Winter officially began on December 21 — even here in South Carolina when highs on December 21 can be in the 70s as easily as they can be below freezing. The winter solstice marks the shortest day — the least amount of sunlight — during the year. From this point on, the days will get longer. The winter solstice reminds us that we all need to slow down, and like plants, enter a period of rest. Many people think of this as a good time to reconnect with nature — and a time to restore some balance to an overcommitted holiday season.
You can both reconnect with nature and take advantage of our generally temperate winters by spending some time camping. You can re-live the lives of our ancestors, sitting near a warm fire and contemplating the stars above. Or, if you don’t feel the need to contemplate cosmic mysteries, but want to try out new camping gear or introduce the kids to something new over the holidays, guess what? Palmetto Trail’s got you covered!
The Palmetto Trail offers several camping opportunities near Newberry for different camping styles. If you head out of Newberry going southeast, a half hour’s drive will take you to the Peak to Prosperity Passage which offers several primitive campsites. The Alston Trailhead just across the Broad River from the town of Peak has five campsites complete with grills, firepits and benches. We have several donors, including REI and Fairfield County to thank for this great addition to the trail. There are no restrooms, water or electricity here, so plan accordingly. (We did mention it is primitive, right?)
The campsites offer great access to the Broad River for fishing and paddling, and the walk back into Newberry County across the trestle bridge is spectacular. And you can keep going for other locations!
Next up on this passage is a primitive area about a mile east of Pomaria with fire rings and picnic tables. This area is large enough to accommodate several tents. Continuing on about a half mile west of Pomaria you come upon the first of two small campsites, suitable for two or three tents. The second small area about a mile further west provides poles for hammocks or Enos-style camping in addition to tent pads and picnic tables. And finally, just beyond Koon’s Trestle is another larger primitive site with fire rings and picnic tables, compliments of a grant from CSX. Again, plan accordingly, as there are no amenities. All campsites are free to use on a first-come-first-served basis.
For a little less primitive outing about an hour north of the city, the Croft Passage offers a multitude of hiking options, and good camping at Croft State Park. As is the case with all state park campsites, reservations are recommended. Croft campsites are packed gravel, with electric hookups and water, and ready access to hot showers. This makes it easy for first time campers to ease into spending a night outside. Visit https://southcarolinaparks.com/croft/camping for more information and reservations.
Then there is the Enoree Passage, heading west out of Newberry, which offers various camping options. Primitive camping is allowed anywhere along the trail with a free permit offered by the U.S. Forest Service. Simply contact the district office to obtain this permit. For a little more structured camping there is the Brick House Campground near Mile 14 of the Enoree Passage which can also be accessed by car from SC Route 66 and Brickhouse Road. It’s only about half an hour from downtown Newberry, and the trail leading northwest from the campground crosses several streams and Beaver Ponds just within the next few miles. The site has no water available but does have a restroom. The campground also intersects the Buncombe Horse Trail, so watch out for equestrians. It is also popular during hunting season, so check recreation.gov before you go to see what’s available.
The other established Enoree Passage campground is Sedalia, accessed by car from the intersection of Highway 49 and US 176. This site has restrooms and water available. If you like to mix your hiking with fishing, paddling, or simply contemplating the water, this is a good spot since it’s only about a mile and half to John’s Lake, Sedalia Lake and Wildcat Lake, all of which are located along the Palmetto Trail. For more information about both Enoree Passage campgrounds in the Sumter National Forest, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/activity/scnfs/recreation/camping-cabins.
So, grab your gear, dust off those foil pack recipes you learned from Scouts, and head out to enjoy the great outdoors. You’ll be glad you did!
As always, if you are interested in volunteering time to help maintain or inspect the trail, want to request a guided hike for a group, or simply want more information check palmettoconservation.org or contact me at [email protected]
Furman Miller can be reached at [email protected]