We left Spartanburg Wednesday morning and headed toward Sumter National Forest expecting to have open forest space to pitch a tent. As we biked through it however, we were surprised to find residences, yards, and 'no trespassing' signs. It didn't feel like a forest at all! And what's more, it was also the land of snarling, unleased or fenced-in canines that loved to chase us! No bites, but intimidation for sure. We decided to book it to the nearest town where we could ask people about
campgrounds. We stopped at a Piggly Wiggly in Whitmire, SC, in the evening, where we learned it was at least 20 miles to the nearest campground. Enter Karen, a kindly woman who took us in, fed us and put us up in her guest room! Safe and comfortable yet again thanks to the kindness of strangers.
The next day we made our way toward Congaree National Monument. It was a sunny and beautiful day on super flat terrain, so we couldn't have been more pleased. We passed many fields of cotton, that somewhat resembled snow-covered plants. When we stopped to touch it, a man in a pickup pulled over and asked if we needed help. We explained that as newcomers to cotton plants, we just had to get out and touch the plants and would soon be on our way. He smiled and continued on.
Margaret introduces herself to the cotton plants.
We biked just over 70 miles that day, stopping briefly in the capital of Columbia to cool down with iced coffees. We made it to the park and pitched a tent that night outside the Congaree vistor center.
Capital building in Columbia
Friday morning we took time to walk to boardwalk there. Congaree is actually a riverbottom forest, since the network of rivers nearby will flood the area regularly making it more of a swamp. There are tons of Champion trees there (meaning they are the biggest of their species), including many trees we don't have up north, such as Tupelo and Swamp Oak, and probably the most famous Bald Cypress which have 'knees'-roots that pop up above the soil and then dip back down. It was a really fanciful looking place.
Hey there Bald Cypress, your 'knees' are showing!
Finally we left about midday and stopped at a little diner so Margaret could get her coffee fix. It was the only store around for miles and a few locals were hanging out. The woman working there was a little baffled about why we would ever bike like we are, but ended up gifting us some delicious warm cornbread in exchange for a postcard that we will send down the road. Bellies full, we continued on our way and found ourselves in Holly Hill as it was getting dusk. A very kind couple in their late 80's ended up taking us in and yet again we got the royal treatment of a guest room, and meals and good company. They even sent us off with Halloween candy in the morning!
Emily samples boiled peanuts for the first time.
Next stop: Charleston! We traveled mostly on route 61, a scenic byway that was lined with huge Live Oaks, dripping in Spanish Moss. We pulled into a spot along the way called 'Middletown Place,' just expecting to fill waterbottles. It turned out to be an old plantation with the most historic landscaped gardens in the United States, designed by the same architect who designed Versais! We went into the museum shop to ask about getting into the city and ended up chatting with Peggy, the woman working there. When we asked her about famous plantations in the south, she insisted that Middleton Place was the most worth seeing. We were afraid the tickets wouldn't fit our shoestring budget, and when we mentioned that we had to check prices, she then suggested that we use some of her free guest passes. So...we had an unexpected afternoon tour of the house and ramble of the grounds! Another example of the incredible good fortune and good people on this trip!
We had to peddle on if we wanted to make it to Charleston that night though, so we took off towards the city. As the traffic started getting heavier we ran into another cyclist who led us right to a 'greenway' bikepath that spat us out downtown right where we needed to be. We found the house of our hosts - College of Charleston students who were friends of a friends of a friends - just in time to join in on Halloween festivities!
The next morning was a glorious sunny and warm day of exploring the city. We saw the waterfront, marina, historic buildings, College of Charleston campus, the shopping district and more. Then we convened back with our hosts and made dinner, watched a movie and hung out. Today was another day of exploration, including a horse-drawn carriage tour of historical sites around the city. It was well worth it to get to know a little more of the story behind all of the architecture. All in all, Charleston has turned out to be a great spot.
The awesome people in Charleston who took us in! Thanks guys!
On the Mega Dock in the Charleston Marina
Sunset in Charleston