If you’re here to take advantage of that time of the year when Beaufort’s climate corresponds with Beaufort’s walking paths, business is about to pick up. Downtown sidewalks are conducive to window shoppers and neighborhood sidewalks are great for strolls, but perhaps the most active outdoor area remains the Spanish Moss Trail.
For Dr. Gary Thompson, a local anesthesiologist and bike enthusiast whose house is only about 200 yards from the trail’s wind through Depot Road, all he has to do to is look — and walk — out his front door.
“When we first moved here years ago, you could walk your dogs and hardly see anyone,” he said. “Now you can go out on the trail in the mornings and afternoons and see folks you’ve never seen before.”
For those looking to be more active outdoors before the heat of the summer arrives, that’s a good thing.
If you’re looking to incorporate technology, the trail can handle that, too.
With the Spanish Moss Trail mobile app, you can follow the route and track your mileage, but you can also find fishing access points, marsh views and water fountains, not to mention nearby businesses, should you feel the need to hop off the trail for an impulsive kayak purchase.
Ideally, the current 10-mile stretch of trail will one day, with public support and funding, grow to become a continuous 15 or 16 miles of Lowcountry beauty. Better access from Lady’s Island via safe walking and biking connector lanes is also on the wish list. But this work-in-progress can still be enjoyed as is.
“I’ve been on trails in Greenville, Tuscon and Napa Valley,” said Thompson. “Spanish Moss matches or even exceeds them, because their scenery is, honestly, not as nice.”
That mix of scenery while exercising is nicely tied together in a Trip Advisor review of the trail from earlier this year: “There are great photo opportunities too…occasional wildlife such as a snake falling to the ground.” If a copperhead falling into your lap as you crouch down to get a shot of the sunset isn’t enough to get the heart pumping, I’m not sure what is.
Still, others use the trail simply to get from Point A to Point B without getting on a traditional road.
Thompson has seen Marines in his neighborhood use the trail for the daily commute to MCAS, and the trail’s strategic location through the heart of the TCL campus and Beaufort Memorial’s LifeFit Wellness Center is beneficial to employees and clients of both.
Motorized vehicles and, oddly, horses, are not allowed on the trail. While you shouldn’t go rogue and try to sneak Hopalong in for a joy ride, you should also not be surprised to find local police sometimes do come by on golf carts. Don’t let the recent headlines of 2 a.m. hijinks fool you. The trail is safe – and only open – during the day.
The water around Beaufort is still too cold to jump in, but if you want to use the trail, step out, feet-first.
Years ago, my father said that one day there would be an entire metropolitan area that stretched from Atlanta to Charlotte because of the interstate that ran between them.
Thanks to the Spanish Moss Trail, the outlying areas of Beaufort could become just as connected.
Minus all the honking horns and exhaust fumes, of course.
Ryan Copeland is a Beaufort native. He can be reached at email@example.com.