Elizabeth A.S. Brooke

Crafting, traveling and everything in between.


Francis Beidler Forest, Harleyville, S.C.

On our way home from our Charleston trip we visited the Francis Beidler Forest, an Audubon Center in Harleyville, S.C. It is an hour from both Columbia and Charleston.

The 1,800-acre forest sits within the 45,000-acre Four Holes Swamp.

We walked along the park’s boardwalk and some of its dirt trails, though most were flooded due to the day’s rain.

We didn’t see much wildlife, but we could hear it, especially pileated woodpeckers.

Our walk along the boardwalk was serene, peaceful. It was a great rest stop along the way home.

Here’s some pics from our visit:

This is a shot looking up a tree trunk of a tree that you can climb into.


Conagree National Park, Hopkins, S.C.

Another stop we made on our trip to Charleston, S.C., was at Conagree National Park, Hopkins, S.C., not too far from Columbia.

The wooded trails were quite wet so we only walked on it long enough for Sidney to relieve herself and stretch our legs.

We then hopped onto the 2.4-mile boardwalk loop trail and explored the various habitats and read the interpretive signs.

Pups aren’t supposed to be on the boardwalk trail, by the way. That’s something to consider when you start off because there is no where for you to get off on the boardwalk as it takes you over lakes, swamps and very wet areas.

Here’s the park’s descriptions of the boardwalk trail, divided into the Elevated Boardwalk and Low Boardwalk:

  • The Elevated Boardwalk is about six feet above the ground and travels through old-growth forest. The trail ends at Weston Lake, an old channel of the Conagree River.
  • The Low Boardwalk passes through bald cypress and water tupelo forest.
We heard lots of birds, including woodpeckers, but didn’t see much else. Though the ground and boardwalk were still pretty wet, it was still a lovely walk and one that was much drier than the visit earlier in the day at Cypress Gardens.

One complaint I have is there was an interpretive sign that called a tree a pawpaw, but it was most definitely not a pawpaw. We’ve got a small grove of pawpaws in our yard, so we knew that was not correct. We’re pretty sure it was a chestnut oak.

The park’s site has a calendar of events. It might be cool to visit during a guided walk or other event.

Besides trails, you can also canoe/kayak, camp and fish. Check out a complete list of things to do here.


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Cypress Gardens, Monck’s Corner, S.C.

I mentioned Cypress Gardens in an earlier post. This was probably my most favorite place during our trip to Charleston, S.C. It’s hard to believe this is a Berkeley County Parks and Recreation park!

There are 3.5 miles of trails, boat rides, a butterfly house, the Swamparium and lots of wildlife.

We were able to get in a boat ride before the sky opened up and dumped buckets of rain. You can take a free, self-guided boat ride or wait for a park employee to take you on a tour (cost $5). We opted to go it alone. Here’s some of what we saw:

There were lots of lily pads.
Our boat.
This guy was resting close to the boat house. (Look to the left of the pillar.)
We had to paddle or float under two foot bridges.
We got within about six feet of this lazy gator. Close enough to scare him off the log. Oops!

It was amazing paddling around in the water, especially when we could get up close and personal with some alligators. There was a photography club there the same time we were, and one lady asked to snap some photos of us in the boat. We tried to hold the boat steady as she snapped some photos of us from the side of the pond.

A friend used to live near Charleston and told us how snakes are known to fall out of the trees into boats at the park. Aaaggghhh! Luckily, I think, we were in the area much too soon for a snake attack. We also only saw a few gators and they were lazily laying on logs or at the foot of cypresses and other trees.

After the boat ride, it started raining and we dashed into the butterfly house, where we hung out until the rain slowed down and we could make it back to the visitor center/gift shop and then the car.

In the butterfly house we saw:

Quail
The resident wood duck, The Prince. He rules the butterfly house and what he says goes.
Butterflies and flowers

Caterpillars
Cocoons, or chrysalis  

Most of the winged beauties were hanging out at the top of the building and we couldn’t see them that well.

David Davis, butterfly house director, talked with us about the plants, showed us the cocoon house and gave me some seeds for a Mexican flower vine that the butterflies love.

David Davis greets The Prince, who is sitting on top of the bee hive.

Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Sidney had to stay in the car while we explored the park, but pets are allowed November-February.

This park most definitely should be on your To-Do list if you’re ever in or near Charleston.

I really wanted to walk around the gardens, but the rain wasn’t going to let up so we drove on up the road to our next stop — Conagree National Park, near Columbia, S.C.


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Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

Here’s some photos from our trip to Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, near Suffolk, Va. If you’re out that way, check out the Plaid Turnip, a delicious restaurant in Suffolk! Here’s a Hampton’s Road article about it.

Nearly all the trails at the refuge were closed for bear and deer hunting season while we were there, so we stuck to the Washington Ditch Trail and the Boardwalk Trail for our exploring.

We, unfortunately, didn’t make it to Lake Drummond, which is 4 1/2 miles from the trail head.

This is a park I’ve wanted to visit a long time and this one day trip was a let down. But I hope to go back when we have more time to explore it.

We didn’t get to see too much wildlife, just some birds flitting about, including either a parakeet or flycatcher and some other walkers. Oh, and what is possibly bear scat. Does that count?


Trips ahead

In the coming weeks, Chris and I will head south for a pre-anniversary get away. Our anniversary isn’t until April 26, but we’re heading to Florida the end of this month. It should still be cool(er) in Florida then.

On our list of must dos: Everglades, Salvador Dali Museum and Butterfly World. None of those selections should be a surprise to anyone. We love state and national parks, I am a big Dali fan and we both love butterflies, although Chris is the one you’ll find chasing the winged beauties with a camera. I swear he has thousands of butterfly photos on our Mac.

A coworker also suggested the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Houses in Fort Myers and the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. If we have time and make it out that way, we’ll investigate.

Chris also has two cousins in Florida we hope to visit. So far we haven’t heard back from them. One lives near Tampa and the other near Miami.

To make traveling easier, we’re going to stop in Savannah, Ga., on the way down and back. So far we haven’t made any plans for this city. We’re planning on getting lost and exploring all we can with the little time we’ll have to spend there.

Sidney, unfortunately, won’t get to come along. She’ll hang out with her grandparents in North Carolina. Hopefully she’ll get along with their new puppy and share her water bowl and food dish if the puppy wants to stick her snout in.

I plan to take plenty of pictures and will share some of our adventures with you. If anyone has any suggestions of places to check out, let me know by posting a comment below or sending an email here.