February 11, 2014
A snowy run is rare in the South, which definitely makes it feel more magical. Instead of sloshing through gray slush for 2-4 months straight, we get 1-3 short-lived blankets of shimmering whiteness that usually melt into a memory within 24 hours. We have to seize our winter wonderland moments and enjoy them to the fullest before they disappear. This year we enjoyed several snow runs, which we found very exciting. Our favorite occurred at Lake Conestee Nature Park.
My husband and I were itching to get in a trail run before the the whole city was completely socked in with our four inches of snow. Unfortunately, businesses, schools, and as it turned out, state parks, were all shutting down in rapid succession. Conestee was the only trail area in close proximity that was still open, so we hurried over there to sneak in a run before getting “snowed in”. It was amazing! We didn’t run for long, but every moment was expanded by the novelty of padding through a transformed landscape.
Lake Conestee Nature Park is a 400 acre area with 5 or 6 miles of trails that will one day connect to the longer section of Greenville’s Swamp Rabbit trail. What it lacks in expansiveness, it makes up for in charm and convenience. It’s a wonderful green space located about 10-15 minutes from downtown. The trails are well kept (and seem to be expanding?), and there is a great playground/picnic area beside a very pleasant restroom facility. My husband and I have participated in multiple races here including Half Moon Outfitter’s Drifter 6k, an annual favorite. It’s a great venue for races with ample parking and plenty of nice space for post-race refreshments. During this run, we attempted to retrace the race course since some of the markers were still in place from the previous weekend.
Run this Trail: The address for Lake Conestee Nature Park is: 840 Mauldin Road, Greenville, SC 29607
Rather than vaguely describe what we attempted to do without directions in hand, I am posting this link to the Half Moon Outfitter’s 6k race course. If you’re looking for a shorter trail run near Greenville, this is a great option, and you can always double it for a longer workout. Here is a link to Conestee’s website as well.
Recommendations: Trail specific shoes are always nice for trail running, but you could definitely get away with road shoes on this relatively smooth and at times paved trail. Bring the family and a picnic! This whole area is so nice.
View of Pinnacle Mountain and Bald Rock
We paddled Lake Oolenoy on Christmas Eve. It was a spontaneous plan that unfolded when Lake Robinson, a lovely 800 acre lake near our home, was closed. We had already loaded our boats up and driven 20 whole minutes when we realized this, and it felt too disappointing and lame to just turn back after making such an effort on Christmas Eve. Instead of admitting defeat, we opted to tack on 30 minutes and push our way up to Lake Oolenoy.
I have to admit, I was a little critical of poor Lake Oolenoy before I actually went there. It has the misfortune of being on our route to Lake Joccassee, one of the most gorgeous, epic places in South Carolina. No matter how pleasant Lake Oolenoy might be, I could not imagine it being as grand and stunning as Lake Joccassee. This means that if we plan out a paddling adventure of any consequence, we are almost always willing to drive the extra 30-45 minutes required to bypass Lake Oolenoy and arrive at our beloved Jocassee. However, this Christmas Eve our time frame required as little extra driving time as possible and a relatively short paddle when we got to our destination. Lake Oolenoy ended up being a perfect solution. At less than an hour from Greenville, it is easy to get to and with only 67 acres to its name it is perfect for a short exploration. The lake is very pretty, undeveloped, and clean with remarkable views of Table Rock and Pinnacle Mountain. It’s a great little spot to explore and there are nice picnic areas and bathrooms available by the boat ramp access point. We would definitely come back, and perhaps try taking out a SUP.
Paddle this Lake: If you’re coming from Greenville, you will pass the main entrance to Table Rock State Park on your right before crossing the bridge over Lake Oolenoy and arriving at the boat ramp on your left. For more information about seasonal hours and directions see the state park website.
Recommendations: Bring a camera for some great views of Table Rock and Pinnacle Mountain.
Note: There are two lakes in Table Rock State Park. Lake Pinnacle does not allow public boat access; however, they rent kayaks and canoes. Both kayaks and SUPs are permitted on Lake Oolenoy.
January 24, 2014
Driving down Hwy 11 with hardly a cloud in the sky, I tried to convince myself that the sun would really offset the 20 degree temperatures uncommon for most of the year in Greenville. This was not the case. It was cold and breezy enough to make my lungs burn and tickle with coughs for hours after our run was complete. The lung-burning was probably not entirely weather related since the run we did includes a 2,000 foot elevation gain that takes place over the first half of the run. Was it worth it, you may ask? The cold, the coughs, the combusting thigh and calf muscles. I would still say yes. I love this run for the challenge it presents. Still, it has not ceased to be a bit daunting every time we decide to confront it. For close to 4 miles, you climb the trail that begins at Table Rock State Park Nature Center. There are many rocky steps in the first couple of miles and even the smoother paths later on are deceptively steep and challenging, but the views are stunning and the sense of accomplishment you get from crossing over this mountain makes it all worth it. It’s also a killer workout and a good confidence boost if you’re training for any kind of more moderate trail run. The run down the mountain is an exercise in balance and precision as you plummet dramatically down from the small clearing at the top. Again you are treated to amazing views, particularly at Bald Knob. The entire loop clocked out at 8.1 miles, and took us well over 2 hours to run with stops for pictures, shoelace malfunctions, and a pre-run bathroom break all added in.
Run this trail: Go to Table Rock State Park, SC. Start on the trail that begins by the nature center. Take Table Rock trail up a series of rough steps and linking trails, passing a shelter/lookout around 2 miles and continuing until you reach a second fork. You will take a left to head up Pinnacle mountain instead of the more common hike to Table Rock. Eventually you will pass a sign that says .9 miles to the top. (Warning: This last section can feel so long!) You will reach a clearing. To the left of the clearing the path continues sharply downhill. You will reach Bald Knob , an exposed face, in less than half a mile. Keep going to the left across Bald Rock and back into the woods. Continue down following blazes until you reach the path marked by three colored blazes. Take that back to the Nature Center.
Recommendations: Bring water on this run! It can get long and it’s pretty strenuous . You also might want to bring a snack at least for when you’re done if not for during the run. Watch out for bears during the summer. Wear trail shoes if you have them. You will enjoy the extra traction.