Let the adventure begin at majestic Table Rock State Park (Greenville weekend fun outdoor activities)

So much to see, so much to do at Table Rock State Park the undisputed jewel of the South Carolina mountains. The park is at the edge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment off of scenic highway 11, relative short drive from Greenville and little over an hour drive from Charlotte. Table Rock Visitors Center photo Table Rock mountain has a spectacular granite outcropping which at 3124 feet is a stark contrast to the heavily wooded forests below.

The first white men moved in the Oolenoy Valley soon after the Cherokee treaty at a place called Pumpkintown. In 1840 the Keith and Sutherland families built a hotel that soon became a popular area attraction. A second hotel was built in 1899 at present White Oak Picnic Shelters site then moved in 1920 to Saluda Valley to become a summer lodge.

Things to know before you go at Table Rock and Caesar’s Head parks

1. Carrick Creek is the only recommended hiking trail for young kids at the Table Rock state park. It starts at the Nature Center and about 2 miles it takes an hour to complete. It weaves around Carrick Creek and rewards hikers with dozens of gorgeous, refreshing and easy accessible mini waterfalls. It gets better at the end (or beginning!) when you and your brave little ones can goof around at the swimming area.
Rock sliding Nature Center at Table Rock Park photo

Here are all Table Rock hiking trails. Hikers are encouraged to register at the trail head kiosk and be off trails at least one hour before sunset. No overnight camping on trails. Foothills Trail hikers need to purchase a parking permit at the Visitors Welcome Center.
• Pinnacle Mt. 8.4 miles 6-7 hours
• Table Rock 7.2 miles 5-6 hours
• Mill Creek 5.8 miles 5-6 hours
• Carrick Creek (kid friendly) 1.9 miles 1 hour
Hiking on Carrick Creek trail photo

2. There is a big playground near Pinnacle Lake with plenty of age appropriate equipment in a nicely shaded place. Beware of the geese wandering throughout the parking lot and the picnic area. They are mean, mean, mean and will harass you as soon as they sense the food. My 4 years old and I had to take refuge on top of the picnic table. No kidding! I finally braved to chase them away using some stick musketeer style.
Young kid on Carrick Creek trail photo

3. Caesar’s Head State Park has the “take it with you, no trace left behind” policy. There are no trash canes or restrooms along the park. The welcome center has restrooms and vending machines. I encourage you to replenish there and use the facilities.
Caesars Head overlook photo

4. The trail to Raven Cliff Falls from Caesar’s Head is about 5 miles long so plan ahead. If there is not much time left you can still enjoy incredible vistas of Campbell, Paris, Table Rock, Raven Cliff and Glassy mountains and the immaculate Table Rock reservoir (it supplies the city of Greenville with fresh water) at the Caesar’s Head overlook. From there you can hike the short and moderate Devil’s Kitchen trail. Caesar Head park photo
Be mindful this park is frequented by black bears.

5. If waterfall viewing “it’s on the menu” drive to Dupont Forest State Park (couple miles after crossing the NC border off of hwy 276; here are driving directions to and map of Hooker Falls Access Area). It provides easy hiking and quick access to some of North Carolina most beautiful waterfalls: Triple Falls, High Falls and Grassy Creek Falls. There is a $12 map you can purchase at Caesar’s Head welcome center. Here are some great Dupont Foreast park hike trails details, an interactive map and waterfall photos.

Table Rock Admission, Lodging and Rental Prices

Admission fee: $2 per person; $15 per bus; $1.25 SC senior citizen. Annual passport $50 (good at all SC State Parks); Palmetto Passport $25 (for SC seniors or disabled citizens). Tip: if you got a permit or day pass from another SC park you can use it at Table Rock (and any other state park) as long as the permit / pass are still valid.
Lake Oolenoy Table Rock State park photo

Cabins: There are 14 cabins (8 with 1 BR, 5 with 2 BR and 1 with 3 BR) that can accommodate 4-10 persons. They range in price from $75 to $120 per night. Check in 4 PM, check out time 10 AM. Tip: rent Sunday thru Thursday to save $15-20 per night. Cabins 5, 6, 7 and 8 are right by Pinnacle Lake and have the best views. You can reserve a cabin up to 11 months in advance. Call 1-866-345-7275 or go online www.southcarolinaparks.com.

There are 96 camping sites at the White Oaks campground equipped with showers and a recreation building. Price is about $20 per night (including tax); again is cheaper during the week.

Equipment Rentals: Spring thru fall, Tuesday to Sunday from 11 AM till 5 PM (weather permitting).
• Pedal boats – 2 person $5 per half hour; 4 person boat $7 per half hour
• Kayaks and canoes – $5 per half hour; $15 per day
• Fishing boat – $15 per day; $35 per day for boats with trolling motor (3 person maximum). Note that no private boats are allowed on Pinnacle Lake however you can use them at Lake Oolenoy across Hwy 11.
Table Rock swimming area photo
Swimming: June till mid-August Tuesday to Sunday from 11 AM till 5 PM; August 16 thru Labor Day weekends only. Adults $2, children 4-12 years $1.50, free for kids 3 years and under.

Enjoy the beauty of the South Carolina Upcountry parks!

Highlands dream vacation – gem mining, rock sliding, drive thru waterfall and awesome kids camping trip (things to do at Oconee and Lake Jocassee)

Arrive in North Carolina mountains. Wake up in Europe.” A great slogan that’s absolutely true. Highlands reminds me of Switzerland. Old Edwards Inn photo Nature all around, waterfalls, hiking trails, outdoor adventures at every step. And you don’t have to leave comfort behind. There are excellent places to stay, eat, shop and indulge your artistic spirit. Like the Highlands Playhouse, the Instant Theater and the Nature Center. The Old Edwards Inn, established in 1878 and part of the National Register of Historic Places, is the city’s landmark and an extraordinary spa resort.

Highlands and its natural forest, bog and wetlands surroundings represent the most diverse biologic area in the Appalachian Mountains, boasting over 160 species of birds and 500 species of flora. Its unique ecosystem offers incredible opportunities Lindenwood Lake for exploring wildlife and plants equaled only by the tropics.

The Highlands Botanical Garden covers 11 acres on the shores of Lindenwood Lake. There are nature trails that lead to displays of carnivorous plants, native azaleas and medicinal herbs. The Coker Rhododendron Trail is an old growth hemlock hardwood forest.

Things to do at the Garden

1. Visit the Nature Center, test your nature and survivals skills; Meet the bears, touch snake skins, turtle shells and dried animals scat. Say hello to the busy working bees…literally. Just keep some distance so you don’t get stung.

2. Bring your kids for Kids fun camping at Highlands Botanical Gardens an awesome day camping trip. We’ve witnessed one in action. The little ones were flabbergasted by the live snake demo. Then they started their hiking journey along the many yet short and easy going trails.

Along the way they learned how to spot predators, trace animals, think like a bat and hide like a bunny. Lana and I had to settle for something more mundane like watching a snail go by.

3. Hike the trails around the lake, through hardwood forest, and over an old beaver dam. Along the way admire some unusual plants at the Cherokee, Herb, Butterfly and Wildflower gardens.

4. Sing and perform at the Amphitheater. Nothing like playing American Idol…

Things to do and see downtown Highlands
Enjoying Kilwin ice-cream downtown Highlands 1. Get a taste of heaven at the Kilwin’s chocolate, fudge and ice-cream shop.

There is so many sweets inside you’ll need more than a minute to make up your mind.

2. Wash the sweets off with some deliciously aromatic coffee and catch up on all the gossip at Buck’s Coffee Café next door.

3. Get your hands on one of kind gifts only Highlands can put forth.
My 4 years old really liked the frogs; I preferred the Little Flower Shoppe.

4. Arts frog shop in Highlands See a play at the prestigious Highlands Playhouse theater.

Call (828)-526-2695 for tickets.

Here is the upcoming shows calendar (2008):

– Till July 6: “Always Patsy Cline”

– July 10 – July 20: “On Golden Pond”

– July 24 – August 10: “70th Anniversary Salute to Broadway”

– August 14 – August 31: “Inherit the Wind”

Things to do in the area

Gem mining, drive thru waterfall and rock sliding…sounds like fun?
Bridal Veil drive thru waterfall

Unleash the “Indiana Jones” in you and go hunt for rubies, sapphires and even gold in Franklin, NC less than an hour drive from Oconee State Park and Lake Jocassee.

Who knows you may be the next “romancing the stone” star!

See Bridal Veil and Cullasaja waterfalls along scenic Hwy 64.

Located between Highlands and Franklin NC, Bridal Veil is the only waterfall in the Carolinas that you can drive through it.

Cullasaja river boasts the teens’ most favorite rock-sliding and swimming spot in the area. Motorists stop frequently to take photos, Swimming spot on Cullasaja River off hwy 64 enjoy the incredible views and just have a laugh watching the children jump Tarzan-style into the river.

Want to see more?

Read my previous post and visit the South Carolina Upcountry legendary waterfalls.


The fun is unlimited in the Carolina mountains!

Pickens Hagood Mill and County Museum of History and Art- free awesome attractions in SC Upcountry

Step back in history at the Pickens County Museum of History and Art and Hagood Mill “Where Memories are Made”. They are both FREE attractions to enjoy Pickens County Museum of Art and History while vacationing in the South Carolina Upcountry.
Pickens was a native Cherokee territory until the American Revolution when they suffered defeat and had to surrender their South Carolina lands. In 1769 the Ninety Six Judicial district was created and was composed of present day Greenville, Anderson, Pickens and Oconee counties.

Hagood Mill Facts and Trivia
The gristmill was built by James Hagood in 1845 and it operated commercially until 1966. Hagood wellHagood Mill was a busy center. Records show, in 1870, it produced 140,000 pounds of meal and 11,200 pounds of flour.

In 1973 the mill was donated to the Pickens County and added to the National Register of Historic Places. To date it’s one of oldest known surviving gristmills still producing grain products.

Archaeological excavations revealed that on site rocks are covered with pre-historic carvings. The petroglyphs Hagood petroglyph will be preserved and displayed in the soon to be realized South Carolina Rock Art Interpretive Center.

Things to see and do at Hagood Mill
• 20 foot overshot wheel and wooden barn
• Old Bear Blacksmith shop
• A complete 19th century cotton gin
• Ol’ Mill Moonshine display
• Family farm exhibit

• Future SC Rock Art Interpretative Center
• Tour the property Hagood Mill 20 foot wheel and wooden barn Wednesday thru Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM.
• On a third Saturday of every month, rain or shine, the Mill operates and there are live shows: traditional music, folk storytelling and Native American dances.
• Check out the exhibits inside the visitor center and shop for one of a kind souvenirs, fresh stone ground cornmeal and grits and the Mill Cookbooks.
• Hike the ¾ mile nature trail (beware of snakes!)

Hagood Mill Events Schedule
(held on the 3rd Saturday of every month)
• July 19 – “Sugar in the Gourd, Dancin’ on the Board” – Buck dance contest
• August 16 – “Summer Gospel Show”
• September 20 – Hagood’s Mill famous Hagood Mill cotton gin“Fiddlin’ Convention” – competition for best old time fiddler, guitarist, banjo player and string band.
• October 18 – Hagood Mill Storytelling Festival
• November 15 – “Selugadu” – Native American Celebration with Cherokee dancing, drumming, storytelling and demonstrations.
• December 15 – “Celtic Christmas” Irish and Scottish music.

Pickens County Museum of History and Art
Take the kids to visit this awesome museum to witness one of the most history rich counties in South Carolina. From Cherokee diplomat Attakullakulla to American Revolution patriot (and county namesake) Andrew Pickens to present day Saturday evening barn dances and folklore stories.

Pickens County museum Andrew Pickens\' duel pistols is housed in a 1903 jail complete with crenellated turret, now part of National Register of Historic places. There are 39 permanent displays with artifacts, pictures and arts telling and preserving the incredible history of the Tri-counties.

The museum is also host to the prestigious Juried South Carolina Artists Exhibition, an annual event showcasing best artistic creations from the state. Delight yourself outside along the Interpretive Gardens trails highlighting flora native to local forests, grasslands and bogs.

Pickens Museum Attractions

• Andrew Pickens’s 18th century English manufactured duel pistols captured from loyalist Capt. John Hamilton at 1779 Robert Carr’s Fort battle.
Pickens County Jail Room exhibit

• The Winchester Axe used to split the victim’s head at a “Blockade” Distellery dispute in 1936. A year later the fellow was released from prison for good behavior!
• The Jail room and noose where the last execution took place
• Young kids love watching the old corn grinding machinery, the antique children clothes and toys and the early 1900 music instruments
• Laugh (otherwise you may cry) at the 1960s food prices. How about 39 cents a pound for Prime Ribs or 49 cents for half-gallon ice cream? I wonder how much the gas was…

I spent quite some quality Art at the Pickens Museum time upstairs with my 4 years old admiring the works from the 29th Juried South Carolina Artists Exhibition. I suggest asking kids questions like “What does this painting makes you feel?”, “What’s the first thing that comes to mind?”…you’ll be surprised by some of the answers. Either way seeing them drawn to art and interpreting paintings it’s priceless.

Where
Hagood Mill is located at 138 Hagood Mill Road, Pickens SC 29761, 3 miles north of city of Pickens and close to Cherokee Foothills Hwy 11.
The museum is in downtown Pickens, at 307 Johnson Street, near the intersection of Hwys 183 and 178. Operation hours are Tuesday to Saturday mostly 9 AM to 5 PM (Thus is till 7:30 PM, Sat till 4:30 PM).

Live the history in Pickens County and scenic South Carolina Upcountry!

Must see waterfalls in the South Carolina Upcountry (fun things to do outdoor with kids)

Here are some free and highly rewarding outdoor activities near Oconee State Park and Lake Jocassee in the breath-taking (I know I used this term a lot…but it’s so true) South Carolina Upcountry and Western North Carolina. Your kids will remember these trips for ever. To help you plan ahead here is a custom Google Map with these waterfalls as well as other area attractions worth shouting about.

Issaqueena Falls and the Stumphouse Tunnel
Issaqueena is the most visited waterfall Isaqueena riding to her love and the only one with a “Romeo and Juliet” like love story. Legend has it Issaqueena rode her horse great distance to warn her (white-man) husband about fast approaching Indians seeking revenge for her marriage betrayal. Some say she died during the quest others speak of a happy ending. Either way the power of love prevailed.
The hike from the viewing area to the bottom of the fall is short but strenuous. I had to piggy back carry my 4 years old but we were rewarded with an up close view of the 200 feet gorgeous waterfall.

While in the area visit the Stumphouse Tunnel where big railroad dreams crushed but the blue cheese flourished. 1,500 Irish-immigrants workers and their families came to Stumphouse Mountain to work on the tunnel meant to complete the railroad from Charleston all the way to Ohio. In the 1850s “Tunnel Hill was a rough town with more saloons than churches”. The tunnel supposed to be 5,863 feet long and its deepest point 236 feet below the surface. However the massive granite stone posed significant challenges and workers could barely get to 200 feet a month. Stumphouse Tunnel

It was hard back-breaking labor of 12 hours a day six days a week using only sledge hammers, hand drills and black powder. The Civil War and constant lack of funding put an end to the project and Tunnel Hill faded into history.

In 1940s Dr. Paul G. Miller from Clemson University noticed the tunnel ideal conditions for curing blue cheese: year around temperature of 59 degrees and 85% humidity.

Issaqueena Falls and the Stumphouse Tunnel are located on Hwy 28 between Walhalla and Oconee State Park.

Whitewater Falls
Upper Whitewater FallsAt 700 feet the Whitewater Falls are the highest falls series in the East (the Upper ones are 411 feet). The falls are close to Devils Fork and Oconee State Park and you can get to the park from highways 28, 107, 11 and 130. You will need to pay $2 daily admission fee. A half mile trail takes you to a breath-taking viewing area; beware the last segment has steep boardwalk steps. There is no trail to reach the base of the Upper Whitewater falls.

If you travel with little kids make sure to point out the funny cartoon sign remind them how dangerous the waterfall area can be. It worked well with my daughter.

Oconee Station Cove Falls
You can access the trail leading to the Cove Falls from Oconee Historic Station parking lot or Oconee State Park (connecting from the Oconee Trail). This is by far the longest (~3 miles round trip) and most diverse hike around a peaceful pond, through odd shaped trees, into a deep eerie forest, and along an intimate and refreshing creek. Fun at the bottom of Cove Falls
At the end it’s all worth it. The fall has a wide base area which makes it very popular with kids as they can hop around the rocks and get in the water safely.

Table Rock Falls
The Table Rock State Park has lots of mini waterfalls along the 1.9 mile Carrick Creek Trail that loops around the Nature Center. This is the only recommended trail for hiking with young children. With a fall every other minute it provides instant gratification to the little ones and perfect photo background. Right above the Nature Center it’s a fantastic rock-sliding and swimming spot little children just adore. This is the perfect “bribe” to keep them hiking on your way back.

Bridal Veil and Cullasaja Falls
These are separate falls located along scenic Hwy 64 Boy rock slides in Cullasaja river between Highlands and Franklin, the NC gem and gold mining star. Yes is the other Carolina but very close to the border and worth shouting about!
Bridal Veil is the only one I know of that you can drive through it. Cullasaja river boasts the teens’ favorite rock-sliding and swimming spot in the area. Motorists stop frequently to take photos, enjoy the incredible views and just have a laugh watching the children jump Tarzan-style into the river.

Make sure to stop by the Jackson Hole Gem Mine for some rubies and sapphires rock-hounding. Your kids will love that.

Downtown Greenville Reedy River Falls

An oasis of relaxation downtown Greenville

An oasis of relaxation downtown Greenville

One can’t forget the 60 foot falls nestled along scenic Reedy River feet away from downtown Greenville. Relaxing with loved ones along the river walk has become a weekend tradition for the Upstate capitol city.

You can picnic, walk, jog, bike, feed ducks and geese, play freesbie with the dog and enjoy the free entertainment at the pavilion.

Little kids love splashing about at the man-made water park or take part in classical story tales at the Children’s Garden. Everyone is invited to a funny quirky “Mice on Main” scavenger hunt downtown and to greet elephants, lions and giraffes at nearby Greenville Zoo!

History lovers and art collectors must visit Pendleton, “the Charleston of the Upstate“. The entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places. Notable attractions: Farmer’s Hall (oldest continuous operating hall in the country), Hunter’s Store, Ashtabula (1st licensed tavern), Old Stone Church (where Andrew Pickens and Gen. Anderson are buried) and Woodburn (centuries old 4 story mansion and farm)

Safe hiking and happy waterfall viewing in the Carolinas!

“I feel lucky!” gem hunting fun at Cowee Ruby Mine in Franklin (things to do with kids near the border and Foothills Trail)

Unleash the “Indiana Jones” in you and go hunting for rubies, sapphires and even gold in Franklin, NC less than an hour drive from Oconee State Park, Caribbean-like Lake Jocassee inside Devils Fork State Park and the adventurous Foothills Trail. Who knows you may be the next “romancing the stone” star!

Tips to know before you go

1. Stop at the Visitors Center in Franklin to get the free “Guide to Rockhounding” little brochure with a map and summary description of all the gem-mines and shops in the area. Showing off the prizesIt really helps plan ahead and will save you time and headaches.

2. Whichever mine you decide to visit, if you have little kids, avoid the drama and get the “enriched, sure find” kid-friendly bucket. It provides them with a rainbow of big and colorful stones they’ll be eager to show off later. At these mines the rubies and sapphires are very small in size and quite dull looking. I almost threw one away, luckily the guy at the flume alerted me about it (and saved my “fortune”!)

3. If you got to Franklin after a long drive and need to unwind stop by the nice Big Bear Park playground on the Little Tennessee River Greenway. It’s conveniently located off of Hwy 64, and allows children to relax before (or after) the big hunt.

Here are the highlights and the customized Google Map with some of the gem mines

Cowee Mtn Ruby Mine and Shop – this is where all these photos are from.
• Free admission. Opened daily 9 AM to 6 PM from March to December 15.
• Free mining Getting mining instructionsinstructions and stone identification;
• Gem cutting and mounting on jewelry for extra price.
• $5 for dirt bucket; $10 kid souvenir bucket
• The whole thing goes by pretty quickly. We finished in about 15 minutes (we got the souvenir enriched one)
• More info at www.coweemtnrubymine.com or by phone (828)-369-5271.
Address 6771 Sylva Road Franklin, North Carolina 28734

Jackson Hole Gem Mine and Gift Shop (not the ski resort!)

• Likely the mine with the most scenic location: on Hwy 64 near the Cullasaja Falls and the locals’ favorite rock-sliding and swimming spot.
• Claims to have cleanest mine around “ free from the red clay mud”
• Open all year around
• $10 for the 5 lbs bucket
• Custom mount in 14k gold or sterling silver jewelry
• More info at www.jacksonholegemmine.com or by phone (828)-524-5850. Address 9770 Highlands Road, Highlands, NC 28741

Sheffield Mine

• The most famous (featured on the Travel Channel) Huge ametist inside the shop at Cowee and one of the few native mine in the area. It’s also the most crowded. Likely you will need to wait in line to get your turn. Better be there early.
• Open daily 10 AM to 5 PM from April thru October. Last customer for native mining is accepted at 3 PM (it takes 2 hour to do the real thing)
• $15 admission ($10 for children and seniors) includes 2 starter buckets. Group discounts available (requires advance notice)
• More info at www.sheffieldmine.com or by phone (828)-369-8383. Address 385 Sheffield Farms Road. Follow the driving directions as noted on their website.

More Area Attractions

Highlands Botanical Garden, arts and crafts and Playhouse Theater

Gold panning (and gem mining) at Gold City Mine located between Franklin and Sylva. May be too tedious task for younger kids.

• Waterfalls – Issaqueena, Whitewater, Table Rock, Raven Cliff, Bridal Veil

• Dillsboro Great Smokey Mountains Railroad – Fun themed train rides

• Dupont Forest State Park – easy access to waterfalls and hiking trails

Happy and lucky mining in western North Carolina!

Duke’s World of Energy – where electricity rules and kids love pushing buttons (free educational things to do near Greenville)

Looking for something to do with kids that’s fun, educational, and free while touring beautiful South Carolina Upcountry? Then visit Duke’s World of Energy museum at the Oconee Nuclear Station (relax, it’s very safe…admitted, you are a little bit curious 🙂 ). Take the self-guided tour to learn how electricity is generated using water, coal and uranium. Watch videos to understand the nuclear plant operations and test your knowledge at the computer game stations.

Things to know before you go
1. Kids love pushing (our) buttons! Kids checking out the interactive map Luckily the World of Energy is filled with interactive exhibits and videos all with buttons waiting to be pressed. The most popular one is in the main room: a tridimensional relief map showing Duke’s power plants and key area attractions spread over the region’s lakes and mountains.

2. You’ll get a kick seeing some 1930s small home-appliances invented by Duke Engineers, like the electric toaster and iron machine. Other interesting “artifacts” a 1924 aid-kit and a streetcar conductor’s hat and coin changer.

3. Outside you can enjoy a 0.25 mile nature trail by the lake and a colorful butterfly garden and see the historic marker honoring early settlers and their 1715 expedition to dissuade the Cherokees from joining other tribes in the Yemassee Indian War.

Facts and Trivia
1. Oconee was the first nuclear station designed, built and operated by Duke Energy. Operating since 1973 it has produced more than 500 million megawatt-hours of electricity – first in the country to do so. Oconee has a generating capacity of about 2.6 million kilowatts making it one of the nation’s largest nuclear plants.

2. A single Uranium 235 fuel pallet, less than an inch long, Dance around with the atoms produces the energy equivalent to a ton of coal.

3. The nuclear plant has no airborne emissions like carbon and sulfur dioxide. In fact, the energy generated by the U.S. nuclear plants has prevented emissions equal to that produced by 130 millions cars!

Area Attractions
Free
• Walhalla Fish Hatchery – see the life stages of, feed and even fish three species of trout.
• Centuries old Oconee Historic Station and Hagood Mill.
• History lovers and art collectors go visit Pendleton, “the Charleston of the Upstate” just 30 miles southwest of Greenville (hwy 76 and 28). The entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places. Notable attractions: Farmer’s Hall (oldest continuous operating hall in the country), Hunter’s Store, Ashtabula (1st licensed tavern), Old Stone Church (where Andrew Pickens and Gen. Anderson are buried) and Woodburn (4 story mansion)

• Legendary Isaqueena and Whitewater waterfalls.
• SC Botanical Gardens – country largest collection of nature-based sculptures and hundreds of exotic ornamental plants.

Under $5 admission
Lake Jocassee at Devils Fork State Park – finest fishing place in the Southeast. Swim year around.
• Oconee State Park – a variety of recreational activities and the start of scenic Foothills Trail.

Let the adventure begin at Table Rock State Park! Excellent hiking trails, all year long swimming, rock sliding and fishing.

Where
The World of Energy is located on the beautiful shores of Lake Keowee, near the intersection of Hwy 130 and Hwy 183, about 20 minutes drive from Clemson, Pickens and Walhalla and close to an hour from Greenville. Here is the Google Map. The museum is free to attend and is open daily, M-F 9 AM to 5 PM, weekend noon to 5 PM. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Day and New Year’s Day. Call 1-800-777-1004 for more info.

Have fun in Carolina God’s Country!

Lake Jocassee, a mini “Caribbean” vacation in the South Carolina Upcountry (family almost free things to do)

The Buzz
As soon as you step on the beach at Lake Jocassee inside Devils Fork State Park you feel like you’re in one of the fanciful Caribbean islands travel posters: Lake Jocassee beach entrance crystal clear blue waters bordered by spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains covered in lush green forests and a sun-kissed beach with a pinkish “sand” to tickle your toes.

All for just $2 daily admission or even free with a SC State Park pass.

That’s a paradise weekend gateway on the cheap (pardon me…”at a huge discount”) worth shouting about! 🙂

Tips to know before you go
1. Use your State Park guest tag (the one you hang on the rear-view mirror of your car) to any other State Parks as long as it’s still valid. During our week stay at Oconee State Park I used the tag to get in for free at Table Rock, Keowee and Devils Fork.

2. Bring life jackets, especially if you have young kids. The water has a very narrow portion to stand up safely. Only 10 feet from the shore there is a steep drop and you can no longer touch the ground.

Best to have at least 2 adults keeping constant watch on the children. With no lifeguard on the beach you’re pretty much on your on.

3. Wear a hat and plenty of sunscreen. If possible bring an umbrella. There is no shade on the beach and the sun gets scorching in the summer.

4. It takes quite a hike through some big rocks to walk to and from the beach, so wear something comfortable and sturdy. If you’re not in a mood for exercising best to bring a cooler along with all the necessary refreshments.
Boys having fun at Lake Jocassee
5. At the top of the stairs there is a snacks stand, an equipment rental office, restrooms and showers.

Ice-cream is the king and you can get it for $3.

Beware the showers inside the women’s restroom didn’t work when I was there (first week in June).

Things to do at Lake Jocassee and Devils Fork Park
1. Fish in one of the Southeast finest lakes offering trophy smallmouth bass, crappy and bluegill.

2. Scuba-dive or boat the 7,500-acre clear and deep reservoir lake with 75 miles of shoreline and four boat-launch areas each with generous parking.

3. Swim, tube, jet sky, canoe or kayak year around. Beware there is no lifeguard at the beach.

4. Hike the 1.5 mile easygoing Oconee Bell Nature Trail (named after the rare wildflower found along) or the 3.5 miles moderate Bear Cove Trail through the hardwood forest.

Lodging
The main lakeside campground has 59 paved sites with water and electrical hook-ups and 25 tent sites with elevated pads, picnic tables, grill pits. Nothing like napping on the water On the northern shore of the lake there is a primitive campsite accessible only by boat. These sites are available on a first come first served basis and you need to pack out what you packed in.

The park also offers 20 mountain villas with 2 and 3 bedrooms. They have TV, screened porches, and fully equipped kitchens. Best thing of all each villa has its private beach, boat ramp and parking area. One drawback pets are not allowed in or around the villas.

Free and Affordable Area Attractions:
• Duke’s Power World of Energy – kids learn how electricity is generated from water, coal and uranium. At Upper Whitewater Falls
Your best chance to safely get up close and personal to a nuclear reactor!
• Walhalla Fish Hatchery
Numerous waterfalls like the Upper and Lower Whitewater (highest in the East) and Issaqueena
• Oconee Historic Station, Hagood Mill and Pickens County Museum
• Ruby and sapphire gem hunting in Franklin, NC (less than 1 hour away, need to pay admission and gem bucket mining…expect $10-$20 per person)

• History lovers and art collectors go visit Pendleton, “the Charleston of the Upstate” located near Clemson off of Hwy 28 and 76. The entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places. Notable attractions: Farmer’s Hall (oldest continuous operating hall in the country), Hunter’s Store, Ashtabula (1st licensed tavern, $6 admission fee), Old Stone Church (where Andrew Pickens and Gen. Anderson are buried) and Woodburn (4 story mansion, $6 admission fee)

Where
Devils Fork is easily reached from S.C. 11, the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway. Here is the exact address 161 Holcombe Circle, Salem, SC 29676 and the Google Map. For more info and to make reservations call (864) 944-2639, or 1-866-345-PARK or visit the official state parks website

Have your beach mountain paradise at Lake Jocassee in South Carolina Upcountry!