“Yosemite Park is a place of rest, a refuge from the roar and dust and weary, nervous, wasting work of the lowlands, in which one gains the advantages of both solitude and society. Nowhere will you find more company of a soothing peace-be-still kind. Your animal fellow beings, so seldom regarded in civilization, and every rock-brow and mountain, stream, and lake, and every plant soon come to be regarded as brothers; even one learns to like the storms and clouds and tireless winds. This one noble park is big enough and rich enough for a whole life of study and aesthetic enjoyment. It is good for everybody, no matter how benumbed with care, encrusted with a mail of business habits like a tree with bark. None can escape its charms. Its natural beauty cleans and warms like a fire, and you will be willing to stay forever in one place like a tree. “
- John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938)
Yosemite is a long ways from York County SC, but I don’t believe what Muir found there is unable to be found anywhere else. While maybe not as dramatic, there are plenty of chances for solitude in the South, so that at least you don’t hear a car driving by every 5 minutes, the bickering of the retired couple trying to back up their RV for the first time, and the whine of sun-burned children. Besides, Yosemite is so overrun by tourists it’s probably easier to find solitude in some quiet corner of the South instead. While I enjoy working with people, there are times when I just have to run into the woods and be alone with a few friends; I tried walking around a college campus during Spring Break, and while empty, it wasn’t quite the same thing.
Solitude means forfeiting some comforts and ease of access, but in the end it’s worth the tradeoff. Surprisingly, some of the rougher, more remote lakes in North Carolina are a byproduct of an enormous team of people working together. Apalachia Reservoir is such a place, a reminder of the TVA camps in the 30s and 40s. Construction of Apalachia Dam began in 1941 and was completed in 1943, 150 feet high and stretching 1,308 feet across the Hiwassee River. Unlike Lake Wylie however, almost no development has happened on the shoreline, giving you a great sense of solitude when you go out in your kayak or canoe. There are a few campsites as well, but without electricity or running water so come prepared with water filters and an extra roll of Charmin.
If that sounds too accessible, and you’d rather go somewhere in SC as reminiscent of John Muir’s Yosemite as possible, Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area is going to be your best bet. Over 40,000 roadless acres wedged between Jones Gap and Ceasar’s Head State Parks make up most of the tract, full of some of the few remaining old growth forests in SC, a towering temple of stone simply called the Cathedral, and Raven Cliff Falls, one of the tallest free-falling waterfalls east of the Mississippi. Like anyplace really worth going to, the terrain isn’t easy; just because the tallest mountain in SC is 3600’ doesn’t mean it’s a cakewalk. The Raven Cliff Falls loop is 9 miles of strenuous trails, and if you take the Dismal Trail which connects to the largest stands of old hardwoods, you’re in for a real calf-burner of a day. That said, it’s probably the most pristine mountainous area in SC and home to the soaring rocks, large trees, falling water, and solitude that John Muir found in Yosemite.
Maybe mountains aren’t your thing though. I have an Uncle who draws the very finite distinction in that you’re either a mountain person or a beach person and he is definitely one of the latter. Forget about Myrtle Beach and all of the associated insanity that is associated with it and instead think about some beaches a little further north off of the Outer Banks in Cape Lookout National Seashore. At Great Island Cabin Camp, it’s just going to be the sea, 112 miles of sandy beaches, you, and a simple cabin without electricity but with running water. Paddling, fishing, and normal beach fun are definitely to be had, but you’ll also be far enough from shore that at night the stars are better than even in the mountains. You’re looking at anywhere from 6 to 7 hours of driving, but think about it this way: that’s still closer than Disney Land.
To anyone that knows me well, and even a few people that don’t, they know I’m unusual in that I enjoy being alone. There’s something to be said for solitude, where the phones don’t ring, pointless drama doesn’t reach you, and the only people you have to listen to are those that you brought with you. I’ve recently given up my cell phone, and I’ve found it astonishing that even something as simple as that brings a feeling of solitude: if my car breaks down, I guess I’ll have to knock on some doors; I don’t know what’s for dinner until I get home. My walk through campus was actually at 9pm during one of our recent cold snaps so it was a chilly 30ish degrees and without my phone the solitude was actually enough to get me by until I’m able to make into the woods and get away from the electric lights and car noise.
If you’re interested in any of the campgrounds mentioned above, or are interested in finding some new ones for yourself, you can access an entire listing of them by accessing www.recreation.gov and running a search for the campground name or feature that I’ve mentioned. You can also search by area and amenities that you want which helps you find a slew of new places to visit.
Amish in the sense that, at one point, my family helped others raise barns.
Now I build websites to help others build their businesses.