Tag Archive | walks

Head of Tide 2022

After finishing our exploration of the Stover preserve on December 11th, our adventure continued at the Head of Tide preserve across the street. Since the two preserves were so close together, we walked down the road a short way to the trailhead. The trail map showed two loops, each one about a mile long. For this excursion, we decided to investigate the blue loop, which would take us towards the river.

From the kiosk, a path ran through a field. Judging from the remains of the summer vegetation, I assumed the vegetation could get quite high during the growing season. At the end of the field, a small bridge crossed over a wet area. In that small pond were some interesting ice crystals poking up from the ice. On closer examination, I discovered that the ice crystals were clinging to grass that was poking through the frozen pond. These amazing gifts of nature were quite beautiful, so we took some time admiring the artwork.

Not far from the bridge, we found the two loops. The red loop went off to our right into the woods. The blue trail went straight. On the blue trail we walked briefly through a small wooded section, before the trees gave way to a field. Here, there were tall sticker bushes on either side of the trail. This was a bit problematic, since there were a few tiny ice skating rinks that we had to avoid. During these evasive maneuvers, we came very close to those stickers.

Just past the field, there was an intersection indicating that straight would head towards the red loop while a left turn would keep us on the blue trail. We turned left and entered the woods. Eventually, the path ran adjacent to the river. I spotted some ice in this section of the stream, but unfortunately we were on a ridge and it was quite wooded here so I could not get a good look at the water. A little further along, I found a bench overlooking the river. It was located in a beautiful section of evergreens facing the water, but as you can see the trees blocked the view a bit. Still, it looked like a wonderful place to sit and contemplate the gifts of nature.

From this point there was a small downhill section and I continued looking for a way to get closer to the river. When we reached a bridge crossing over a ravine, I looked right and noticed a trail heading towards the water. At last, we found a way to get close to this interesting aqueduct! We spent a few minutes watching the rapids and just listening to the music of the flowing water. I found it very peaceful but my friend thought it was a bit loud. Still, I found it refreshing.

Returning to the bridge, we crossed over the ravine. The trail was uphill from here, until we reached the meadow leading back to the beginning of the loop. Soon, we were back at the kiosk and making our way back to the car. Although very cold, it felt good to be out. As my friend put it, “we got a chance to recycle the air in our lungs.” Indeed!

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Sunrise Hike on Beech Hill

I had been wanting to do a sunrise hike for quite some time, but the problem with hiking up a hill to watch the sun come up is getting out of bed at some ungodly hour in order to enjoy the show. Heading up our favorite mountain for this event, means getting to the trailhead at least an hour and a half ahead a time. Knowing that it takes us at least an hour to reach the summit and we really need to be up there 30 minutes before the sun is actually visible. That means for an October sunrise time of 6:30, we have to be at the trailhead no later than 5. No thanks! So I need to either find a shorter hill to climb or make this trip closer to the shortest day of the year.

Eureka! I push my husband for a hike the day before the winter solstice, when sunrise is at 7:07. We will call it a Solstice celebration, where we can say goodbye to the short, dark days of winter and watch for the lengthening of days. To make this journey even easier, I suggest we walk up Beech Hill which is at most a 25 minute walk. This means we can get to the preserve by 6:15 and be at the top of the hill in plenty of time to enjoy the pre-show.

As we drive towards Beech Hill, I notice that the moon is not that far above the horizon. Perhaps, because it is not that far from the sun’s location, there is a brightness about the crescent moon, enough for me to see a shadowy outline of the entire sphere. It seems magical!

We arrive at the trailhead by 6:10. As we make our way along the path, we discover that the trail is completely covered in hard-packed snow that is more like ice. Not realizing that it was the time of year to keep the micro-spikes in the car, we need to make our way cautiously up the hill without them. The journey is also bitter cold and very windy. I did not count on this either. Despite all this, we reach our destination in 20 minutes.

Once we reach the summit, we seek the shelter of the hut located there. It is not open, but the porch of the building blocks the wind a bit. The sky is just beginning to show some color and I notice that the moon is about 45 degrees above the horizon. I pull off my mittens to take some pictures of the moon greeting the sunrise, and by the time I put my mittens back on my fingers hurt from the cold.

As we watch the sky get lighter, we realize that there are quite a few clouds along the horizon. This is not going to be the best sunrise we witness, but I take it in stride and decide that the clouds will be my focus today. Early on, I notice three separate layers of cloud; a smooth layer, a layer of wispy clouds beneath this and finally a layer of clouds with fluffy tops. I risk getting frostbite to get some pictures.

Finally, the sun sends a yellow-orange greeting above the cloud cover. A new day has arrived. We contemplate the new day, close to the Winter Solstice and a New Year, and wonder what new adventures and experience we will meet in the coming year.

Happy New Year to all!

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.

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.

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.