet our other friends Mike and Dana for dinner. They treated us to a fabulous meal at the swanky Green Room on Main Street in the heart of the downtown district. We didn’t want our evening with them to end, so afterward we strolled down to the end of lively Main Street to Greenville’s famous Falls Park, with it’s awesome Reedy Falls and Liberty Bridge. These are must-sees in Greenville! And Mike and Dana were even more important must-sees for us!
The next morning, we bid farewell to Jim and Judy and Mile Creek Park so we could make it to Columbia in time for lunch with our sister-in-law and nephew. After a great local deli lunch, there was time for them to get a tour of our rig and visit for a while before we continued south. A passing-through visit isn’t our first choice, but sometimes it’s our only choice and so worth it to see our family!
Our last night before crossing back into Florida was spent in Brunswick, GA, in a Walmart parking lot! Yep, Walmart, and no, we didn’t break down–we intentionally planned the overnighter to experience “dry” camping with no hookups, just our own battery power. We’ve heard about the Walmart camping option from many RVers, and been asked by others if we’ve ever done it, so we wanted to see for ourselves. It was interesting, I’ll say that. We pulled in late afternoon and checked in with the store manager who couldn’t have been nicer. He told us which section of the lot we should park in. We were early arrivals so we got our pick of spots. Things to keep in mind about Walmarts—they are usually on busy highways (noise factor) and have stadium lighting in their lots (brightness factor, all night long!). But there’s good security, too, with lots of cameras and a guard driving around. A downside for us was that night happened to be when their lawn maintenance crew was at work, even well past dark running their mowers, edgers and blowers, yikes! Then, in the middle of the night we were awakened by a slow beeping alarm in the RV, not piercing, but it had to be dealt with. Tom figured it must be the rig/house batteries draining out, so he cut the power to everything in the rig. This was fine because we weren’t using a/c or heat anyway and didn’t need power for anything else while we slept. This was a good test for our battery system, which we found needed replacing and beefing up. We haven’t done any “dry” camping since, but we are prepared now and ready for the next phase of our trip to the wild west and Alaska!