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A Forgotten Forest

There’s Really A lot to Discover in This Missed Stretch of the South Carolina Low Nation

THE FIRST TIME I REALIZED THAT FRANCIS MARION Nationwide Forest existed, my spouse and I have been doing what most vacationers do in South Carolina’s Low Nation: Driving 70 mph down Freeway 17 by a field canyon of loblolly pines on our approach between cities.

We have been heading south to take a look at one of many oldest historic districts within the U.S., based in 1670 by King Charles II. Whereas the coastal area between Georgetown and Charleston was undoubtedly scenic, with matchstick bushes, cypress swamps, and blackwater rivers, we didn’t take into consideration stopping alongside the best way.

Pretty atypical for me, I barely registered the forest service indicators for websites I might later go to repeatedly, like South Tibwin, Buck Corridor Recreation Space, Awendaw Creek, I’on Swamp, and the Palmetto Path. The rationale for my inattention was that my spouse and I had lately relocated to a school city close to Myrtle Seaside, and I wasn’t precisely thrilled with the transfer.

The plantation residence at North Tibwin. Photograph courtesy of the creator.

I grew up out west, and my pursuits lay largely with rugged inland areas the place I might paddle whitewater, mountain bike, and hike. Now we lived in a area referred to as the Low Nation? So far as I knew, outside adventurers by no means mentioned issues like:

“The world is rad flat, bro.”

“Killer lack of topo strains.”

“Would make pancakes brag.”

Fact is, I didn’t give the realm a lot of an opportunity throughout that first 12 months or so. However an adventurous bike-rafting journey to Cumberland Island snapped me out of my complacency. What else had I missed within the area? The primary place I made a decision to look have been these intriguing indicators alongside Freeway 17.

Photograph courtesy of the creator.

I quickly homed in on mountain biking your complete Swamp Fox Passage, a 47-mile part of the cross-state Palmetto Path named for Revolutionary Conflict hero Francis Marion. Whereas info was considerably restricted, the extra analysis I did, the extra highlights I got here throughout value a more in-depth look.
That’s how, on a chilly Saturday morning in early February, I parked outdoors a nondescript gate at North Tibwin. Regardless of the gate being ominously chained shut, a faint footpath handed round a brick wall. I warily adopted a gravel doubletrack for a couple of quarter mile till I got here throughout an much more eerie website. Decaying from years of neglect, a Nineteenth-century plantation residence which may have collapsed if not propped up by angled assist beams.

Including to the final spookiness, a turkey vulture was warming itself atop the chimney with its wings unfold. Although I didn’t discover it instantly, perched in a close-by tree was a barred owl. It watched me with a barely judgmental look, as if questioning, how did you even discover this place? I spent an hour exploring the deserted home and surrounding grounds.

The historic unpaved part of the Previous Georgetown Highway. Photograph courtesy of the creator.

Over the following few days, between lengthy rides on the Swamp Fox Passage with my fats bike, I continued to discover. All over the place I went had that related forgotten feeling, not a lot a ghost city however extra like a ghost forest. An deserted church at Midway Creek, the one remnant of a small neighborhood as soon as nestled within the pines. A boardwalk damaged into items by current hurricanes on the Sewee Shell Ring, an oyster shell midden created on a tidal creek hundreds of years in the past by historical Native People. (Be aware: the boardwalk was rebuilt within the spring.) The one youthful exception was the slender bushes, with most underneath 30 years outdated, given the forest was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

Different websites did present indicators of occasional use, together with some extra trodden paths. There have been a couple of different individuals on the I’on Swamp Path, a two-mile loop by wetlands initially constructed for flood irrigation to develop Carolina Gold rice through the slavery period. On the South Tibwin mountaineering space there have been about 5 miles of outdated plantation roads, utilized by occasional hikers and mountain bikers, operating by restored tidal wetlands.

The I’on Swamp Interpretive Path.

Maybe essentially the most historic spotlight I noticed throughout that first journey was the Previous Georgetown Highway. Operating from close to Buck Corridor Recreation Space to close Hampton Plantation State Historic Website, these 13 miles—seven of which stay unpaved—are a part of one of many oldest roads in America. The portion by Francis Marion Nationwide Forest is the southern continuation of a colonial highway community that included the King’s Freeway, stretching about 1,300 miles from Charleston to Boston. George Washington traveled Previous Georgetown Highway throughout his 1791 tour of the southern states. As I drove beneath twisty stay oaks, I handed an outdated stone milepost which will have helped information the primary U.S. president’s carriage alongside its approach.

After these first journeys, the query was what to do subsequent? Later that February, my spouse and I introduced a kayak and paddleboard to discover the realm by water. Our first paddling foray was on tidal Awendaw Creek, driving the falling tide from the canoe launch to Buck Corridor, paddling alongside the Intracoastal Waterway with dolphins and driving the rising tide again to our car. Although we noticed a couple of individuals mountaineering the Awendaw Passage path above the creek, we have been the one paddlers in sight.

In early March, we went farther into the forest to kayak the Wambaw Creek Wilderness Canoe Path. Translucent inexperienced noticed palmettos grew at water stage. Large cypress bushes loomed overhead, a few of which have been simply beginning to glow lime-green from the needle-like leaves that bud in early spring. Paddling round a bend, there was a downed tree blocking the channel and a lazy gator sunning on a log. It by no means even blinked, not to mention moved. So, we backpaddled silently away and referred to as that our turnaround level. Afterward, we visited Hampton Plantation State Park, taking a guided tour of the mansion and slave quarters earlier than strolling by preserved rice fields.

We completed the day with a half-mile hike out to Battery Warren, a Civil Conflict fort on the southern financial institution of the Santee River. Between earthen mounds, Accomplice troops within the 1860s mounted cannons right here to guard the railroad crossing at Jamestown, 10 miles upstream. The fort by no means noticed battle, and at present there’s a small interpretative website and yet one more little-used canoe path passing by, which begins on Echaw Creek and finishes on the subsequent touchdown beneath the fort.


Lately, we proceed to go to the realm, however solely from fall by spring when the climate and bugs are milder. We’ve visited the Sewee Customer Middle and seen a pair of crimson wolves. We’ve taken a ship journey out to hike the undeveloped Bulls Island in adjoining Cape Romaine Nationwide Wildlife Refuge. And we’ve returned a number of instances to Awendaw Creek for paddling or mountaineering on the path. Because the pandemic, extra individuals have remembered the Francis Marion space exists. But it surely’s by no means crowded when in comparison with well-known upcountry forests like Pisgah or these within the Smokies.

A number of hundred sq. miles of largely forgotten forest, deep within the coronary heart of the Low Nation.



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