By morning, we still had no idea what we were going to do. We had been entertaining several ideas: visiting another National Park, going for a short hike, or taking a day trip to Myrtle Beach (which had been suggested earlier in the week).
Having left our swimwear at home, we quickly abandoned the idea of going to the beach. Instead, we went back and forth, discussing the other two options. Mary and I were leaning towards visiting either Cowpens National Battlefield or King's Mountain National Military Park, both of which are located in the northern part of the state, near the North Carolina border. John, on the other hand, had been flipping through every South Carolina trail guide he could find, looking for a suitable hike for us to do.
Suddenly, he piped up. "Here's a hike we should try: Parsons Mountain. It's a bit of a drive - near Abbeville - and the trailhead is in a campground. It's about five miles and goes to the top of Parsons Mountain, but it's only about four hundred feet up..."
"Really?" I said. I thought for sure he was joking with me. "Parsons Mountain? Seriously?"
He wasn't joking. "Why? What's wrong with Parsons Mountain?"
"You don't remember? 'Closed for the season'?"
Apparently, he didn't make the connection that we had attempted to hike the Parsons Mountain Trail two years ago, during our last trip to South Carolina. We had driven all the way the Abbeville, only to find that the campground, in which the trailhead was located, was still closed for the season.
"That was the same trail?" he asked, incredulously. "Are you sure?"
How could I not be sure? "Do you want me to pull up Naked in the Woods?"
Rather than take the risk of driving all the way to Abbeville, only to find the campground closed again, we finally decided to go with the Mary's suggestion: visiting another National Park. Now that she had her new National Park Kid's Passport book, she couldn't wait to jot down notes in the journal, to obtain more ranger autographs, and to earn more Junior Ranger badges. Seeing her enthusiasm for the National Parks made us realize that maybe we should do something that Mary wanted to do.
That said, we decided to go to Cowpens National Battlefield, located in Chesnee, SC. Cowpens was once the site of a major Revolutionary War battle, in which Daniel Morgan - "Old Waggoner" - demonstrated a military tactic, known as a double envelopment, on the British Army, led by Banastre Tarleton. The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, which marks the route of the Patriots as they followed the British during the Revolutionary War, cuts through the middle of Cowpens National Battlefield. This trail is also governed by the National Park Service and lies in four states: Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina; it ends at King's Mountain National Military Park, where the Patriots succeeded in routing the British in the Battle of King's Mountain.
To get to Cowpens, we took I-26 west, to I-85, then exited at the town of Chesnee. Along the way, to break up the monotony of the long, two-hour drive, we stopped to do some geocaching. We were very close to achieving a milestone 600 finds - we were up to 594, so we only needed six more. We managed to get two of those six finds on the way there; we would have to try for the other four on the way back.
We arrived at Cowpens National Battlefield around 10:00 a.m. and immediately went into the visitor's center to see what there was to do at the park - and, so that Mary could get the ranger's autograph. The ranger handed us a map and showed us the one-mile Battlefield Trail, which circles the pasture where the battle took place; there are signs along the way, explaining the different events that took place during the Battle of the Cowpens. He also pointed out Green River Road, which cuts through the middle of the park. Green River Road is a one-mile section of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail; the ranger explained that they have a special prize for children who hike the whole trail, gate-to-gate: a medal, for following in the footsteps of the Patriots. Mary was excited to have the chance to earn a medal AND a junior ranger badge; we were excited that we were going to get a hike in after all!
Junior Ranger book in hand, Mary and John and I set on the Battlefield Trail, towards Green River Road. As we walked, Mary opened up her book to the first activity - Nature Bingo - and tried to find as many of the squares as she could. She found several right away; and then John and I started placing bets on which other ones she would find along the way. We were certain that she would find squirrels and rabbits; we had serious doubts that she would see wild turkeys, though, but that was based on our own experience with wild turkeys, in Arizona.
When we reached Green River Road, we turned left and walked the five hundred feet to the first gate: the beginning of the trail. We then immediately turned around and started hiking back down the road.
Although the hike was only one mile, it would take us nearly one hour to accomplish it, mainly because we stopped several times along the way to read the educational signs and to work on Mary's junior ranger book. Most of the questions that she had to answer in the book corresponded to the signs posted on the battlefield. For example, the book asked, "What was the average height of a soldier in the 1780's?" I thought, "How in the heck is she going to know that?" But lo and behold, there was a display on the battlefield that had a life-sized cut-out of a Patriot soldier - five-feet, six-inches tall - along with footprints set in concrete!
There was another activity in the book that encouraged us to visit the Robert Scruggs House, located near the end of the Green River Road. The historic house was built by Robert Scruggs in 1828, about fifty year after the Battle of the Cowpens. His father had given him the land - about 200 acres - after he married Catherine Connell. Scruggs and his wife raised eleven children in that small house, which still stands today. The park service maintains the house, to show what life was like during the Revolutionary War era.
As part of her Junior Ranger activities, Mary had to peek inside of the Scruggs House, to make comparisons between life today and life back then. She pointed out that there was no television, no sink (hence, no running water), and no stove - only a fireplace, in which there was a large, cast-iron pot. Instead of a lamp, there was a lantern hanging from the ceiling. She concluded that life must have been very difficult back then.
We lingered at the Robert Scruggs House for several minutes, while Mary worked on her Junior Ranger book; meanwhile, I wandered through the garden nearby, where there were several herbs growing in abundance: thyme, rosemary, sage, lavender, chamomile, and so on. Then, once Mary had completed the activities for the Scruggs House, we moved on, towards the end of the trail.
We reached the gate at the end of the Green River Road only a few minutes later. Just beyond the gate, on the other side of the access road, we found a sign for the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail and took Mary's picture next to it, as proof that we had hiked the entire trail, through the park. Then, we turned around and started our return hike to the visitor's center.
During our return hike, Mary continued to work on her Junior Ranger book, in hopes of finishing it before we reached the visitor's center. Along the way, she managed to cross off more items on the Nature Bingo page, including acorns and wildflowers. Much to our surprise, she was also able to cross off the wild turkeys! Just before we reached the junction with the Battlefield Trail, we came across eight wild turkeys, crossing the road in front of us. I don't think I've ever seen wild turkeys in broad daylight before; usually, in Arizona, we have only seem them at dusk. It was an amazing sight!
Instead of returning to the visitor's center via Green River Road, we decided to finish the Battlefield Trail Loop, to give Mary the opportunity to finish her Junior Ranger activity book. Many of the information that she needed to answer the questions in the book could be found on the signs that were posted along this portion of the trail; by the time we arrived at the building, she had almost all of the activities finished. All that remained was the scavenger hunt, which she could only do inside of the visitor's center.
As soon as Mary finished her Junior Ranger book, she went up to the ranger at the front desk to show him her work. She also told him that she had hiked the whole Green River Road. The ranger immediately awarded her with a shiny gold medal, in honor of completing the trail, and a Junior Ranger badge, for completing the activity book. The badge, of course, was a little plastic pin, much like the other badges she had already earned at several other National Parks; the medal, on the other hand, was not the cheap plastic trinket that we were expecting. It was a real medal, much like the medals she had earned during cheerleading competitions! She wore it proudly, too; she thought it was the coolest thing in the world!
We left Cowpens National Battlefield around noon and immediately drove into Chesnee to find a place to have lunch. Of course, being in small town South Carolina, we discovered that there weren't many options for lunch and ended up settling for Subway; after all of the rich food we had been eating on vacation, it was nice to have a light lunch!
After lunch, we started on our long drive back to Chapin; and along the way, we did some more geocaching, in an effort to find the last four caches that we needed to hit that milestone 600 finds. We found three of the four caches right away, within an hour; they were all easy finds, located right off of the highway. The fourth one - number 600 - was much more difficult to find; it was in a wooded area, near a church. The trees caused the GPS signal to bounce all over the place, and that made it hard to pinpoint the exact location of the cache. In the end, it was John who finally made the grab; he was the one to get the honor of our 600th find.
We arrived in Chapin just before 4:00 p.m. On the way to the lake house, we stopped at the Food Lion to pick up supplies for happy hour; Lotte and Richard and their dogs - Rhonda and Wanda - were coming to the lake house to have drinks and snacks with us. In fact, they were already at the lake house when we arrived - late - shortly after 4:00.
After a lovely day at Cowpens National Battlefield, it was nice to just sit on the dock, under the warm sunshine, and relax with a beer and some snacks. While we talked with Lotte and Richard to discuss our plans for the last two days of our vacation, Mary played on the dock - and on the neighbor's dock - with the two puppies. Although Rhonda and Wanda are very rambunctious dogs, they got along very well with Mary, following her everywhere she went. She threw sticks out on the lake for them to fetch; they retrieved them, then soaked Mary as they shook the water from their fur. Mary loved playing with them; I thought for sure she was going to ask us for a puppy after spending the afternoon with them! (Thank goodness she didn't; one rambunctious cat is enough for me to handle!)
Once all of the snacks were gone and dinnertime rolled around, John suggested that we all take a drive into Chapin, to have dinner at Zorba's. Dinner that night was on the company's dollar; John had been given permission to pay for dinner out at his company's expense, due to the long hours that he and his staff had been putting in lately. He had intended to do dinner at a nicer restaurant; but since we weren't really dressed for anyplace nicer, it ended up being Zorba's.
After dinner, we said good night to Lotte and Richard and returned to the lake house to turn in for the night. We retired early that night, as we wanted to get an early start in the morning...
Return to Another Spring Break in the South.
Return to Naked in the Woods.
|This site maintained by John and Heather Verley, © 2001-2010.|