Edwin M Griffin Preserve

Leaving the Hatcher Garden Preserve, we made a brief stop in downtown Spartanburg and walked the length of Maine Street for a bit before searching for our next destination. With just one minor glitch, we found one of the parking areas for the Edwin M. Griffin Preserve hidden within a residential district.

The Edwin Griffin Preserve was a 115-acre nature area just minutes from the downtown area. The primary trail was the Cottonwood Trail which looked like it ran through the center of the park. There was about 5 miles of trails to explore, most of them branching off from the Cottonwood Trail.

Once out of the car, we studied the maze of trails on the posted trail map in order to come up with a plan. Since we still had to make our way to Charlotte before the end of the day, we decided on a short loop by following a section of the Cottonwood Trail to our right, looping around the Loblolly Trail and back to the Cottonwood Trail to return to our starting point.

The Cottonwood Trail was a lovely, wooded path that ran next to Lawson’s Fork Creek, so almost our entire walk was within sight of water. We found some plants that we knew since they were also abundant in Maine, including Christmas Ferns, Goldenrods and Asters. Others, we were familiar with but seemed to grow in abundance around here, including English Ivy and Holly. In fact, the Ivy covered most of the trees in many of the parks we had visited. I also spotted some tiny white flowers (pictured here) all along the trail, which I identified as Mexican Clover. Every few minutes we would smell something sweet, so we finally decided to trace the source and discovered tiny white flowers on the trees lining the path. When I investigated later, I narrowed it down to either a Thorny or Autumn Olive.

A short while later, we could see a school and parking area through the trees. We had reached the end of the Cottonwood Trail and turned on to the Loblolly Trail to make our return journey. At the entrance, we found a bench and finished off the cheese and crackers we had bought the day before. While we enjoyed our lunch, I studied an intriguing butterfly sculpture nearby. Since the light was reflecting through the butterflies, some of the colors were illuminated, particularly parts of the blue butterfly and a small orange portion of the upper one. This lighting certainly added to the artwork.

After finishing our lunch, we continued our drive towards Charlotte. Early the next morning we were heading back to Maine.

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Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve

On Monday, October 3rd, we left the inn in Greenville, South Carolina in order to make our way to the hotel near the Charlotte Airport. Since our flight was on Tuesday morning, I had already investigated things to do in Charlotte but during my research I got the feeling that the city layout was a bit confusing and busy. This inspired me to come up with another plan for the day. Continuing my research, I discovered a few things to do in the city of Spartanburg, about 40 minutes outside of Greenville.

First up was a tiny, little gem called the Hatcher Garden and Woodland Preserve. This preserve was created by Josephine and Harold Hatcher over 50 years ago, when they created a sanctuary in their backyard. What began as a garden on 3 acres of land, expanded to about 13 acres by the time the preserve was donated to the Spartanburg County Foundation. I must say they packed a lot into those 13 acres.

At the entrance were two interesting sculptures, one of a rather large caterpillar resting on the top of a fence. He did take up one side of the fence, so I was justified in saying that it was large. The second sculpture was the butterfly shown above.

From here, we began our exploration on a perimeter trail through the garden. After finishing the perimeter loop, we made another circle on the inner loop.  I think the layout of the garden is what made it so charming. There seemed to be a maze of trails throughout the sanctuary. The perimeter loop was paved and now I could not remember if inner loop trail was paved or packed dirt.

The maze of paths within the woods seemed like suggestions, inviting people to explore.  There were numerous benches in these wild areas where visitors could contemplate the streams and waterfalls throughout the park. All the bridges looked brand new, which added to the beauty of the place. There were also a few gazebos and a deck overlooking the stream. In some areas, we found little free libraries so people could sit in nature and enjoy a book. To me, it doesn’t get any better than that!

The only unfortunate thing was that we were visiting this garden after the flowering season was over. On the preserve website, I saw over 100 plants and flowers listed over the four seasons. I would have loved to see the butterfly garden when it was in bloom. We spent over 45 minutes exploring the various sections of the garden. Without a map, I don’t know if we hit everything there was to see, but during the flowering season I know I would have spent more than an hour here.

Paris Mountain State Park

On Sunday October 2nd we decided to meet up with our daughter at Paris Mountain State Park. We met up at the first parking lot after the entrance to the park, near Lake Placid. While we were waiting for our daughter to arrive, I studied an interesting bridge with stone columns, apparently a civilian conservation corps project from the 1930s.

Since this was our first visit to this park, we let our daughter lead the way. The first part of our hike was the Lake Placid Loop. At the far end of the loop was a dam and a pretty wooden bridge. The stone dam was built in 1898 by the Paris Mountain Water Company and was originally known as Reservoir #2. We visited the first dam at Mountain Lake, later in our journey. After we crossed the bridge, this far side of the loop had better views of the lake. As my daughter and husband walked ahead of me, I became distracted by something on a fallen tree in the water. I had to call them back to that spot to show them the large (for me anyway) black snake sunning itself on the tree.

Once we finished the loop, my daughter directed us to another trail. I believe it was the Mountain Creek Trail. We passed through the amphitheater where concerts were held throughout the year. In fact, we were supposed to have attended a concert the day before, but with the Hurricane coming through those plans were cancelled. There were a few uphill sections where I lagged far behind the others but they eventually paused and waited for me to catch up.

The Mountain Creek Trail ended at the Sulphur Springs parking area. We walked a little way into the woods and paused to study a small creek near the trail. Nearby, I found an interesting yellow flower which I thought might be some form of Hawkweed, but later identification pinned it as a Maryland Golden Aster. Later I would discover that the little red flowers shown here were part of a Strawberry Bush.

Pretty soon, our journey took us past some sort of gazebo in the middle of the woods. From the gazebo, I could see a spider web in the trees occupied by a huge yellow and black spider. They sure made them big here in South Carolina. The lighting wasn’t right for me to get a photo, so unfortunately, I was unable to identify it.

Continuing up the Sulphur Spring Trail (the hikers only section), we soon made it to the Mountain Lake dam. This dam and valve house was built around 1890 by the Paris Mountain Water Company. While my husband examined the valve house and walked up the steps towards the reservoir, I decided to stay on level ground and watched the water flowing down to the ravine below.

We decided that this was as far as we wanted to go and made our way back towards the parking area. Since we were leaving Greenville the next day, we said our goodbyes to our daughter and wished her well, before heading back to town.

Clemson Botanical Gardens

Since Greenville was in the northwest corner of South Caroline, the remnants of Hurricane Ian did not strike hard. During our museum day, most of the day was very windy but not horrible. The rains did not come until late afternoon and overnight. Perfect! Everything was bright and sunny by Saturday, October 1st. It was such a beautiful day, we decided to make our way to the Clemson Botanical Gardens. It was an excellent choice!

As we approached Clemson University, we saw hundreds of cars parked in the university lots and grassy areas; all in preparation for the big game that was on that evening. The parking lot for the visitor’s center of the Botanical Gardens, however, was absolutely empty. It appeared that we would have the entire place to ourselves.

Behind the visitor’s center, there was a lovely little garden with black-eyed Susans still holding on at the end of the season. Along the brick wall, there were benches inviting visitors to sit and stay awhile. At this point, since the gardens were so large, we decided to concentrate on the Natural Heritage Garden trail, but first, we passed through the Jurassic and Desert gardens near the visitor’s center. The Jurassic Garden contained typical large leaved plants that we have all seen in pictures, so we covered this area pretty quickly. We did spend more time in the Desert Garden trying to identify some of the plants, particularly this purple Leavenworth’s Eryngo.

Finished with our explorations of these gardens, we crossed the street to the Natural Heritage Garden Trail. This path ran down the center of the Botanical Garden and consisted of 11 South Carolina ecosystems through time, featuring plants that were native to the area.  Along our walk, there were informative signs describing the geological history and the various plants of that system.

Our journey began with the Coastal Shell Ring, complete with examples of shell middens, and the Longleaf Pine Savanna. What surprised us in the savanna were the pine trees. Having grown up near Pine Barrens near the ocean, I was used to the scrubby short-needled trees growing near the sea. Here, the needles of these pines were at least 12 inches long!

We also spent a great deal of time in the Carnivorous Plant habitat. I believe we found at least 3 different types of Pitcher plants, including the Green Pitcher Plant shown here. It is not exactly green here, but perhaps it was the end of the season. According to the Clemson website, there were over 25 species of carnivorous plants native to the Carolinas. Following this section, we found ourselves entering the Piedmont, which was described as consisting of granite. Having come from Maine where we see huge granite boulders and ledges every day, we found the granite outcrops exhibited in this area “cute”.

The remainder of the habitats were located in the forests. Although there were a variety of trails we could have explored here, we stayed on the Heritage Trail and continued to work our way through the descriptions of the habitats. The forested area was very pretty and well maintained. Eventually, we finished up at the Hunt Cabin. While my husband read about the history of this cabin, I studied a series of small waterfalls nearby. There was still so much to see, but we decided to return to the visitor’s center and leave Clemson before the big game was underway. The Botanical Gardens would definitely be on our list for a return visit.

Falls Park on the Reedy

Leaving the Quarry Garden, we soon found ourselves back on a section of the miles long Swamp Rabbit Trail, heading towards the Falls Park on the Reedy.  In the past two hours we had meandered through a series of connected parks, all near the downtown area of Greenville. We had started our journey at the northern end of Cleveland Park, meandered south for a detour of the Fernwood Nature Trail, followed the trail along the Reedy River towards the southwestern end of Cleveland Park with a brief detour to Quarry Park, then back on the path to head west through the Cancer Survivors Park to the Falls Park on Reedy.

The trail system was well laid out, taking us under bridges instead of forcing walkers to cross busy roads. Once we passed, the Cancer Survivors Park and were officially on the Reedy park system, we did find a detour of the Swamp Rabbit Trail due to erosion. To our eyes, it looked like the erosion had been caused by new buildings at the top of a large hill. In any case the detour was fairly easy to follow. Shortly after entering the Falls Park, we had an excellent view of Liberty Bridge with the falls and the downtown area in the background.

There were a few different paths to follow through the park and it really depended on how much we wanted to pack in during this visit. Rather than take the steps down to an arboretum, which I believed was called Little Falls Park, we stayed on the higher elevation. I think at this point, we were not only getting hungry but also a little tired, and did not relish the idea of climbing down some steep looking steps.

At some point, we crossed a bridge that took us closer to some business. But first, before lunch, there was one more stop I wanted to see. At the far end of the park, near University Street there was a Chihuly sculpture. Alas, when we found the artwork, all the glass had been removed, our guess was that this was done due to the approaching hurricane. Disappointed, I looked across the street and found a promising BBQ place for lunch. Approaching 1 pm, it was time to rest our feet for a bit.

After lunch, we found another entry to the Reedy Falls from Main Street. This trail gave us a better view of the bridge and the falls. It was pretty clear why this was such a popular spot. We did not cross Liberty Bridge, but perhaps on our next visit we will.

After enjoying a bit of time near the falls, we made our way up Main Street. At the top of Main Street, we turned east towards the inn. That ½ mile walk my husband thought we were taking turned out to be 6 miles in over 4 hours. Back at the inn we laid out our itinerary for the next day when Hurricane Ian would be passing through. It would be a good day to visit the museums in the area.