On the road again! Life had calmed down enough with Lucille’s folks and their medical issues that we decided to pull up stakes and explore a part of South Carolina we hadn’t seen before – along the Georgia/South Carolina state lines. Our home base for the next several weeks was Modoc Campground, one of the many Corps of Engineer campgrounds on J. Strom Thurmond Lake.
Thurmond Dam and Lake is the largest U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ project east of the Mississippi River and is one of the ten most visited Corps lakes in the nations. October was a great time to visit – we saw some campers during the week with the weekend being busier, but overall, the place was quiet – our favorite time of the year to visit parks.
Finished in 1954, the lake and dam provide flood control for the Savannah River; power production; controlled release of lake levels to increase river depths downstream for commercial barge traffic; and year-round recreation (picnicking, camping, fishing, boating and hunting).
With Georgia and South Carolina sharing the lake and over 1,200 miles of shoreline, there are thirteen Corps campgrounds, multiple day use and boat ramps; commercial marinas, state and county parks and forest service campgrounds. No wonder it’s one of the most visited lakes in the nation.
We were treated to a beautiful sunset display our first night – wotta life! We also enjoyed the miles of walking opportunities just within the campground, with some inclines to get that heart rate going.
Neat places we visited while in the area:
Ninety Six National Historic Site located in Ninety Six, South Carolina. Ninety Six is so-named because early traders in the 1700s estimated that was the number of miles from the Cherokee Village in Keowee (today’s Clemson) to this location.
Visiting places like Ninety Six remind us of how much we’ve actually forgotten about our country’s beginnings. Originally set up as a trading post between the European colonists who had settled here and the Cherokee Indians, it later figured prominently in the southern campaign of the American Revolution. The first land battle south of New England was fought here in 1775. Fortified by the British because it was such a strategically important frontier town (hard to think of that part of South Carolina today as frontier country), General Nathanael Greene, along with 1,000 patriot troops, staged the longest siege of the Revolutionary War against 550 loyalists defending Ninety Six.
After watching the short video in the Visitor Center, we set out to walk the one-mile paved round-trip trail around what used to be the fort and the original town of Ninety Six. Earthen mounds are all that remains of the Star Fort. Greene took one look at the fort’s formidable defenses, factored in his own lack of heavy artillery, and ruled out a quick, direct assault. Only a siege could bring down the fort so he called in military engineer Colonel Thaddeus Kosciuszko (West Point’s designer) to develop and direct the siege operations. (Greene eventually lost the siege but his offensive weakened the loyalists’ stronghold.)
Interesting to see were the communication trenches that connected the Star Fort, village and Stockade Fort (built to guard the town’s water supply). These four- to five-foot deep ditches, covered by dirt, appeared to be above ground tunnels.
Wild Turkey Center and Winchester Museum in Edgefield, South Carolina. Who’da thunk turkeys would be so interesting, other than at the Thanksgiving table? This is the only museum in North America dedicated to the North American wild turkey. Did you know there are at least six species of turkeys, primarily in the US? The most unusual looking species is the jungle turkey, also known as the ocellated turkey – quite colorful and found in the Yucatan Peninsula.
We also learned that the wild turkey almost became extinct. During the 1930s, there were only about 30,000 turkeys. With the help of the National Wild Turkey Federation’s programs to preserve the species, the turkey population grew from 1.3 million in 1973 to over 7 million today.
Also found in the museum are turkey calls of all sorts – some very basic, some very ornate, some historic and some modern. There are even competitions, sort of like beauty contests, for turkey calls. 3-D displays, a virtual reality theater and robotic characters educate the visitor as you stroll through the museum.
Near the end of the displays is a laser shooting program, testing your skills as a deer hunter. The experienced or inexperienced hunter can choose which habitat to hunt for deer – terrain and coloration make a big difference on how to spot and bag a deer. The deer in the area will be safe from Lucille, but maybe a warning to them is appropriate after watching Larry ‘bag’ one deer after another. This was a fun museum to visit, well worth the stop if you’re in the area.
The main reason we chose this area of South Carolina to call home base for a few weeks was to be near enough to return back to Yvette’s should a bed open up for their father in Richmond Hill, near where their mother’s apartment is. At last, we got a call that there was an available bed. Yvette had plans to be out of town that week but took care of all the admissions paperwork before she left. We left the rig at the Modoc Campground, with the hosts’ permission, and then headed back to Rincon to actually move Dad from Pooler down to Richmond Hill.
We won’t bore you with all the details but we sure kept busy the two and half days we spent back in Rincon, getting Dad relocated to the new facility. He was a little agitated when he first got to his new home – Alzheimer’s’ patients don’t do well with change but in time, he’ll get settled in like he did in the Pooler facility.
We returned to Modoc Campground, where we spent another few days, before moving on to another Corps of Engineer campground in Pendleton, on Lake Hartwell – Twin Lakes Campground. We were only there four nights but with all there is to see and do in the area, we’ll return sometime in the future.
Here’s a sampling of what to see in the area:
The World of Energy at the Oconee Nuclear Station. Located on Lake Keowee in Seneca, Oconee was the first nuclear station designed, built and operated by Duke Energy. We took the self-guided tour in the World of Energy – there are lots of interesting interactive exhibits describing how electricity is generated using water, coal and uranium. We’d recently seen an example of water-generated electricity at Thurmond Dam. Here at Oconee, the plant generates electricity similar to a coal-fired power plant but instead of using coal as the fuel, Uranium 235 is the heat source.
Unit 1 started producing electricity in 1973, Units 2 and 3 in 1974. Since 1973, Oconee has safely generated more than 500 million megawatt-hours of electricity. With its capability to generate approximately 2.6 million kilowatts, this nuclear station is one of the nation’s largest nuclear plants.
Some factoids about Oconee: They employ 1,000 folks and are very serious about safety – more than 20% of their employee work-hours are spent in training; they can provide electricity for 1.7 million average-sized homes; a thimble-size uranium pellet is equal to 1,780 pounds of coal – 8,300,000 pellets fuel one reactor (sounds like a cleaner and more eco-friendly way to provide power.)
Oconee Station State Historic Site and Station Cove Falls: Built in 1792 to protect the white settlers against the Indians, this is one of a series of blockhouses along the South Carolina frontier, garrisoned with soldiers until 1799. On the premises is the William Richards House, built in 1805 and believed to be the first brick house in that section of South Carolina. The Richards House was a successful trading post.
Station Cove Falls can be reached by either a two mile hike from the state historic site’s parking lot (follow the trail signs) or if you drive further down Oconee Station Road, you’ll see a pull-off, with the falls less than a half mile walk from that parking spot. Whichever way you take to see the falls, it is well worth the scenery on the trails as well as seeing the 60-foot falls.
Stumphouse Tunnel and Issaqueena Falls: The things you find when you have time to explore an area….Stumphouse Tunnel was a project started in the 1850s to connect South Carolina to the Midwest with a direct rail line. Originally planned to have been over a mile long, only a portion was completed when the Civil War broke out. The tunnel was abandoned then due to lack of funds. Bring a flashlight if you visit the tunnel – we forgot ours but followed another couple who came better prepared than we were. The tunnel is quite wide and tall and kept perpetually cool because of the dripping water.
Nearby is Issaqueena Falls, supposedly named for the Creek maiden who jumped to her death after warning the white settlers that a Cherokee raid was pending. These scenic falls are reached by a short walk from the parking lot.
Old Stone Church: Located in Clemson, this Presbyterian church was built in 1797 with Revolutionary War hero General Andrew Pickens serving as one of the original elders of the church. The church also functioned as a fortified building to protect against Indians – as added protection, heavy wooden doors closed over the glass windows. Today the church is used for weddings and other special functions. We lucked out the day we stopped by – one of the doors was unlocked so we took a personal tour of the interior. The church was also the first one to allow slaves to attend services along with the white settlers, with an outdoor staircase accessing the balcony.
Several prominent figures are buried in the adjacent cemetery. Among those there are Generals Andrew Pickens and Robert Anderson and Osenappa, the only Indian buried there. His simple grave of stones is easy to find amongst the upright markers.
Falls Park and the Reedy River Falls: This city park is located smack dab in the middle of Greenville with paved intertwining trails that meander in and out of the shady groves of trees and landscaped flower beds. Greenville’s Riverwalk may not be as long or as famous as San Antonio’s but it is pretty nonetheless, with cafés, restaurants, and ice cream shops galore. The centerpiece of the park is Liberty Bridge, an engineering marvel offering a great place to view Reedy River Falls cascading across the rocks underneath. The 355-foot suspension bridge is one of a kind and is horizontally supported only on one side by immense towers, sunk 70’ down into the bedrock and cantilevered to lean at a 15-degree angle. We stopped for lunch at Overlook Grill (appropriately named) and enjoyed viewing the bridge from our patio seating area, folks strolling the Riverwalk and the falls.
Our short stay in the Clemson area came to an end – we hit the road for Huntsville, Alabama, with the military campground at Redstone Arsenal our home for the next ten days. The primary reason for our visit back to our old stomping grounds was for our annual skin checks with the dermatologist we’ve seen for the past 15 years. We did have one repeat visit with her, got some annual lab work taken care of at Fox Army Hospital on Redstone Arsenal (no cost to us as military retirees) and spent the rest of our stay there catching up with all our friends in the area. So many friends, so little time….But we made the most of our visit there and helped support the restaurants in the area.
Huntsville is also very near the north-south Interstate 65. Friends and fellow coworkers from Lone Oak (summer of 2006) Rick and LaVerne and John and Maureen stopped on their way to Texas after having spent another summer working at Lone Oak. We enjoyed catching up with news of their happenings as well as those we’d worked with in Connecticut.
We played both tourists and guide one afternoon as the six of us went to visit Harrison Brothers Hardware in downtown Huntsville. Harrison Brothers is the oldest operating hardware store in Alabama, having been started in 1897 by brothers James and Daniel Harrison. First a tobacco store, then eventually selling hardware, furniture, and crockery, it was in danger of being closed down in 1983 after the death of grandson and last owner Robert Harrison. The Historic Huntsville Foundation took it over to preserve its history, still run today by volunteers and still selling hardware as well as items unique to the area - a fun place to explore and maybe find just the right gift for someone special.
After a tasty and reasonably priced lunch at the Wild Rose Café on Courthouse Square, we then walked over to Alabama Constitution Village, getting there in time for the next guided tour. We’d been there before but had taken a self-guided tour. Having a tour guide made our visit there all the more enjoyable, educational and entertaining.
Constitution Village is a living history museum with federal-style buildings reconstructed on their original sites to commemorate the birth of Alabama as a state (admitted to the Union December 14, 1819.) We learned about life in the early 1800s – spinning wool, dipping candles, crafting furniture, printing on the old press, gardening…
Some of the interesting bits of history we learned: When someone died, a bell was installed in the casket in the event the deceased really wasn’t deceased. Wakes, or viewings as they are also known, were held then with the occasional deceased ringing the bell and supposedly ‘waking’ up from sleep, not death, as had been assumed.
You didn’t pay to mail letters back then. You only paid to pick up the mail, with the charges based on distance traveled from the sender and weight of the letter. Cross writing was one way to reduce weight – an entire letter was written on both sides of the paper, then continued on this same sheet of paper but diagonally. It looks like both writing and reading cross writing were acquired skills. Senders could also write in code on the envelope and the recipient would know the contents without even opening the letter, thus saving money by not paying to pick up the letter. An example would be if the letter was addressed to a Mrs. Ann Mary Smith from a Mr. Smith. She may know that if her middle name was used, that was a pre-arranged code that he was returning home within a week.
Nails were a precious commodity back then. When you moved, it was more economical to burn the house down and retrieve the nails to be used elsewhere. “Dead as a door nail” referred to the practice of adding a board across the door as additional support, fastening it with nails, then hammering the ends of the nail over, rendering them useless for reuse but making the support extremely strong.
Dipping candles must have been almost a full-time job. The typical family then used, according to the docent, 8,000 candles per year.
That wavy window glass you see in buildings of that era is called cylinder glass. If someone witnessed a crime looking through cylinder glass, their testimony wasn’t valid because the glass distorted the view too much.
The origin of masterpiece, as it relates to art, is that an apprentice for furniture making, pewter, etc…would work years learning a craft from that trade’s master. To ‘graduate’ to the next level, the apprentice would work on a piece until he thought it reflected his skills, presenting it to the master for his approval. This became known as the master’s piece.
These are just a few of the factoids we learned during our two-hour tour – well worth waiting around for a guided tour when available, and there’s no extra cost for the guide, just the general entrance fee – wotta deal!
Friends and passionate Habitat volunteers Dave and Mary also stopped by on their way to our next Habitat for Humanity destination – Mobile. We enjoyed dinner at their place that evening. They left the next day because of storms coming in, but we’ll see them mid-November in Mobile.
And so another month ended. November will find us back in Rincon, Georgia for our annual medical and dental appointments, then on to Mobile for about five weeks helping with Habitat for Humanity. Plans are to ‘play’ in Florida in January – a week first in Fort Lauderdale then on to Palmdale the remainder of the month for a long overdue stay with friends there. February and March finds us volunteering at Wakulla Springs State Park south of Tallahassee. No set plans after that other than slowly heading up north to spend spring and summer at our site at Klondike Camping Resort in Otis, Massachusetts.