Motivational speakers will tell you that if you change your attitude, you can change your “altitude” when it comes to achieving your goals in life. Sometimes, though, a simple change in altitude can make all the difference in your frame of mind.
Here in the flat Lowcountry, we never tire of the beautiful scenery of marsh, beach and coastal forest. But if we want to experience an adventure in more vertical terrain such as hiking or enjoying a mountain view, a journey of many hours is required. What if I told you you could enjoy a brisk hike among scenic hills near the trickle of a bubbling stream and only be just a short distance from home? Poinsett State Park near Wedgefield, S.C. offers just that — and it is only a little over two hours from Bluffton.
Set in the High Hills of the Santee — a region nicknamed the “foothills of the Midlands” — Poinsett preserves 1,000 acres of historic land and forest nestled in a region formed by an ancient shoreline. Where beach and waves once kicked up mountainous sand dunes, hills have formed that seem to rise as mountains from the surrounding Lowcountry plain. Packed with hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, a ten-acre lake, campsites and other amenities, Poinsett is a destination that allows you to enjoy the benefits of the outdoors while experiencing a whole different geography.
Formed in 1936, Poinsett State Park was home to a Civilian Conservation Corps camp that built the park and many of its structures. The corps also provided infrastructure and jobs to the community during the Depression. Sandstone block buildings, gracefully arched footbridges and improvements to the old millpond and mill site dating from the 1700s give the park a feel of a bygone era while providing comfortable amenities.
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The park is named for Joel Poinsett, a 19th century South Carolina politician and amateur botanist who lived nearby and was the namesake of the “Poinsettia” plant that has become synonymous with the Christmas holiday season. Over 25 miles of trails provide an altitude (and attitude) lifting experience while the lake provides freshwater fishing and floating fun. There are canoes, paddleboards and boats for rent. The red-cockaded woodpecker is just one of many species of wildlife that call the park home. It serves as a magnet for birders and other nature enthusiasts year-round. A section of the Palmetto Trail passes by the park and connects it with this “mountains to the sea” pathway. Special events are held at the park throughout the year, and each season brings something new.
Recently, my family and I visited Poinsett for a picnic, hike and a day of fun. The old millrace forms a bright, bubbling, stairstep waterfall that cascades among the ruins of the old structure and delights visitors with the sense of being in the mountains but close to home.
A brisk hike along the hilltop trail brought us into deep hardwood and pine forest that seemed filled with light and life. The change in elevation from the Lowcountry plain provides a haven for fauna such as mountain laurel and other varieties of tree and plant that seem unexpected when seen so near the coast.
You’ll ample parking and facilities, easily accessible pathways — and good simple fun.
Bluffton resident Matt Richardson enjoys taking day trips with his family and exploring the Lowcountry. To see more pictures from his adventures, go to www.Flickr.com and search on the username “greenkayak73.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Poinsett State Park is located at 6660 Poinsett Park Road in Wedgefield. It is two hours and fifteen minutes from Bluffton.
From Bluffton, take I-95 north past Lake Marion. Take Exit 102 for US-15/US-301 at Summerton. Follow US-15 for 4.5 miles to SR S-14-26 (Governor Richardson Road.) After approximately ten miles, take a right on SC 261 and, after about three miles, a left onto Poinsett Park Road.
Poinsett State Park is open year-round from 9 a.m. to dusk. Admission is free.
For more information about the park, go to www.southcarolinaparks.com/park-finder/state-park/662.aspx or call the park at 803-494-8177.