South Carolina: Greenville and Columbia

south-carolina-physical-map

The flight from Atlanta to Greenville is a little less than an hour’s flight, and utilizes a small, regional jet. As the size of the flight suggested, the Greenville airport was small and welcoming; the type of airport where it takes about two minutes to walk from the furthest gate to the baggage claim. We arrived too late in the day for us to see much of the town on our arrival. What I did notice immediately, however, was the wonderful climate (despite the ongoing argument, I am of the opinion the Phoenix’s heat is far worse than the muggy heat that we experienced in Greenville and Charleston) and the chorus of cicadas that was unlike anything that I had ever heard at home.

I found Greenville itself to be a wonderful place to visit. Its downtown area reminded me of Lawrence, Kansas with all its small boutiques and unique restaurants.

(c) A.B. Raschke
(c) A.B. Raschke
It also has a plethora of historical statues, artistic pieces, and the playful little “Mice on Main.” Of particular interest to me was the statue of Francis Marion, or the “Swamp Fox.”
(c) A.B. Raschke
(c) A.B. Raschke
I’m not much of a history buff, so I hadn’t heard of the man before, and besides being beautiful, his statue came with a plaque that was very informative, and served as the first of many history lessons that I would partake in during my trip. South Carolina is a land of American history, and that in and of itself makes the state a prime place to visit, explore, and learn about.

It was also while viewing Francis’ statue that I saw my first Mouse on Main. The little guy was perched at the Swamp Fox’s feet, complete with a revolution era hat.

(c) A.B. Raschke
(c) A.B. Raschke
As it happens there are nine of unique mouse statues in Greenville’s downtown which were inspired by Goodnight Moon and originally thought up as a senior project by Jim Ryan, and sculpted by Zan Wells. The little mice statues are hidden throughout downtown, and can be sought out by those interested in finding them all. There are souvenirs sold in some of the shops for findings them all, and there is a website with clues for finding them. Apparently, the mice have had to be placed twice because the first set was stolen one by one from the streets. Luckily, they were replaced and the hunt for the neat little art pieces goes on.

After exploring the shops for a time, we wandered into Falls Park on Reedy. Here the Reedy River flows through town, cascading over some lovely falls and weaving its way through the park which is complete with small fields of grass, swings, and the shade of massive trees.

(c) A.B. Raschke
(c) A.B. Raschke
The park itself is fairly new, having once been a degraded section of the river where industry in Greenville got its start and the waterway paid the toll. Now, restored and beautiful, the water still isn’t all that safe to wade or swim in but it provides a beautiful amenity to locals and visitors alike. In the middle of the city, It was a great place to relax and experience a bit of nature.

While in Greenville, we also visited the Greeneville zoo. which was fittingly small, but had a good assortment of animals. I even got to see a few animals that I had never seen before- like legless lizards. That being said, as someone sensitive to the treatment of animals, this particular zoo made me somewhat uncomfortable.

(c) A.B. Raschke
(c) A.B. Raschke
Food in the form of crackers was sold to visitors as a way to feed the animals, and while I have seen this type of entertainment before, and I had never noticed it being so misused. People were throwing crackers at the giraffes and aiming to hit the animals rather than just feed them. Likewise, the chickens and ducks were showered with large chunks of crackers, and people fed the food to animals with clear signs saying they were on special diets. I’m sure such behavior isn’t unique to Greenville, but accompanied by people screaming at the animals and banging on their enclosures, it was hard for me to stomach nonetheless.

A more peaceful place to visit in town was the Paris Mountain State Park. There is a small lake for swimming and paddling, a multitude of wooded trails, and no lack of picnic tables and shaded pagodas. Online maps of trails not only provide the length of trails but their general difficulty level, making them very accessible to visitors and locals alike. We took the Mountain Creek trail from its trailhead down to The Lake Placid loop and then around.

(c) A.B. Raschke
(c) A.B. Raschke
The woods along the trail were verdant, and the lake itself was beautiful. I especially enjoyed a section of the lake trail with passed over a small bridge in front of the lake’s dam, where water was cascading over the top in a small, steady waterfall. Interestingly, I had been warned by my friend’s mother that Paris Mountain wasn’t the best place in the area for hiking, but as a visitor, I found it to be well worth the trip.

Finally, we were not able to spend much more than a few hours in South Carolina’s capital city, Columbia, but while we were there we visited a small museum which I very much enjoyed and which surprised our group with its expansiveness.

(c) A.B. Raschke
(c) A.B. Raschke
Attached to South Carolina State Museum, is a smaller and separate establishment, the Relic Room. Judging by its name and the price (which was 5 dollars) we expected little more than a small exhibit with a few old objects from the past. Rather, the relic room had an expansive, although not permanent, exhibit about Gettysburg, which was very informative, and then had a permanent exhibit featuring South Carolina’s military contributions throughout time. Once again, I’m not a history buff, but this little place was interesting, and was a great place to spend a few hours. For those spending more time in Columbia it would be an easy place to visit in conjunction with the main museum, and joint tickets are available.

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