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wawarides 03-11-2012 02:51 PM

Savannah River Rambling

I had felt the pull of the Savannah River for a while. Living near a fork of the Edisto river, I've scuba dived some in the Edisto and lots in the Cooper. But other than diving in Clarks Hill Lake (J. Strom Thurmond Lake), my only experience with the Savannah was crossing over it when driving to & from Georgia and strolling alongside it when visiting the City of Savannah. I really wanted to dual sport along its banks.

The Wednesday before this ride, I saw a post by StolenFant in the Charleston, SC dinner thread in which he was looking for others who might want to ride dirt roads in the Hamilton Ridge WMA, on the Savannah River at the edge of Hampton County, SC. He said he'd mapped the roads in there right before SCDNR acquired it for a WMA. As I finished up a busy week at work, his post kept popping up in my mind, as I'm always on the lookout for new-to-me offroad rides.

My husband and I went to the AHRMA flat track race at Neeses, SC on Friday night. While there we found out that the pro flat track race that night at Pooler, GA (near Savannah) got rained out and was postponed until Saturday. When we got home Friday night from the race, my husband went to bed and I stayed up, looked at some maps and realized if we rode the Hamilton Ridge WMA the next day, we could pop out of the woods at Garnett, SC and take back roads to Pooler, which is only about an hour away, and go the the race, maybe get a motel room and bum around Savannah on Sunday. He doesn't ride too much with me on Saturdays though because he's busy working on equipment, farming, building sheds, etc. and he always overschedules himself. I can plan a dual sport weekend in the mountains and give him plenty of advance notice, and he's fine with that, but I knew I had around a 10% chance of getting him to play hooky with me on a Saturday on such short notice, but maybe a 40% chance this particular Saturday because of the dangling carrot of the race being close to where I wanted to ride. No worries, though, if he couldn't make it. I love me some good ridin' in the sand the day after a good rain and am very used to riding solo all over beautiful South Carolina. Plus there was the chance I might run into StolenFant and snag some personal guide services.

At about 5:30 a.m. on Saturday I nibbled on the husband's ear and whispered that I wanted him to ride with me all day. Well, maybe I used the wrong prepositional phrase after the word "ride" :evil , for I got "no" for an answer. He said he had too much to do, that he's getting ready to plant corn or something (he's not a farmer; it's just what he likes to do on weekends). Well fine, so solo it shall be.

Later that morning, I wiped some pollen off Sasquat, my stone-cold reliable DR650, checked the air pressure and headed out.

I made my way South on US Hwy 321, then veered off on US Hwy 301 to Allendale, then south on Bluff Road. I went this way because I wanted to take the northern dirt section of Augusta Stagecoach Road where it intersects SC Hwy 3 south of Allendale. I've never ridden it before and have been intrigued by the few reports from other inmates who've ridden it.

My bike stops of its own accord it seems at sites like this crumbling old house in a peach tree field on Bluff Road.

Then, back on Bluff Road and hardly up to speed, I spied a historical monument which needing investigating. Smyrna Baptist Church. I'm a sucker for old churches and cemeteries, too. It was gated, but not locked.

wawarides 03-11-2012 02:59 PM

More shots from the graveyard at Smyrna Baptist Church:

Back out on Bluff Road, I headed south to SC Hwy 3, and a short way later the pink line appeared on my Nuvi 750 indicating where I wanted to access Augusta Stagecoach Road. I learned the hard way a long time ago that Nuvis suck at routing off-road. I used to get around that by just creating numbered waypoints (001-ABC, 002-XYZ, etc.) and hopping between them without routing. That was tedious, however, and I sometimes would go over the maximum number of waypoints. Then I stumbled upon a program called GPX2IMG, which lets me draw Tracks in MapSource, set them to the thickness and color of my choosing, and create an image file which overlays the Garmin maps. Perfect! My cheap old car GPS which doesn't even do Tracks and which I can't kill no matter how many times I crash with it is now a fairly functional off-road GPS. If I go off on a goat trail and beat around for a while, I just make my way back to my thick pink line and carry on.

So where was I? Ahh, the entrance to Augusta Stagecoach Road. :nod

It's time for some fun!

Geezerider 03-11-2012 05:16 PM

Nice photography. As a fellow Sand Lapper I'm looking forward to more!

WHITEHOUSE 03-11-2012 05:42 PM

Thanks for posting. I always learn something in ride reports - I'll be trying gpx2img even though I'm a real noob at GPS. Great pictures. Thanks again.

wawarides 03-12-2012 05:14 PM

So, back to Augusta Stagecoach Road. There's very little on the internet about it. I have Walter Edgar's massive tome on the history of SC and I don't see it mentioned in there, though I admit to not having read the entire book. From the scraps of information I was able to find, I believe it is part of the old stagecoach route from Savannah to Augusta. Nathaniel Twining, a stagecoach entrepreneur with ventures around the Southeast, announced on April 19, 1796 a stagecoach service between Savannah and Augusta. It became the first successful service between the cities. An earlier attempt, in 1786, failed in less than a year. I think Twining's route is what I was on. Travel by stagecoach lasted until approximately the decade before the civil war, when travel by train became more popular.

I was uneasy about whether I was supposed to be accessing this property. I didn't see any fresh tire tracks, and wild turkey season wasn't to begin for another week, so I chanced it. As I passed through the gate, I noticed a small sign on it but didn't stop to read it. I think it had "______ Land Company" but I'm really not sure. I saw no glaring "POSTED" or "NO TRESPASSING" signs anywhere on the property during my entire visit, and I didn't encounter anyone else, thankfully.

This piece of land was just gorgeous. I wish I'd taken more photos of the land itself instead of just the road. And there were many roads and paths offshooting the road on both sides. I was sorely tempted to do some exploring in there, but I stuck to my "pink line". The two-rut road at the beginning gave way to grassy paths, then became two-rut again, followed by a regular sandy dirt road. I had one exciting moment when I crested a hill at speed and was greeted by a hardpack eroded area with some ruts on the other side, but I stayed on the gas and made it through without incident.

At the end of this large land parcel was another open gate, though it did have a lock hanging on it. Augusta Stagecoach road continued straight ahead. [Back at home, I looked on Hampton County's website to try to determine the land's owner, but the site didn't have a GIS search (it was by name)].

Continuing on Augusta Stagecoach Road (Google Maps omits the word "Stagecoach" from it at times), I took a right on Crab Orchard Road, a dirt road that heads to the river. This road turned out to be one of the highlights of my day. It went from dirt to wide woods trails. I was again blessed by the open gate genie:

It got a little muddy in places.

When I could tell via my GPS that I was right next to the river, the trees gave way to really thick brush that someone had bush hogged nice wide paths through. These paths hugged the bends of the river, had some whoops in them, and were way fun.

The brush was so thick outside of the paths that it was hard to catch glimpses of the Savannah. I encountered this fallen tree but was able to get around it on the right side.

After 15 minutes or so of riding this section, I came upon an area where the brush was thin enough to walk through and get to the riverbank. I sat for awhile sipping water and just enjoyed being in the moment.

By now it was after noon, so I saddled back up and headed back out Crab Orchard Road.

Then I headed South on Augusta Stagecoach Road. Next up, Hamilton Ridge WMA.

StolenFant 03-12-2012 06:16 PM

Damn you're good at this.
Great report. Can't wait to see what you found strewn across the roads of Hamilton Ridge :lol3

wawarides 03-13-2012 04:10 PM

Here's what SCDNR has to say about Hamilton Ridge WMA:
Hamilton Ridge WMA is located in the Lower Coastal Plain in Hampton County, South Carolina. It is comprised of 13,281 acres and has 8.5 miles of river frontage along the Savannah River. Approximately half the acreage is in bottomland hardwoods, creek drains, oxbow lakes and other wetlands. The other half of the WMA is upland habitat and is primarily pine stands of various ages with the predominant species being loblolly, with some sand and longleaf pine present. Scattered wildlife openings are found across the property. The tract is adjacent to 12,600 acres of SCDNR-owned Wildlife Management Areas (Webb and Palachucola).

What I found strewn across the roads in the WMA was gravel. State (and federal) government loves gravel, don't they? It was small gravel and there wasn't a lot of it, but to me the roads in there didn't seem to be in much better shape because of it, as compared to the roads I'd just been riding on. If there was anything else strewn across the roads in there, all I can say is "without pictures, it didn't happen." :augie :wink: Oh, and what looked like round metal bar gates laid in one of the roads for erosion control startled me, for the bars were parallel to the direction of travel. I said to myself, "my 21-inch front wheel is going to love this" as I hit the gas, but there was enough sand between the bars that it wasn't a problem. (I'm a fan of "when in doubt, gas it out," just in case you haven't figured that out by now. Learned that the hard way.)

Once inside the WMA I decided to ride around the perimeter and take several of the cross roads that headed towards the river. On the first cross road that I took, every so often the road would dip into washes which had some mud, and then I got to an actual small creek crossing, with a rocky bed (in lower SC!!??). That tickled my funny bone for some reason. It occurred to me later that the hand of man, instead of God, had placed those rocks in the creek bed, but it was still fun crossing it.

I encountered hunters on that first cross road I took. Hmmmm, they must be scouting for turkeys, I thought, getting ready for the season to open next weekend. It wasn't until a few days after my ride that StolenFant got around to telling me what kind of hunting he used to do on the land that now comprises the WMA. Wild hogs. :eek1 :yikes WTF?

:D No, silly, he was talking about this kind of wild hog:

All I had on my mind were turkeys, and I did see three of them on Crab Orchard Road. Turkeys. Nice pretty birds who are always fleeing away into the woods when you see them. What would I have done if I'd felt a nudge on my shoulder while I was "in the moment," sitting alone by the river, and turned to see a feral hog snorting at me? Whacked him with my water bottle? Poured water on his prickly snout? Jumped in the river and tested the buoyancy characteristics of Klim, Teknic and Alpinestars? I'm liking that last one the best. "Um, honey? Could you bring a trailer and pick up Sasquat from the back side of nowhere and then pick me up at Kevin Barry's on River Street in Savannah? Well yes, sugar, it's a long story, but I did just win the wet t-shirt contest!" :sweeti Sorry 'bout that; my imagination goes off on a tangent sometimes. I just looked on the SCDNR web site, and sure enough, wild hog hunting with dogs (as opposed to still hunting) was allowed at Hamilton Ridge this past weekend.

Anyway, as I was nearing the river, I got to this sign, so I didn't go any further.

There were lots of lanes like that in the WMA which were closed to motorized vehicles. I then went back out to the perimeter road. I was coming around a curve and whoa, there's a silver WeeStrom parked at the next cross road which headed towards the river. Looks like I'd happened upon StolenFant after all.

By this time I was about to wind up my ride in order to make it home in time to get in the car and turn around and head right back by where I'd just been to go to the race at Pooler with the husband. But I told SF I could follow him for a little while if he didn't mind.

So we headed towards the river. StolenFant was toting the mail on that Wee. He told me about some very interesting old things to see (not really sure if access to them is permitted now that the state owns the land, so I better not mention them here). But when he asked me if I wanted to find them, I said "sure". He said the road is right over there. I looked and said to myself "Road, what road?" At that point he flicks that big Strom off into the woods and I went "wheeee" and followed. Our progress soon got impeded, however, by this downed tree that there was no way around short of dragging the bikes under it, so we turned back.

Then we went to see an oxbow lake named Fowl Craw Lake, which was cool.

Coming soon, the neatest old house ...

DeBandi 03-13-2012 05:20 PM

I love this!! Great job.....

wawarides 03-13-2012 06:43 PM


Originally Posted by Geezerider (Post 18192856)
Nice photography. As a fellow Sand Lapper I'm looking forward to more!

Thanks! Hope you're enjoying it. I'm getting close to the end of my report but I can't wait to go back and spend some more time down there, so I might be adding more later.


Originally Posted by WHITEHOUSE (Post 18193056)
Thanks for posting. I always learn something in ride reports - I'll be trying gpx2img even though I'm a real noob at GPS. Great pictures. Thanks again.

That program has made my offroading a lot less stressful! Maybe one day I'll break down and buy another GPS, but my Nuvi seems to be the Energizer Rabbit of GPS's.


Originally Posted by DeBandi (Post 18209376)
I love this!! Great job.....

Hey DeBandi! I'm a big fan of your ride reports from the woods of 'Bama. Do you miss your Huskie any? I took this shot of it at the Scream'n Beaver in 2010 when Fancy & I were messing around before the ride.

DeBandi 03-14-2012 04:54 AM

I do miss that bike...... :1drink

wawarides 03-14-2012 05:49 PM

Earlier, after I'd entered the WMA and rode for a mile or so, I had passed an interesting old house, and on the way back out I stopped to get a closer look. There are plantations on both sides of Augusta Stagecoach Road, so I guess this was the "big house" for one of them back in the day, though it's certainly not as large as some plantation homes. Is that cedar shakes on the walls? I just love this house.

Take a look at the man in the chimney above the diamond pattern:

StolenFant said he heard a rumor to the effect that when slaves saw the man in the chimney design, they'd know this house was part of the Underground Railroad. That gave me goosebumps. I haven't found any confirmation of that rumor, but I did read where a black chimney cap had the same meaning, so who knows?

From the old house, I took a different route out of the WMA than when I entered, and ran across some other old buildings.

Almost back out to A-S Road:

Then I grabbed a (very) late lunch in Hampton, scooted home, turned around and went to Pooler in the car to the race. I had fun telling my husband about my day on the way down US Hwy 321 and showing him my pink lines that were still on the GPS as we passed by just east of where I was riding earlier. My husband is an even more ardent fan of history and old stuff than I am, so he's ready to go back with me after he gets his corn in the ground. I didn't even get to see all of Hamilton Ridge on this trip, so we'll go back and explore it some more, plus take in Webb and Palachucola WMAs as well.

Hope y'all enjoyed my little day trip!

pachap 03-15-2012 10:26 AM

Awesome report. I don't get to ride the dirt around there, but I do cruise the paved back-roads. Beautiful country.

StolenFant 03-15-2012 06:31 PM

Just set the date, Charleston ADVriders are interested.
There were quite a few talking about this "day:ricky trippin" report at last nights dinner ADVrider dinner in Charleston, so all that remains is for you to set the date that you and "hubby" can go again. I'll try to create a PDF map of all the old roads on the Hamilton Ridge Property so those without GPS who find their way in can also find their way backout again.

sdthorpe 03-15-2012 08:21 PM

I really enjoyed reading this! Sadly while I've been down Stagecoach Rd many times, I'm ashamed to admit I've never taken these side roads at all...

Plan something and I'm sure I can bring another aarse or two with me!!

wawarides 03-16-2012 08:04 AM


Originally Posted by StolenFant (Post 18226606)
There were quite a few talking about this "day:ricky trippin" report at last nights dinner ADVrider dinner in Charleston, so all that remains is for you to set the date that you and "hubby" can go again. I'll try to create a PDF map of all the old roads on the Hamilton Ridge Property so those without GPS who find their way in can also find their way backout again.


Originally Posted by sdthorpe (Post 18227465)
I really enjoyed reading this! Sadly while I've been down Stagecoach Rd many times, I'm ashamed to admit I've never taken these side roads at all...

Plan something and I'm sure I can bring another aarse or two with me!!

:thumb :thumb

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