Friday, March 21, 2014

N. R. Goodale State Park (Blog Hike #459)

Trail: Nature Trail
Hike Location: N. R. Goodale State Park
Geographic Location: northeast of Camden, SC
Length: 1.5 miles
Difficulty: 1/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: March 2014
Overview: A short lollipop nature trail loop.

Directions to the trailhead: From downtown Camden, drive US 1 north 3.2 miles to Old Stagecoach Road.  Take a soft right on Old Stagecoach Rd.  Drive Old Stagecoach Rd. 2.5 miles to Park Road and turn left on Park Road.  The park entrance is 0.4 ahead on the right.  Turn right to enter the park, pass a nice new picnic shelter with bug-netting, and park in the sandy lot in front of the park office/canoe rental center.

The hike: Known primarily as a canoeing and kayaking destination, N. R. Goodale State Park consists of 743 acres northeast of Camden.  The area boasts a rich history, starting with the Revolutionary War Battle of Camden fought in August 1780 some 5 miles north of town.  The British won a resounding victory that day, as the Patriots took over 900 casualties and had 1000 soldiers captured, thus losing nearly their entire southern force.
            The area also saw action during the Civil War.  During his devastating rampage, Union General Sherman marched his troops on a path through what is today the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge some 20 miles north of here.  Goodale State Park itself contains a millpond that was active during the Civil War.
            Things are much quieter around Camden these days.  The waters of this area are filtered clear by the sandhills’ sandy soil, so this area’s ponds are some of the clearest bodies of water this side of Florida.  Paddlers come from near and far to paddle their boats through the maze of cypress trees contained in the park’s lake.  For hikers, the park has only one short nature trail, the one described here.  Note that this park is only open seasonally, so check the park’s website to make sure it will be open when you plan to visit.
Nature Trail trailhead
            Either before or after your hike make sure you take the short walk past the park office to the lake’s edge to take in the lake view: this is one of the prettiest lakes in South Carolina.  When you tear yourself away from the lake, the signed Nature Trail trailhead is located a short distance back out the park road.  The trail heads into the loblolly pines on a wide needle-covered treadway that appears to be an old road.
            At 0.2 miles, the trail forks to form its loop.  As directed by a metal marker nailed to a pine tree, I turned right here to leave the old road and hike the loop counterclockwise.  Some numbered posts along this trail indicate the presence of an interpretive guide, but you will have to come during this park’s very short office hours if you hope to obtain one.  See the park’s website for current office hours.
Plank bridge over wet area
The trail assumes a meandering eastward course as it alternates between dense greenery in the wetter areas and open loblolly pine forest in the higher and dryer areas.  A few southern magnolias dot the pine woods to the left.  The wetlands to the right make you think that the lake might come into view any minute, but throughout the entire hike it never does.  Some plank bridges take you over a few small creeks, and overall the going is quite easy.
Hiking toward the uplands
At 0.9 miles, the trail curves left and climbs slightly to leave the lower areas for good.  1.1 miles into the hike, you re-intersect the old road you started this hike on.  As directed by more metal markers, angle left on the old road.  In another 0.2 miles you close the loop, and 0.2 miles after that you arrive back at the trailhead to complete the hike.  Make sure you go down and view the lake before you leave if you did not do so before the hike.
Park lake

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