South Carolina's Hidden Gem - Camping Trip to Cheraw State Park
Aug 4, 2020 | By: Elizabeth Larson Photography
It goes without saying that this year sure has been interesting and challenging. Typically during the summer months I'm working as a contract photographer for about 4-5 weeks solid for a studio based in coastal South Carolina. They specialize in academic and yearbook photography, which of course includes high school seniors. The senior program is usually what we are busy doing now and we work with about ten different high schools. This summer, we have only been able to offer this program to two high schools in Florence County, South Carolina.
Last week brought me down for three days to work at one of those high schools in Florence. Often I'd stay with friends/colleagues a little closer to the coast but with the dreaded pandemic, I just didn't want to assume that I could do that this summer. And then I thought that staying in a chain hotel off of I-95 didn't sound like a lot of fun and who knows, safe/clean? I can't help it that my sister is a health inspector (not in South Carolina, but still). I know too much! Honestly, I don't even like staying in them when there isn't a pandemic. So I came up with a Plan C. The other two were Plan A & B!
Over the years from traveling to & from home to Florence or even to Florida to get to I-95, I've stopped to stretch my legs and enjoy a packed picnic while overlooking the lake at Cheraw State Park. Most recently, I stopped there three weeks ago and was able to book a camping site for the days needed. I hadn't visually seen the campground prior, as its separate from the main park. I was blown away with the views of Lake Juniper. And the hike along the boardwalk on the edge of the lake and the trail were really nice. Its a beautifully maintained and clean park. The campground is small, however the individual sites are spacious. Many are waterfront (they were all taken, of course!) but we had a nice view of the lake from our spot too. We had electric & water hookups, which were so nice to have. AC in the south during the summer is a MUST!
So anyway last week, I "convinced" Terry to take a few days off from his work and join me camping. We have a popup camper and its the best investment we've made. I believe we've had it four years now and we've gone on as many trips as possible. It's especially a great way to vacation, while staying socially distant from others. We arrived on Tuesday afternoon and departed on Friday. It was a nice little getaway. Although I left every morning around 7:30am after enjoying a cup of Terry's amazing coffee, I was back by 2:30-3pm each afternoon to join him at our campsite. Having afternoons and evenings free gave us time to spend together cooking, enjoying dinner, relaxing in our hammock, and getting in our evening hikes to watch the incredible sunsets.
We had plans to try to go swimming up at the main part of the park, however a storm stopped us from doing that one afternoon we'd planned to take a dip. Instead we took a nap and then after the rain we headed up to the park office and got some ice-cream (before dinner!) and picked up some decals for our camper. We also thought about paddling, however our own kayaks were just too much to bring. Although I believe they have kayaks and canoe rentals there too. I prefer a morning paddle anyway before the heat of the day. I'd love to explore Lake Juniper by kayak someday.
Terry did venture out to Kamila Gardens over in Hartsville one morning too. I wish I could've joined him on that outing. However I can't complain as I'm so, so grateful for any work these days. Kamila Gardens is owned by Coker College and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Terry's photos that evening when we had time to sit down and compare our days.
As for Cheraw State Park, we both loved it. A friend who is from the area described the park as an oasis out in the heart of the South Carolina Sandhills. It was such a nice getaway and we hope to get back for another camping trip there sometime soon. It's truly a hidden gem!
Below was a shot taken with my iPhone 6 and I posted it on my Instagram page last week. Well, South Carolina State Parks liked it so much, they shared it on their Instagram page giving me a tag and it's up to 1,219 likes as of today. How cool is that - check it out HERE!