Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Duke World of Energy (Blog Hike #369)

Trail: Nature Trail
Hike Location: Duke World of Energy
Geographic Location: northeast of SenecaSC (34.79588, -82.89991)
Length: 0.6 miles
Difficulty: 1/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: February 2012
Overview: An easy hike around a picnic area overlooking Lake Keowee.

Directions to the trailhead: From Seneca, take SR 130 8 miles north to the signed Duke World of Energy on the right.  Turn right, then bear left at the first intersection to drive up a small hill.  Park in the Visitor Center parking lot at the top of the hill.

The hike: Located on the eastern shore of Lake Keowee, Duke World of Energy is a facility owned and operated by Duke Energy, the electricity supplier for most of the Carolinas.  The main attraction is a collection of three nuclear reactors that provide emission-free electricity to thousands of local residents and businesses.  An on-site Visitor Center contains interesting exhibits about the generation of electricity and allows visitors good views of the reactor buildings.
            The facility also hosts events from time to time.  When I came here on a chilly, breezy late February afternoon, an orchid show was being held in the Visitor Center.  Away from the energy attractions lies a nice picnic area laced with the 0.6 mile nature trail described here.  While not a worthwhile hiking destination in its own right, the trail is a nice add-on if you come here to learn about energy.
            From the front of the Visitor Center, walk through the Visitor Center parking lot and then continue straight to the end of the pavement where the crushed stone trail heads to the picnic area.  At the first wooden sign that says “Nature Trail,” angle right to leave the gravel and begin the wide but unmarked dirt nature trail.  The nature trail consists of two parts: the eastern part you are hiking now and the western part you will hike later.
Gravel Trail through picnic area
            The trail heads through the young broadleaf forest with the picnic area to your left and some pine trees to your right.  In only 0.1 miles, the trail makes a turn to the left where a narrow angler’s trail heads downhill to the lakeshore.  After passing through a shallow ravine, the nature trail rejoins the gravel trail near a picnic shelter.  This intersection completes the eastern part of the nature trail.
Beginning of western part of nature trail
            To find the western part, angle right on the gravel trail and proceed to the last picnic table on the left.  The western part of the nature trail starts behind this picnic table.  There is another “Nature Trail” sign to mark the western part, but it is located behind the picnic table and therefore is hard to spot from the gravel.
            The western part of the nature trail heads downhill directly for the lake.  The turquoise blue waters of the lake contrast with the red clay banks.  A couple of wooden bridges take you across small, steep, wet-weather streams.  0.4 miles into the hike, the main trail curves left to head back to the picnic area while a side trail continues straight to reach a small, sandy beach on Lake Keowee.  If you try to reach the beach, watch out for an area where the trail, located right on the edge of the lake bank, has been undercut by erosion and therefore is in danger of collapse.  Such a collapse would send you tumbling downhill into the lake.
Lake Keowee
            The main trail climbs gradually then drops again to cross the same small stream you crossed earlier on another wooden bridge.  Some new wooden steps have been installed on the other side of the bridge to make the final climb back to the picnic area easier.  At the top of the steps, you reach the picnic area, and a right turn on the gravel path will take you back to the parking lot to complete the hike.

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