Is there anything more beautiful than fall in the mountains? Living near the beach has its advantages…..beach and warmer weather but one thing it does not have fall foliage. Most of our trees are pine trees which don’t change which is great in the winter when they are still green but we don’t have the beautiful reds, yellows and oranges that places of higher elevation get.
Two weeks ago, I decided to head to the upstate of South Carolina to shoot the fall foliage. It was probably a week early for the peak but with not knowing whether or not we would be getting remnants of Hurricane Patricia, I thought this past weekend was a better time to go. I woke up early and headed out in my new Volkswagen Jetta. I am going to miss many things from my jeep….moonroof, heated leather seats, the height and cargo space but one thing I’m not going to miss is the gas mileage, or lack thereof. Since this was just a day trip, my plan was visiting two places.. Caesars Head State Park and Campbell’s Covered Bridge. Since Caesars Head State Park was the longer distance, I decided to head there first. It is 289 miles away which according to GPS would take me 5.5 hours. Of course GPS does not take into account my lead foot so I knew it wouldn’t take quite that long. It took me about 5 hours and that is with stopping for gas and getting stuck in traffic. It was overcast when I left. During the drive I saw a bald eagle, red shouldered hawk and what I think was a red tailed hawk flying overhead.
My initial plan was to stop by Dunkin Donuts on my way out of town. I decided to hold of getting breakfast until I was further along in my drive but by then I couldn’t find a place I wanted on my side of the road. By the time I stopped and got gas around 10am I was starving. For much first couple hours of the drive, it was either overcast or I drove through a fog bank or two. I was worried that this trip would be a waste but by the time I got near Columbia, the clouds were gone and it was a beautiful day.
The drive up the mountain to the State Park was breathtaking with all the fall colors. The drive itself was something else especially for someone who’s new car was five speed manual transmission. It was my 3rd day driving a manual transmission after 16 years driving automatic. The road was all curves so I kept having to shift. The drive up the mountain reminded me of the drive into Yosemite only this time I wasn’t behind an tractor trailer.
Apparently I was not the only one who decided to come here. The parking lot at the Visitor Center was almost full and a couple of the Rangers were directing traffic. After showing the Ranger my SC State Park Pass, I bought a book of all 47 State Parks and a map of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness which Caesars Head State Park was part of. In my haste to get started on the hike, I forgot to grab the map.
Next blog post – The Hike to Raven Cliff Falls