We haven’t been allowed enough dry weather recently to make a hike feasible. The deluge of a couple of weeks ago left the Congaree trails flooded, so I thought it best to wait on those. So when Easter Sunday rolled around with some decent weather (warm and “sunny” through constant chem-trailing) Donna and I decided to hike somewhere. After all our work-outs, we were feeling stronger than we have in ages, so we’ve been itching to see how well we can handle the local trails. Our last outing was the Little Gap Trail back in February, but that was only a couple of miles and wanted something more challenging. The trails at Poinsett State Park seemed a good choice.
Poinsett is about an hour’s drive from home, is on the edge of Manchester State Forest, and offers several trails from 1.7 to 6.2 miles in length. Of course, they all intersect so your actual hike length will likely be longer. In fact, since they do intersect, it’s no problem to plan a hike of about any length you want to try. That was apparent to us from speaking with the park ranger at the renovated park office and gift shop.
Based on the ranger’s recommendations, we decided to create our own hike by following the Scout Trail to the Cowasee Trail, then follow the Whipoorwill Trail back to the Scout, and then back to the park office.
We reached the park in the early morning and found a number of groups beginning their Easter Sunday around the lake. Many that looked to be preparing for hikes and mountain bike excursions, so I expected we’d have company on the trail. They must have hit different trails, though, because we only passed one other person (though we saw others at a distance).
The trails struck me as being recently maintained. They were cleared, most were narrow, and the way was well-marked with recently painted, color-coded blazes (which were paint swatches on trees and not “nailed on” markers). Sections of forest were draped in Spanish Moss, creating a garden-like environment.
We took the trails with a feeling of fortitude, never wearing out and enjoying the physical challenge without being overcome by it. We rested, but never collapsed. We maintained a good pace (2.5mph), scaring up a couple of small snakes that we never saw but only noted their scurry through the leaf litter.
The neat point of the hike was our discovery of the primitive camping area. It was a wide expanse with picnic tables and a couple of fire pits (and there may have been more). It was bordered by trails and offered very many good spots to pitch tents. Since you would have to hike into the area, it would also offer a feel for back-country camping. We decided this would be a great place to make our first camping expedition.
As I said, the trails were well-marked and color-coded so we had no problem determining which trail we were on. The trail map and the compasses on our little survival bracelets kept us oriented. Still, we got turned around at the last and ended up walking the paved road back to the parking lot.
All-in-all, I really liked Poinsett. I thought it a good compromise between the “wilderness” of a state or national forest and park conveniences. The large trail network and camping opportunities also put it high on my list for local hikes. We’ll go back.
As for fitness, we handled those four miles and 200 foot elevation change with vigor. Though I was somewhat stiff the next day, I was never drained or hurting to the point I couldn’t move. Donna was the same. I took from the hike, the inspiration to keep doing this, upping the challenge and moving towards some yet-to-be-determined goal.