July 29, 2021
How To Make The Best out of a Rainy Road Trip in South Carolina
By Dawn S.
The dates were set in stone, but the forecast was bleak, calling for rain all week long. We found no alternative destinations for our Mom-Daughter South Carolina road trip. It was too hot to travel south, and we were going to be wet whether we headed North, East, or West.
We debated whether to even go or not. But it had been three years since our last adventure, and this would be the first time we were getting away, just the two of us, since Sara’s wedding a year and a half ago.
My husband reminded me that we were the “Adventure Girls” and he couldn’t believe we were going to let some rainy weather discourage or stop us.
The Big Blue van was loaded with everything we could need or want on our road trip from Florida up to Lake Jocassee in South Carolina.
We had our favorite cranberry/sunflower seed/walnut trail mix, my paddling gloves, our dry bags, PFDs and Sara’s Werner paddle. We would van camp for a few nights on our way up and back home, but the highlight was going to be our paddle across the lake to check out the waterfalls, and to our primitive, boat-in campsite at Devil’s Fork State Park.
Our Vantasia Family taught us this tip. When we have a lot of miles to cover, instead of wasting an entire day driving, we like to get on the road in the early evening, after dinner, and drive for 4-6 hours. There is less traffic and it’s cooler. We then pull into a rest area or KOA Journey on the interstate to sleep for the night.
We head out early the next morning driving on to our South Carolina road trip destination and make some scenic stops along the way to explore, stretch our legs and picnic.
We decided to go for it, and the rain came and followed us all along our route north. I was glad I had taken time to apply Rain-X to Big Blue’s windshield before we left home. It worked great and proved to be worth the effort.
Unfortunately, the afternoon thunderstorms were relentless and didn’t give us a window to paddle across Lake Jocassee and do the primitive camping that we had planned for on our South Carolina road trip.
So, we stayed in the main campground at Devil’s Fork State Park which is paved, has hot showers, flush toilets, and elevated gravel pads for the picnic table and fire ring, which made camping in the rain doable.
Many sites have water and electricity. They also have rustic walk-in lake view tent sites, primitive boat in campsites, and rent fully furnished villas with screened in porches and fireplaces.
Activities include scuba diving and guided boat tours to see the waterfalls or sunset. You can rent a canoe, kayak, stand up paddleboard (SUP), or your own pontoon boat.
Rainy Day Tip
At Devil’s Fork State Park, the main picnic area by the lake has several covered pavilions for rent with picnic tables and electrical outlets. When available, we used these to cook our meals, and to play cards and backgammon.
The park store also has a counter with stools by the large windows overlooking the lake. This proved to be a nice dry spot to read, write postcards and enjoy the ice cream treats that we purchased.
Places To See In The Area
To pass the time, we asked the Park Rangers at the visitor center and the kayak guides from Eclectic Sun (the in-park boat outfitter) for tips on what else to see in the area. On their advice, we donned our rain gear and did an early morning hike in the drizzle to seek out the elusive Oconee Bell wildflowers on the one-mile loop trail at Devil’s Fork State Park.
These tiny, rare Appalachian wildflowers only appear for a brief period from Mid-March to early April, but we were scanning the groundcover hoping to spot any late bloomers.
Next, we followed a hand-drawn map down windy mountain roads that gave way to sweeping views of the lakes and valleys.
We zipped up our jackets and put on our headlamps as we ventured deep into the wet, misty, pitch black, 50-degree Stumphouse Tunnel. This was an old railroad tunnel carved into the side of a mountain but was never completed.
(Please practice Clean Caving and wash/decontaminate all boots, clothing, and gear worn in this tunnel before using them in another cave because of fungus).
We enjoyed these mountain hikes, and after we climbed down to the base and back up at the nearby Issaqueena Falls, we took advantage of their covered picnic tables for our lunch spot.
We ate a big country breakfast with the locals at Sister’s Restaurant in Salem, South Carolina. Get some baked goods to take on the road, and if you want a coffee refill, just get up and help yourself.
Things To Do
This corner of Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina, just a few hours north of Atlanta, offers excellent fishing, hiking, biking, whitewater rafting, and a large concentration of waterfalls that can be seen from the roadside.
If you are in this area, don’t miss Caesar’s Head State Park for its magnificent views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, especially in mid to late October for the fall colors. There are many short and long hikes, so get details and a map from the ranger station.
My favorite place in this area is Jones Gap State Park. It is great for day hikes (but get there early as parking is limited) and excellent for longer backpacking trips. There is no van camping at Jones Gap or Caesars Head, but there is in the nearby Nantahala and Sumter National Forests. Cherry Hill Campground has hot showers and flush toilets.
As flatlanders, a trip to the mountains, even a wet one, is always refreshing. It was great to have this time together to talk and laugh and explore.
Maybe next time on our South Carolina road trip, we can enjoy more of Lake Jocassee and do some primitive camping. We will definitely be back soon, as this rich land, with its lakes, mountains, and rivers begging to be discovered.
My name is Dawn, and I hope you will enjoy reading this blog. I am a Florida native, who loves kayaking, van camping, and backpacking.
My husband, John, and I took our first Escape Campervan road trip in 2014 to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. We decided to visit some of the national parks out west that we had not seen before, including Great Basin, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Arches.
It was the trip of a lifetime and inspired us to buy our own conversion van for road tripping after we returned home to Florida.
We have taken our van, fondly named, “Big Blue” on many local and extended trips in the years since, to the Carolina Mountains, to paddle the New and Gauley rivers in West Virginia, and on a grand journey to Niagara Falls, through Canada, and into New England to see the fall foliage.
My only child, Sara, and I have been going on these Mom-Daughter hiking, camping and road trip adventures since she was five.
Even though she is all grown up and married now, and her husband, Steven, is her new travel partner, this trip has proved that WE ARE STILL, and WILL ALWAYS BE… “The Adventure Girls” whether it’s our South Carolina road trip or another adventure.
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