I had tons of work I needed to do around the house – cut grass, vacuum the floors, and blow the pollen off the decks and driveway. Instead, I loaded up my bike and drove up to the northern end of the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Travelers Rest.
The Swamp Rabbit Trail is part of the rails to trails movement, and is named for the former Greenville and Northern Railway that used to run from downtown Greenville to River Falls in the Jones Gap area. The railway got its nickname from the various wetlands it passed through. The plan is to pave the railway from Greenville to Travelers Rest, and to eventually run trams on the path on a regular schedule.
I parked at the Travelers Rest trailhead and headed south. At this point the trail is grassy and a bit bumpy. It passes through the middle of Travelers Rest, past TR Methodist, where Laura and I got married, and through the middle of a parking lot for several businesses. From there, the trail took a route more separate from the populated areas.
Initially, the surface was very rocky and jarring. The rails and ties had been removed, leaving the loose rocks in place. My mountain bike is an older one without the shock absorbers found on newer models, so I felt each one of those rocks. I was beginning to think that I wouldn’t get very far if the rest of the trail was like this. However, the trail did smooth out, and eventually took on the characteristics of a rough dirt road.
An underpass got the trail to the other side of Highway 25. As I rode by, there was one guy just hanging out under the bridge. Not quite sure what he was up to. Immediately on the other side of the highway the trail enters the old W. R. Grace fertilizer plant property. Buildings are close on either side, creating a man-made canyon. I saw another individual wandering the grounds, and wondered who else might be lurking in the abandoned buildings.
On the other side of Roe Ford Road the trail passes by construction for the Woodlands at Furman – a misnomer if ever I heard one. What woodlands there might have been have been stripped to build these assisted living condos. This is the outgrowth of another trend, that of putting homes for the elderly next to college campuses so that they might take advantage of activities. I guess keggers appeal to all ages. I do know that these condos are VERY expensive.
The trail passes on the back side of Furman’s lake, separating the main campus from its golf course. When I was in school here, I remember trains using these tracks. Back then there were only two points where one could cross the tracks. There was a trail leading to the golf course, and one leading to Montague Village, which was then auxiliary housing. Now two additional access points have been created so that Furman folks can get to the trail.
Off of campus, and on the other side of Duncan Chapel Road, the trail passes fraternity slums. Multiple grills, remains of beer cases, and a variety of state license plates are dead give-aways as to the nature of the residents. Just pass these one can see a nascent Reedy River and the eponymous wetlands. Other creeks feed into the Reedy’s floodplain from various directions.
At Watkins Bridge Road another cyclist came up behind me and we stopped to chat. He said that he rides the trail regularly from TR, but that it is rough. His suggestion was to ride the trail down to Highway 253, then take surface streets back. He took off, while I lingered to shoot a couple of pictures.
On one of the tributary creeks there was what could loosely be called a bridge. There were wide gaps between the railroad ties, and there was no way to ride a bike over it. I walked tentatively, and at one point a rotting tie almost gave way under might foot. It was a bit scary.
Past the bridge I encountered a group of hikers from a local church. There were about twelve of them strung out along the trail. At Sulpher Springs Road, the rest of the group had stopped for snacks at an old railroad car. Some of the kids had climbed into the car to explore, so I decided to do the same. There was some weird old mechanical devices in the car, whose purposed I couldn’t divine. It was obvious that this car was utilitarian and not for cargo.
The group was planning to hike all the way to downtown. I thought that might be a good goal, despite the advice from my cycling friend. I continued past the industrial areas on Sulpher Springs and continued on the trail. At this point the trail is criss-crossed with red dirt trails created by motocross bikers. One roared nearby, but it didn’t look like they were actually using the trail.
Finally I reached Highway 253. I crossed and immediately there was another railroad tie bridge similar to the first I had crossed. Beyond that, the trail was overgrown and grassy. I looked at the trail, then looked at my watch, and realized the day was getting away. Considering that I would have to ride all the way back for my truck, I decided that half of the trail was about all I could do for now. I also decided to return on surface streets.
I road east on 253, then turned onto Old Buncombe. A large group of serious cyclists passed – part of some organized group ride. At Lakeview Middle School I stopped to take a picture of the non-existent lake. It looked like it had been drained a long time ago, but I do remember where there was actually water in the lake.
One of the first things I noticed was that even though the pavement was much smoother, there are many more hills on surface streets. The railway had stayed fairly level. By the time I reached the intersection of Old Buncombe and Sulpher Springs Roads my legs were feeling a but rubbery. I continued on, and when I reached University Square, I decided it was time for a break. Laura was out and about, so I called her to join me at Karrie’s for lunch.
Suitably refreshed and relaxed, I continued on Old Buncombe, then took Roe Ford Road back to the trail, entering at the old Grace plant. I passed several others using the trail, and even one pickup that had pull onto the trail to pilfer some old iron rails. There was a bit of an incline toward the end. With some effort, I finally made it back to my truck.
After loading up the truck I took a look around. The buildings surrounding the parking area have been purchased by our friends Nancy and Joyce McCarrell. They are planning to put in a cafe and wine shop to cater to the trail crowd. The sign said opening in “Late Spring 2008”, but it looks like they still have a ways to go. I’ll look forward to visiting when it is open.