Here, in the South, we share a secret code.
For example, imagine you introduce a new friend at a party. In a short while, you notice that your new friend is saying or doing things that have put the partygoers on edge. All you have to do is go to the group and say, “He’s not from around here.”
Immediately there is a collective sigh and tensions are relaxed. Furtive glances and knowing nods seem to forgive the abrasive behavior because he’s, well, not from around here.
This week I found myself at the pointy end of another secret code. The one that, loosely translated, means, “How can anyone be that dumb?”
You’ll understand in a while.
We did not plan this as a wet-weather hike and were caught a little off-guard, but the trail proved to be quite adequate under foot in the rain. I think you will enjoy this one at any time of year. This is a good destination hike or great to have in the data base when you are in the area.
Palmetto Trail— Twin Ponds
Difficulty: Moderate. There is a long uphill pull in the beginning, but nothing at all difficult after that.
Shoes: The trail calls for a supportive shoe. If you can, I recommend a hiking shoe or boot.
Time: One and a half to two hours. The views of the ponds and the landscape may keep you longer, but walking is easy and fairly quick.
Distance/Elevation Gain: This is a 3.4 mile popsicle loop with an overall gain of 380 feet.
Safety: The signs are posted to prohibit horses and bikes on the trail. The route seems to be lightly traveled most of the time so there should not be frequent encounters with other hikers. The single-track parts of the trail has some roots and rocks but nothing of major concern.
We had to initially pass the road to the trail and go almost into Landrum, South Carolina, to find restrooms.
Courtesy: We considered ourselves fortunate to meet another couple and their dogs who were exploring the area for the first time. They had recently moved from Raleigh and were very pleased with the trail system. They planned a return trip in warmer weather.
How to get there: This trail actually starts in North Carolina and crosses the line into South Carolina. Because the first part of the trail is shared with horses, we elected to skip ahead to a second trail that is hikers only. That trailhead is in South Carolina and is identified as Twin Ponds.
The easiest way is to query, “Blue Wall Preserve, Landrum, South Carolina.”
We found the one-hour drive from Marion to the trailhead to be pleasant and uncrowded. There are many shops and interesting landscapes along the way. Certainly worth another visit.
The trail: From the parking area, move around the gate across the road and head down the long, straight, paved road to the start of the route.
After the paved downhill, you will find the large sign that welcomes you to the Blue Wall Preserve. From the sign, you will start the longest and most difficult portion of the adventure. It is a constant, modest uphill until you reach the first pond. It is a narrow roadbed that has a gravel base. At the first split in the route, stay to the left and go around another gate. The trail is well marked. You will have no difficulty in following the signs. There are ample trail markers and many Palmetto Trail blazes.
Along the way you will pass several concrete vertical markers with the letters “MV” on them. I did a little research. The most logical explanation I found was that they are “Main Valve” markers of a long-time county water system. No guarantees, just a guess.
Soon you will reach the first of two ponds. Take the trail to the right and keep the pond on your left. As you move to the right, the trail narrows into what will eventually be a single track. The dirt path is soft underfoot, but roots become more prominent, so be careful.
At the second pond there is a sign that offers the option to follow the Waterfall Loop or head to Vaughn’s Gap. The weather was closing in on us so we elected to follow the original plan and take the Waterfall Loop which was slightly shorter.
It is a gentle climb to a very picturesque water slide. We have explored many waterfalls together, so I can’t describe this as an “ooh aah” moment, but it is a restful stop. There are several selfie locations on this trip, and this is a good one.
The trail climbs again to the back side of the second pond then moves to the left and to lower ground. One of my favorite things about hiking many trails is to observe how different organizations treat their environments and the development of paths through them. As you move through the lower ground, look at the clever ways the trail developers have raised the foot path above the natural grade to save the trail from excessive wear. Several well designed boardwalks have been placed to allow passage through the wet areas.
As you complete your counter-clockwise loop around the pond, you will have several different views of the reflective interactions between the water and the shore. Great pictures. Almost at the end of the lake loop, I commented on the numerous, tiny baitfish that were coming to the surface and causing little rings in the water. My wife had to explain to me that it wasn’t baitfish. It was the approaching storm that was rapidly gaining in intensity.
Now, make the right turn and head back on the entry trail. It will be a very pleasant downhill back to the large entry marker then the short uphill to the car. As we headed home, Mother Nature decided to emphasize the need for proper planning before any trip. When we reached the car, nothing was dry. Off we went to the closest restaurant to get dry and where I was made aware of the secret code.
As we sat, soaked to the bone, I ordered hot coffee and immediately nested it in my hands to try to get warmth and some reassurance that I had not permanently severed the relationship between my frozen fingers and my brain.
When our server appeared, she could not hold back. The question: “How did you get so wet?”
I tried to impart to her that (at least in my mind) I was a famous trail writer for a metropolitan newspaper and had an obligation to my readers to boldly stand against the harshest of elements so I could give an accurate description of a Sunday afternoon stroll.
It actually sounded better in my head, but that was my story which was then punctuated when the last vestige of water in my cap formed into a drop on the brim and fell with a plop into my coffee.
That was when she looked at me with her kind, southern eyes and said, “Well bless your heart.”