Walk on the Wild Side

Brad Harvey: Change vacation plans for more fun

June 3, 2014 

With the closing of the school year, quite a few folks are making plans for vacation.

Problem is, with gas prices higher than I ever imagined seeing in my lifetime, the expense of a traditional beach trip soars.

Sure, you can pay more just to make the same old beach trip. But don’t you long for a bit more excitement?

Ever considered escaping the heat altogether and giving one of our mountain region state parks a try? No matter how little or how far you’re willing to trek into the great outdoors, there is a destination that fits.

Let’s take a gander at a few possibilities and all of the fun that is to be had right here in the Palmetto State. I think you’ll find that this can be an affordable and exciting way to spend a few relaxing days away from home.

Just a couple of hours’ drive from western York County, you’ll find Table Rock State Park nestled on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Developed in the 1930s by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, the park contains more than 3,000 acres of natural beauty just waiting to be explored.

Care to do a little fishing? Anglers can try their luck with bass, bream and catfish in Pinnacle Lake (36 acres) and Lake Oolenoy (67 acres.)

You won’t even have to haul your own boat as canoe and electric powered boat rentals are available for a small fee.

Maybe a leisurely stroll or vigorous hike is more your pace. If so, you will find five trails that vary in distance from less than 1 to just more than 4 miles.

Accommodations at the park range from tent camping, for those who like to “rough it,” to RV sites with full hook-ups, for all of the comforts of home, and fully furnished cabins with a choice of one, two or three bedrooms.

Now, when I say the cabins are fully furnished, I mean the cabins are fully furnished.

Each contains air-conditioning, bath and bed linens, cooking and eating utensils, coffee maker, microwave, screened porch and a fireplace.

The only thing you’ll be missing is a television, but this trip is about getting out and enjoying the outdoors.

Tent sites runs from $8 to $12 per night while the RV sites are an affordable $18 to $20, depending upon location. The nightly fee for a cabin varies from $80 to $135 per night.

Getting to Table Rock State Park is easy from our neck of the woods. Take I-85 south to Highway 11 in Gaffney (Exit 92.) Head west for 75 miles and turn left on East Ellison Lane.

For reservations or more information, contact the park at 864-878-9813 or by email at tablerock@scprt.com.

For those looking to immerse themselves into fun outdoor activities while maintaining a high level of creature comforts, Devil’s Fork State Park is the place to be.

Enjoy excellent fishing on Lake Jocassee for trophy trout, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, crappie and bream. The lake even offers scuba diving in the deep, crystal clear water.

Hiking along one of the park’s two loop trails might even present the chance for a snapshot of a black bear or two.

Bear Cove Trail is a moderate hike of 2 miles that winds its way through a predominantly hardwood forest. Those seeking an easier walk will enjoy the 1 mile loop named Oconee Bell Trail, after the rare wildflower that can be found along its path.

Two campgrounds with restroom facilities and hot showers are available near the Jocassee shoreline. Tent sites are available for $16 per night. RV spots with electricity and water can handle campers up to 36 feet in length and cost $20 to $22.

And if you need a television, the cabins at Devil’s Fork are the ones for you.

Yours will also come with everything mentioned earlier in the cabins at Table Rock. Two- and three-bedroom models are available and are priced from $80 to $172 per night.

Devil’s Fork State Park is located further down Highway 11, approximately 90 miles from the interstate. From the highway, watch for Jocassee Lake Road and take it for about three 3 miles.

For reservations or information, call 864-944-2639 or email to devilsfork@scprt.com.

Are you willing to go the extra mile” for a great angling experience?

Jones Gap State Park, part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area in Greenville County, is as close as it gets to trout fishing heaven in our state.

From brookies to big rainbows and browns, the waters flowing through the Middle Saluda, Matthews and Julian creeks are teeming with them.

Before you go, you need to know that only fly fishing and artificial lures are allowed so bait fishermen need to save that corn for supper.

There are some incredible strolls to be found through this area. Eight trails, stretching from a half mile all the way up to 10 miles, wander through the 11,000 acres.

Don’t expect to find much in the way of amenities around here. This trip is for hardcore fishermen and wilderness campers.

There are no drive-up campsites and you’ll be required to pack in everything that you’ll need to spend your nights trailside on one of the designated primitive spots available. Fees are $8 to $20 per night, depending upon location.

Obviously, this choice isn’t for everyone but those who are up for it are guaranteed to enjoy the trip and make a ton of memories.

Finding your way to Jones Gap is a little more involved but still quite easy. Take I-85 South toward Spartanburg then head west on I-26 into North Carolina until you reach exit 54, merging onto U.S. 25 South toward U.S. 176. Take a slight right at County Road 41/Gap Creek Road then right onto County Road 97/Jones Gap Road. The entrance will be on your left.

Give them a call at 864-836-3647 or email to jonesgap@scprt.com.

Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at www.bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter @BHarveyOutdoors.

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