Exploring Bald Rock (Cleveland, SC)

Immediately upon arriving at Bald Rock, you’re faced with a bunch of cars pulled over at a random bend in the road. If you don’t have the location programmed into your GPS, you’ll probably miss it. The night Merci, Jasmine, and I visited, there were a few cars parked and a vendor selling boiled peanuts. That’s typical South Carolina.

After hopping out of our vehicles, we were confronted with a spray painted sign telling us the rules of the park. Half way down the list, one rule read “Do not deface the rock”. As you’ll see in the images below, no one reads the rules.

Bald Rock is famous for its innocent graffiti. Although some of the work is profane, most of it feels like its been done by local kids. One of the first writings I saw said “Prom?”. Looking around the massive rock, you can see many similar scribblings.

Bald Rock really is massive. There’s no hiking required for the fantastic views either. As soon as you arrive, you can step out and see for miles. On South Carolina’s DNR page, they boast that the rock is 165 acres. What’s amazing is how much of it is covered in graffiti. When you walk towards the rock’s drop off, you can see how far Bald Rock expands.

Unfortunately, we arrived after hiking Table Rock and didn’t explore the area as much as I would have liked to. There was a small waterfall next to the entrance and if you walked down the rock, there were plenty of dips and bends to run around. Overall, a very picture-esque location that requires little effort to get.

Here are a few pictures from the trip:

 

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I found a clean spot!

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As we arrived back to Merci’s truck, we saw that a huge tree fell across the road. We were lucky that it didn’t fall on her car. Traffic in the area slowed as everyone drove around the tree. It was interesting that it happened during the short 30 minutes we explored the area.

Anyways, if you want to check out the other social media stuff, here are the links:

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Exploring Edisto Island State Park (Edisto Island, SC)

Ever since getting the news that I’ll be moving to Hawaii this summer, I’ve been trying to explore South Carolina as much as possible. One of the ways that I’ve done this is by reading Falcon’s hiking guide on South Carolina. The book has 60 trails through the entire state and includes maps and other helpful information.

While trying to find a nearby hiking trail, I ran across Edisto Island. It’s about an hour south from where I live, which is a relatively short distance. There are very few trails in lowcountry South Carolina. If you want to see spectacular sights, you have to drive about 4 hours upstate.

Unfortunately, the route is mostly back roads. You begin on a freeway, then move onto a highway, then onto a tiny one-lane road with 60 mph speed limits. As you near the island, maw and paw restaurants and vegetable markets start popping up. Soon afterwards the one-lane road eventually opens up to a scenic byway.

Once on the island, beach houses litter the main road and a small entrance to the state park can be found. The fee was about $5 for my car and includes parking at the beach and at the campgrounds. I arrived late in the day, so I immediately headed for the trails at the campgrounds.

Overall the park features around 3 miles of trails. Many of which include paths deviating from the main trail and lead off into different sections of the forest. I was drawn to the easternmost trail which had the most boardwalks. Here are some images from the trip:

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The guidebook emphasized that Edisto Island is covered in mosquitoes and ticks. I prepared by soaking myself in deet but I didn’t encounter either of them. Most of the trail borders marshland, which makes the trail more scenic but in the summer months, I could imagine swarms of mosquitoes rising out of the water.

If you go, I would recommend bringing a swimsuit for the beach and tennis shoes for the hike. The trail has relatively low elevation gains and is well made. If you go earlier in the day, there is a nature center that you could visit.

Overall, Edisto Island is worth visiting because the trails are family friendly, the views are nice, and there’s versatility while you’re hiking because you can make your trek longer or shorter by changing routes. Even the beach would make a great stop after a few hours of exploration. If you’re in the area, I would definitely recommend visit the island.

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“AWOL on the Appalachian Trail” by David Miller

Flipping through the last pages of a well-liked book is like coming to the end of a great friendship. Both people and books take you places and make you experience the world in a different way. When I reached the end of “AWOL on the Appalachian Trail”, I felt as though I had hiked the trail with him and I was sorrowful that it had to end.

AWOL’s journey resonated with the wanderer inside and, if only for a moment, made me escape the humdrum of my daily life. In 2003, David Miller gave up his day job to spend five months grueling up the eastern United States. The Appalachian Trail (AT) is over 2,000 miles long and goes into 14 states.

When David got on the path, he took the trail name “AWOL” to represent the abandonment of his stable job. Perhaps also to show the escapism involved with hiking a 6-month long trail. He went AWOL from his life and set course for Maine.

This book is heavily descriptive and lingers on the what it’s like to live in the woods. It doesn’t romanticize hiking in heavy rain or sleeping in uncomfortable shelters but it creates an enticing environment where AWOL ventures into the wilderness. He encounters bears, snakes, handfuls of foot injuries, and a myriad of hikers. Nonetheless it is an interest read.

I highly recommend this for anyone who is caught up in the 9-5. Similar to Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, AWOL explains aspects of modern life that we seem to forget. He writes about the openness of hikers, and the community that he quickly finds himself immersed in.

After spending two weeks reading this book I’ve decided that I want to hike the AT. It may be a while before I do but it’s a journey I want to take in my lifetime. Again, I highly encourage you to read this book.

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How Traveler’s Communicate

While reading “AWOL on the Appalachian Trail”, David Miller talks about how hikers communicate and their willingness to talk about their lives. The long days of walking with strangers, teamed up with a common goal (to finish the hike), cultivates a different sense of community. While living in the city, talking to a stranger may seem bizarre, it’s common for hikers to discuss their personal lives with equally unknown hikers.

AWOL (David Miller) write in his book that many days are spent hiking 10+ miles with somebody that you just met. In your office, it’s unlikely that you’d talk about your aspirations openly but on the trail people are receptive. You feel un-threatened because you’re likely to never meet this person again. Eventually it becomes natural to say where you’re from, what you were doing with your life, what you want to be doing instead, and about why you’re out on the trail.

Although I’ve never been long-distance hiking, I believe that traveling has shifted my communication in the same way. When I fly to another country, I often have meaningful conversations with the person I’m sitting next to on the plane. There have been businessmen from around the world giving me life advice simply because I ask them. When you’re traveling, your communication changes.

You realize that the person you’re talking to won’t be in your life forever. Rather than having small talk, you immediately go deep. It doesn’t really matter if a stranger knows where you’re from or what you dream of doing. You’ll probably never see them again and so what if you do.

After you open up many times, you realize that even when you aren’t traveling it doesn’t matter what you say. You can be open with more people in your daily life because you know that it really doesn’t matter if they know about your ambitions.

Another bi-product is that you begin to have less idle chatter. When you meet people for only a couple hours, you decide to skip the ten minute conversation about the weather. Instead you opt for talking about your passions in life.

Spending many months in foreign countries has changed how I talk with others. Sometimes people complain that I only have deep existential conversations. They also talk about how open I am to share my life. These are directly caused by traveling and meeting so many people for such a brief period. I dive deep into conversation because I want to know about your life. There’s no point in complaining about the Charleston heat, I want to know what you’ve done with your life and what you’ve learned.

Perhaps it’s a cursed traveler’s mark but AWOL had it right in his book: going to new places changes how you talk with others.

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Exploring Cypress Gardens

firstA few months ago, my car died and I’ve been stranded with a poor public transportation system. The only times I go out are when friends make trips to the store or when others let me use their car. So when I woke up to a text, “let’s explore something today”, I jumped out of bed at the offer.

My friend Cory and I decided to explore Cypress Gardens, a local area that offers 170 acres of gardens and swamp. The park is a series of trails that surround a wooded swamp. When I first arrived in Charleston, my friend Kate recommended I go to the gardens for photography. While nothing was blooming, I had the opportunity to photograph Cory instead.

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This swamp was filled with trees, lily pads, and apparently…

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Cory is from California and I’m from Minnesota. Neither of us have seen an alligator outside of a zoo. Now we’re going to walk trails that could have them laying next to us! Maybe we should have known from Cypress Gardens’ logo, or the map they gave us, or that we live in South Carolina.

Nonetheless, we drove a half an hour to visit the park. We weren’t going to leave just because of alligators or “other animals” (still wondering about that).

IMG_8008This trail was marked with the sign from the earlier photo. As you can see, it’s wide and clearly defined. Having no previous experience with southern wildlife, we both cautiously started on the trail. On the left the swamp is about 3-4 feet from the path. This means easy access for an alligator to grab us and drag us to our premature deaths.

Around 200 feet down, the trail narrows and becomes less defined. This is where people reevaluated their decision to walk down the trail. I don’t blame them because there was another two less official signs, one read “CAUTION Alligators and snakes may rest upon trails. Never approach an alligator.” The other probably said, “Walk this trail and you’ll surely meet your end!”. It may as well have.

But, we weren’t going to be deterred from a great experience!

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If you didn’t know, alligators sound like bullfrogs, or at least that’s what I’ve been told.

As we walked down the ever-narrowing trail, the sound of bullfrogs became clear. It was like everything was quiet so we could focus all of our attention on our inevitable doom. I don’t understand why the trail was so close to the swamp, it’s like they were trying to feed us to the alligators.

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This of course didn’t stop us from occasionally pausing for photographs.

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The trail felt like it lasted forever and it didn’t stop narrowing until we got much further ahead. Bushes and fallen trees obscured the path so we didn’t always know where to step. It was evident that this trail wasn’t frequently used because there were spider webs all over the place.

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It looks innocent enough… but how about closer to its actual size…

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After seeing one, we realized that there were spiders covering bushes along the entire trail. Then we stepped into a web that stretched 4 feet wide, as if the spider had hopes of catching a bear. There weren’t any bear encounters on this trail thankfully.

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Occasionally the trail would dart right and it would look like it was coming to an end… but it wasn’t. It only brought us closer to the sound of bullfrogs and other potential predators.

The end of the trail was completely covered in bushes, half-downed trees, and broken bridges/walkways over the swamp. It brought us to large mounds of dirt that we’d have to climb around. Oh, I forgot to mention the caution tape.

Along the way, in the middle of the woods, there was caution tape between trees or shrubs. Parts of the trail walked directly next to this stuff, which reminded me of police investigation tape. So while we were hearing bullfrogs, dodging giant spiders, and trying to stay on trail, we had to observe caution tape… on a hiking trail with alligators…

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Eventually our adventure came to an end. We found an opening back to pavement, as if a blessing from the gods. It was abrupt and opened into a wide, and heavily traveled, path. Our trail almost vanished behind us with how obscure the way was.

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From then on we sailed smoothly through the rest of the park. Joyous that mosquitoes weren’t gnawing at our legs and that the spiders were gone. Here’s a few more images from rest of adventure…

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This was a burial site right after we exited the woods. The cross stood 15 feet high with three gravestones at its base.IMG_8153

Look at how happy we are to be out of the woods!

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If life gives you a trail of alligators and spider webs, I would suggest finding bug spray and wearing pants before going on it. No matter what happens in life, you’ll always have an adventure. Bug spray or not.

This morning I woke up to an invitation to explore something new. I darted out of bed in anticipation of finding that new experience. This is how life should be; waking up with the excitement to explore the world and going out to do it. Days like today remind me that I’m alive and that there’s plenty of the world left to explore.

I hope all of you find that in yourself each day and go out into the world to fulfill it. Right now my legs itch (hopefully not from poison ivy) and I’m exhausted, so I’ll cut this off here. Have a wonderful night everybody and don’t let the sound of bullfrogs scare you away! Life is too short to skip adventures like this!

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