We had a great, wildly diverse weekend in Charleston, from swamps to beaches to city church yards. When planning this trip, we intentionally stayed an extra night into Monday so that I wouldn’t think about work at all on my first official day of unemployment. That meant that we could take our time coming home, and we did just that.
Laura and I love taking the back roads to and from the low country. Our plan was to drive northeast out of Charleston, then turn north through the Francis Marion National Forest. There was at least one ghost town along the way, and I was sure other interesting places would present photographic opportunities.
As we headed north on 17 I mounted the GoPro to my windshield. I wanted to get video as we crossed the the Cooper River Bridge. The video itself that interesting, but I got a couple of interesting stills. Never mind the reflection of my GPS and XM radio on the dash.
We had breakfast in Mount Pleasant, then headed up Highway 41 toward Wando. Once past all of the bedroom communities of Charleston, Highway 41 becomes one of the straightest roads I’ve ever seen. The road is lined with miles and miles of managed pine forest, with trees of varying heights. The first curve in the road doesn’t come until 11 miles later in the community of Huger. I had to remind Laura that in South Carolina it’s pronounced YOU-gee.
Just past Huger, now on Highway 402, we spotted a sign for the Huger Recreation Area. We pulled in to check it out, and found a landing on Huger Creek that looked like an excellent place for the start of a kayaking trip. According to the Berkeley County Blueways website, this is the endpoint of a trip that starts on Quimby Creek. The water was flat enough that it could be an out-and-back paddling trip sometime. An artesian well dumped water that flowed into the creek. A railroad trestle could be seen a few yards from the launch.
We continued on 402 to Cordesville where we turned westward toward the Cooper River and my main target for the day, Strawberry Chapel and the ghost town of Childsbury.
Strawberry Chapel and Childsbury
This is one of the places I’ve wanted to visit for quite awhile. In 1707 James Childs selected a bluff overlooking the Cooper River at the furthermost point where ships could navigate and decided to build a town. Property was designated for a college, a free school, a house for the schoolmaster, a place of worship, and a market square. The town didn’t last very long – only until the mid-1700s when large plantations subsumed the area. The only remaining building is Strawberry Chapel. The chapel was designated as a chapel-of-ease for one of the larger local Episcopalian churches. The chapel is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
I had read that recently Strawberry Chapel was on private property and was now off-limits due to vandalism. That is disappointing, and I wasn’t sure what to expect when we got there. I was quite surprised to see a brown sign pointing to the Childsbury Heritage Preserve. It looked like the area wouldn’t be as inaccessible as I feared.
We found a parking area next to the chapel. A kiosk described the history of the area and a description of the heritage preserve trails. A trail led off down toward the river.
The chapel itself was locked off by a fence with signs indicating that the place was under video surveillance. That’s a shame. I would have loved to have loved to have explored the church yard. As it was, I shot as many photos as I could from outside the fence.
I would have loved to explore the area on foot a bit more. However, it was hot, and Laura is still not at the point where she can hike very much. The kiosk indicated a boat landing a bit further down a dirt road. As we were looking at the chapel, a truck with a boat and trailer came by, having just left the launch. We decided to check it out.
The road wound down to the river. However, it looked like anything BUT public access. We got to a point where it looked like the dirt road was going under someone’s carport, and decided it was time to turn around. Back out on the main road, we headed south and took the next road, Childsbury Drive, down toward the river. This took us down to a riverside neighborhood with a mix of large beautiful homes and little river shacks. I was surprised at how high the bluff loomed over the river. The view from some of the houses was quite impressive for this area.
We headed back out to the main road. However, instead of retracing our steps to Cordesville, we continued north toward Moncks Corner. Just a couple of miles up from Strawberry Chapel we came across another National Register site – Taveau Methodist Church.
The wood frame Greek Revival structure caught my eye as we drove past, and I had to turn around. As with Strawberry Chapel, a locked fence prevented entry. The church had broken windows and was in bad repair, but made a picturesque subject. Unfortunately, the building was backlit by the sun, so it was hard to get a good shot. Later afternoon would be a better time to visit.
We passed by the entrance to Mepkin Abbey, but didn’t stop. The road we were on came back to 402 at the Wabdoo Creek Landing. This was our where our group landed after paddling through the Pinopolis Lock a couple of years ago. We pulled in so that Laura could see the landing.
Just past the landing, and before we got to Moncks Corner we reached the old Biggin Church ruins. We got out to explore. While there were some very old headstones in the churchyard, some with signatures, there were also some very modern headstones, as recent as 2007. It looked like the cemetery was in continuous use.
We had a quick lunch in Moncks Corner, then continued north on Highway 52. Our route took us along the east side of the Santee Cooper lakes, crossing both the Tailrace Canal and the Rediversion Canal before reaching St. Stephen’s and Greeleyville. We continued on through Manning, Paxville, and Pinewood. Soon we were at the access road to Sparkleberry Landing. Since we were this close I wanted Laura to see where we came for our paddling trips. Looking at the dense growth of cypress, she wondered how we found our way through the swamp without getting lost. I told her that you develop a sense for it, but you also follow the blazes and keep a GPS handy.
It had been a great day taking backroads, but by this time we were tired. We connected with Garner’s Ferry Road and headed on into Columbia where we took Interstates back home. Here’s a map of the locations we visited:
View 6-16-2013 Berkely County Ramble in a larger map