Tuesday Trail Tips: Issaqueena Falls & Stumphouse Tunnel

Ahhh Labor Day weekend…you are my favorite. Maybe because every year I need a break immediately after the start of school (don’t judge – y’all know back to school shopping, homework, carpooling, and scheduling insanity is stressful!). Or it could be because Labor Day weekend is the last big summer hurrah:  the pool is still open, football has started, the grill is hot and drinks are flowing. And this year the weather just so happened to be perfect.

So what did we do? Well, a little bit of everything actually. We hit up the Bacon Labor Day festival in Travelers Rest (OMG so much fun!). Listened to Music in the Woods at Paris Mountain State Park. Celebrated birthdays. And of course, we went on an epic adventure.


Issaqueena Falls and Stumphouse Tunnel

Walhalla, SC | Sumter National Forest

This place is full of legends, history, and stunning sights.  From the deep, dark railroad tunnel to the gorgeous 200′ waterfall – adventure is everywhere you turn.  And while you can park your car and walk literally just a few feet to both the waterfall & tunnel, there are plenty of opportunities to get a hike in.  Trust me, I am still sore and it’s been 2 days.

DSC_0453 (2)The legend of Issaqueena Falls is quite fascinating.  Short story – there was an Indian maiden (Issaqueena) who had a thing for an English settler. When she warned him of an impending Indian attack, she of course had to flee, and found the perfect hiding spot behind the waterfall.  Pretty neat to ponder while you are behind the falls yourself.  BUT – be careful getting there.  It’s quite treacherous if you ask me.  As you walk in from the parking lot, go down the left side of the falls to get there (although you can probably get to it from the other side as well – we didn’t try).  Be sure to also climb down (again – carefully!) to view the waterfall from the rocks below.  It’s pretty steep, lemme tell ya, but we managed and it was well worth it.


Issaqueena Falls


Issaqueena Falls


Behind Issaqueena Falls

And HOLD ON!  Our adventure is not over.  After hiking (climbing) up and down both sides of the waterfall, we made our way over to Stumphouse Tunnel.  You can walk but we drove.  It’s just up the mountain a little ways after the waterfall.

Here we also climbed the trail that goes up and over the railroad tunnel, which is a great work out (so steep!), but the tunnel itself is pretty spectacular.  The “tunnel to nowhere” is exactly that – construction on it came to a halt during the Civil War, leaving just a big hole in a mountain that’s quite exciting to explore.  TAKE A FLASHLIGHT though.  Of course (OF COURSE) we did not (why would we plan for anything in life), but it’s kinda dark so a flashlight would be handy.  I felt quite inadequate as I tripped by many folks with their fancy headlamp gear.

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Just a quick note – it does get crowded, especially on the weekends, holidays, summertime, pretty days…not to scare you away though.  It was a great adventure full of history, legends, and steeeeeep hikes.  Until next Tuesday, happy trails!


Give. Give. GIVE. Give? Worthwhile Wednesdays.

I am a selfish person.  I never liked to share my crayons.   I always wanted to be the line leader.  I question everyone.  I never liked authority.  I am terrified of everything.

















what’s in it for me…

too busy…

no time, not enough money…

I don’t know what’s next for me.  What I do know is that I believe.  I have faith.  I always have, even when maybe I pretended I didn’t.  Or maybe I didn’t but God was there with me anyway.  This I know.

I’m fairly certain I am a late bloomer – in all aspects.  It has taken me a LONG, long, LONG time to realize who I am.  My self worth.  That my words, MY words, have an effect on people (not always good y’all).  That maybe I matter a little bit.  And maybe, just maybe, I can be a positive, creative, thoughtful, giving person.  That my kids will be proud of.

A BIG question is where to start?  Can I afford it?  How can I do anything to help?  Should I choose one specific area?  My time? or my money?  BOTH?!?

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Proverbs 3:27

Yep, it’s not easy.  Especially if you are, well, selfish.  Like me.

But every journey has to start somewhere.  With prayer.  A LOT of prayer.  And really, action.  Taking that first step.  And maybe it takes a while to find your thing, but you will.  (honesty folks – I am talking to myself here).  A huge goal of mine is to get involved, whether it’s with Greer Community Ministries, or the American Cancer Society.  Whatever it is, we (I) have the ability to do something.  And it matters.  Just like we do.

Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. Deuteronomy 15:10





Tuesday Trail Tips: Rainbow Falls

My family loves to make fun of me.  Actually we love to make fun of each other, up until the point of someone getting angry, and then it’s not so funny.   But we won’t discuss those moments here.  My point here is that I thought I was going to John’s Cap State Park until I was probably 12.  Maybe older…I think no one told me so that they could laugh at me.

Anyway, every time I go to JONES GAP State Park I am reminded of this.  Our family spent many weekends hiking and exploring, and for that I am grateful.  I like to think my kids will remember these trips fondly as well.

While I have my list of hikes to complete by the end of 2017, of course I strayed from that and decided to tackle Rainbow Falls this weekend…a trail I haven’t completed since I was a kid.  And why, I do not know, because it is now in my top three trails, if not #1.

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Jones Gap State Park:  Rainbow Falls Trail

2.2 miles one way | Difficult

Rainbow Falls is gorgeous, but for me the actual trail is what makes this one of my favorites.  There’s just something magical about hiking deep in the forest, surrounded by lush green mountain laurel, listening to the cool water of the river rushing by.

The hike up is difficult, but not as hard as I expected.  The views along the way are spectacular and make it well worth the journey.  No pain, no gain – right?!  My tips, because I know you can’t wait:

  • GO EARLY.  The parking lot fills up and guess what – you gotta wait at the entrance until someone leaves.  Also, there is a fee to get in.
  • Bring water, a camera, and good hiking shoes.  And of course, take a picnic.  DUH!
  • This is quite a rocky trail and there are steep ravines, so watch your step, or you will end up with scrapes & bruises, or worse!
  • You can hike up the left side of the falls, which I did with my Dad when I was 8, but that was back in the 80’s when we lived dangerously.  I would suggest only experienced hikers who don’t mind if they die try this.
  • It took us about 2.5 hours there and back.  The ranger said anywhere from 3-4.
  • Most importantly, enjoy every bit of it.  Take a moment to breathe in the mountain air (especially after climbing up a million stairs).  Build your own zen rock tower and take a LOT of Instagram-worthy pictures of it.  Keep an eye out for wildlife – especially snakes, but mostly birds, lizards, and beautiful butterflies.  Pick a big rock by the falls and just look up in awe.  Cause it’s all breathtaking.

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I HIGHLY recommend this trail.  Until next time, happy trails!



Hiking Goals

I have spent hours picking out the perfect new journal, clean and ready to be filled.  Designer planners?  I want ’em all.  I LOVE sharp, never before used crayons.  Pens, paper, staplers, notebooks…all make me so happy and feel so organized.  The beginning of a new school year is like a new start for the kids AND me.  Where anything is possible (especially in a new outfit complete with a pair of fresh white sneakers).  The world is ours.

For about a week, maybe two.  Then it all crumbles.  The good news?  We are still in that first week y’all.  And I am feeling motivated and ready to achieve my goals.  Well, at least make a list and pretend like that might happen.  And it just might because this is an exciting list – we’re talking hikes to take by the end of 2017.  Which just happens to include FALL, a spectacular time to hit the road and explore all of what our beautiful location has to offer.

Some of these are repeats – but most I have never done before.


  • Sassafras Mountain:  Highest Point in South Carolina.  You can technically skip the hike and drive straight to the summit, but what fun is that if you are able to hike?  I plan on taking the 4.7 mile trail from Chimneytop Gap (Foothills Trail).
  • Table Rock:  Been there, done that, ready to climb it again.  SO many steps…SO worth the view. 7.2 miles in and out.
  • Whiteside Mountain:  Those views though – I cannot wait.  2-ish mile loop near Highlands, NC.
  • Pilot Mountain State Park:  I plan to take the Grindstone & Ledgespring Loop which is right around 6 miles.  I just like the way this mountain looks.
  • Jumping Off Rock:  I have tried to get here and FAILED.  I plan to try, try, try again because I keep dreaming of what that view must look like.  I hear you need a 4×4 for the 9 mile drive up Horsepasture Road.  Whatever it takes.
  • Raven Cliff Falls:  a 7.5 mile loop in Caesar’s Head State Park.  I am only doing it because we took the Dismal Trail last year to see SC’s tallest waterfall and let me just say that the name speaks for itself.  DISMAL indeed.  Unless you have supervision and can see for miles, I would skip this hike.

So that’s it.  Not a long list huh?  Well, I run a crazy household full of demanding people and can’t escape every weekend, although wouldn’t that be just wonderful.  Better to be practical and possibly meet my goal of tackling all these incredible places.  First up?  Who knows…but it’s gonna happen tomorrow!  Stay tuned, and let me know your favorite places to hike!download (2)

Tuesday Trail Tips: Kings Mountain Battlefield Trail

Seems fitting to feature a historic site at the start of a new school year.  Although if I’m being perfectly honest, I didn’t love the 1.5 mile paved Battlefield Trail – the best part of the park was giggling at the crazy loud donkey at the farm.  And when I say loud, I mean LOUD.  Like make you jump, scare the crap out of you loud.  Our friend here is pretty darn cute though, huh?


1.5 mile paved walking loop

Highlights:  The Centennial and U.S. Monuments and the free cell phone tour (get ready to learn! Call into the provided number at certain stops and you can listen to prerecorded information about the battle.  Make sure you bring your charged cell to really make the most of the trail)

From Greenville it’s approximately an hour drive.  I suggest combining this park with another if you are only going to check out the Battlefield Trail, such as Crowders Mountain State Park, if you have the time. Which I thought of after the fact but you are probably super smart and a great planner and on top of things…all qualities I seem to always fall slightly short of.

There are however other fun things to do at Kings Mountain in addition to the Battlefield Trail:

  • 19th Century Living History Farm (we took a picnic obviously)
  • 16 mile Park Loop Trail
  • 5 mile Browns Mountain Trail
  • 6 mile Clarks Creek Trail
  • Camping
  • Horseback Riding (BYOH – bring ya own horse)
  • buying things at the Bookstore obviously

Anyway, as you may have gathered, this wasn’t my favorite, but it was interesting to learn about the game changing battle fought here in 1780 during the Revolutionary War. The park also has some really great events, especially if you are into demonstrations / re-enactments:  https://www.nps.gov/kimo/specialevents.htm

In summary, I did enjoy the 19th century living history farm for sure. Loud donkeys and loud roosters made up for the boredom of the trail. I’m just kiddin though y’all…it is of course not boring I know, because it is our history.

That’s all until next time…happy trails!


GVL Picnic Basket Series #2

Pelham Mill Park is a historic site you have maybe never heard of. Located right down the road from I-85 & Hwy 14, the park is tucked away along the Enoree River and not really visible as you drive by.

Every time I visit I think about how it would make a great set for a horror movie. Creepy old remains from what was once a cotton factory are covered in graffiti, vegetation, and beer bottles.

Apparently I also think it’s a pretty good place to have a picnic. I just pray there’s no serial killer on the loose or zombies out and about while we enjoy our lunch.

There are plenty of picnic tables and even a grill of you are really adventurous. The history of the old textile mill is interesting to read about, which you can do as you explore. There are trails to walk, and a dog park if you want to bring Fido. My one addition would be a playground, which would be nice for the kiddos.

Whatever you do, don’t touch the water.  It was glowing today, and not in a good way.  Also, stay safe – watch out for zombies.  Happy picnicking!


GVL Picnic Basket Series

I’ve had this cute, red, gingham-lined picnic basket sitting in the corner of a closet for about, well, 3 years give or take. Before heading out for a hike or a trip to the park, I would look at it and think, nah.  Not today.  Am I lazy?  Probably.  Is it a bit cumbersome? Kinda.  But finally it hit me.  This would make a DANG good picture.  Haha – truth.  And my kids think it’s super fun to pack.

So there you have it.  The beginning of the “GVL Picnic Basket Series”. Where I will share my favorite picnic spots and hopefully get to see some of yours.  Inspire and be inspired right?

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We sorta overdid it today with the picnic basket pics, but we were at my FAVORITE GREENVILLE SPOT EVER, which is the Rock Quarry Garden located in downtown Greenville (part of Cleveland Park).

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It may be a small park, but indeed, it is well worth the trip.  Maybe it’s the beautiful landscaping (it is), or maybe it’s the waterfall (that too), or maybe just the peaceful setting (yep) – but no matter what, I guarantee you will find this garden the most magical spot – complete with flowers, a picturesque bridge, and huge green leaves (obviously I do not know the technical term.  But WOW).  You cannot pick a wrong spot to have your picnic.


Well done Greenville.  Well done.


Send me your favorite picnic spots in Greenville:  NativeGvlGirl@Gmail.com





Worthwhile Wednesdays: Greer Community Ministries

Greer Community Ministries‘ philosophy is ” “no elderly, home bound or disadvantaged person in the Greater Greer area will go hungry.”  Most of us have no idea what it’s like to actually be hungry (including yours truly).  To wonder where your next meal will come from.  How you will feed your family.  It’s hard to imagine, right?  With organizations like Greer Community Ministries, there’s hope.  And FOOD!  But they need help.

And that’s what our Worthwhile Wednesday was all about.  What can we do to help?  I mean my goodness don’t we all stock extra boxes of pasta and canned goods and cereal?!  Or have the ability to hop over to Bi-Lo or Publix and hit up their BOGO sale?  Yep, I know we do.  If I have time to blog about what book I am reading and what adventure I went on last weekend SURELY I have time to help others, right?  (REMINDER FOR MYSELF!)  And we all know how busy life gets, but these kids of mine need to learn compassion, empathy, and how to be good neighbors.  And really they are CONSTANTLY IN MY PANTRY anyway, so they might as well be in charge of our donation items.

You can check out their current needs below:

#hereingreer #ittakesavillage #setthetable

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Greer Community Ministries is located at 738 S. Line St. Ext. Greer, SC 29651.  They take donations for their food pantry from 9:00am – 4:00pm Mondays – Fridays.  There are many other ways to make a donation as well – check it out!

It definitely #takesavillage.  Our donation will certainly not end hunger, but as a community we can do so much.  If you have ideas, comments, or suggestions, send over an email:  nativegvlgirl@gmail.com.


Tuesday Trail Tips: Sulphur Springs Trail @ Paris Mountain State Park

Well.  I am out of practice y’all.  Or better put, out of shape.  This trail – Sulphur Springs – kicked my tail FOR REAL.  Well, only the never-ending uphill part.  Not to scare you away or anything…I feel like I might be in the minority here.

A little history for fun…I grew up going to Paris Mountain.  Many Saturdays were spent having a picnic and hiking around the lake.  We always parked our blue Dodge Caravan right next to Lake Placid, which is one of the first parking lots when you enter the park. (of course we were wearing Umbros and scrunchies)  As far as I was concerned, that was the extent of Paris Mountain.  Up until like, this past weekend.  You are thinking WHAT?!?!  HOW THE HELL DID YOU NOT KNOW ABOUT THE OTHER 80% OF THE PARK?!?!  Well I’ll be darned.  I had no idea.  There’s an awesome playground a little ways further.  Then long, windy roads to MORE picnic shelters, MORE trails, and yes, MORE LAKES!  I am still in shock.  All of this, right here in Greenville, practically in our backyard.

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I have so many suggestions friends.  Of course, I went on a whim and did no research (typical).  I am sure you will be more responsible.  On a positive note, I learned a lot.  So here ya go:

SULPHUR SPRINGS TRAIL:  3.8 MILE LOOP | STRENUOUS TRAIL (9 on a scale of 10 per SC State Parks)

  • STUDY THE MAP.  We got lost and did a few circles before figuring out where the heck we were supposed to go.  That might have to do with the fact that I am directionally challenged, but either way, there are parts of the trail that split off and are not clearly labeled.  Do yourself a favor and just print the map out and take it with you.
  • Know that this trail is indeed a strenuous hike that at times feels like it will never end.  Take water.  In fact, SC State Parks rated it a 9 out of 10 with 10 being the most strenuous.  Maybe I shoulda checked that before hand.  Or worked out…
  • There are beautiful views, you just can’t see them.  I kid you not – I speak the truth.  At least not in the summer, not on this trail.  Look closely below and you can see a hint of a view.  A bit disappointing after almost dying on the way up people.
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  • The hike is a 3.8 mile loop.  We parked at Picnic Area #6 and entered where the main signs are (to the right).  This takes you STRAIGHT UP.  I kind of prefer hiking up rather than down a mountain, I guess I am just outta shape.  Ugh….gotta work on that.  What I am trying to say is that technically you could go the other way around the loop and go up a slow winding mountain and then down a bunch of stairs (rock stairs).  There are options.
  • It’s a pretty trail, it really is.  We had to stop often so I could slow my heart rate down as I feared I would keel over at any moment, so we got to take in the beauty of the forest (through the sweat dripping off our faces).

Overall, the park is gorgeous.  There are so many trail options at Paris Mountain, from easy to strenuous.  It’s right up the road.  There’s not only hiking, but you can bike, picnic, play on the playground, camp, swim…it’s always an adventure.  Especially once you discover all that the park has to offer (drive past the first couple of parking lots!!!!)

What’s your experience at Paris Mountain?  What are your favorite trails?

Until  next Tuesday, happy trails!

Tuesday Trail Tips: Ramona Graham Fitness Trail at Cleveland Park

First of all, who is Ramona Graham??!?  I am a little embarrassed, but I had no idea.  WELL.  I shoulda known, cause she’s pretty fantastic.  She owns Fitness Boot Camp, LifeForce Fitness, and the South Carolina Fitness Corps. She competes. She’s a certified trainer. Teaches group fitness classes.  AND (drumroll) she designed the Ramona Graham Fitness Boot Camp Fitness Trail in Greenville’s Cleveland Park.  What did you do today?!!?

Seriously, Greenville is making it hard to have any kind of excuse NOT to get in your daily calorie burn.  You can ride the Swamp Rabbit Trail, hike Table Rock, or paddle board at Lake Jocassee.  You can play frisbee at Gary L. Pittman Park or run the trails at Paris Mountain State Park.   SO very many options.

This week, I kept it close to home.  Cleveland Park.  One of my absolute favorite places  in Greenville, no matter how crowded it gets (ok just kidding I prefer the park on say, a Monday morning, when no one is there).

Anyway, it’s pretty spectacular.  You have tennis, basketball, wild animals (the zoo of course), playgrounds, trails, sand volleyball, green space, Pink Mama’s Ice Cream Truck…and the list goes on.  Well, the City of Greenville has recently added 16 fitness stations at Cleveland Park.  16!  and FREE!  with beautiful views!  Really pretty great if you ask me.

If anyone was watching, yes, that was me looking awkward and out of shape as I tested out all of the equipment.   But this is important work people.  Anyway, every one of the 16 stations will test your strength – from your biceps to your legs to your abs. Quick note – you gotta be 14 to play.


But no worries, bring a stroller or bikes and let the kids tag along while you get your workout in. I do have to say that the seats get pretty dang hot on these sweltering summer days so beware.  Otherwise I have no advice, except that it is fun, good for your muscles, and a great excuse to get outside and enjoy all that the City of Greenville has to offer.

To sum it up, the Ramona Graham Fitness Trail at Cleveland Park is not to be missed, even if you just pretend like you know what you are doing.  Details here (I knew how to use all the machines, but just in case you don’t 😉 ):  3900FitnessMap_201504161052162434 (1)

Great afternoon at a gorgeous park in the heart of Greenville.  Just use the equipment, or make a day of it.  Pack a picnic, visit the Greenville Zoo, play on the playground…it’s up to you.  Make it your own.  And ENJOY!

Until next Tuesday, happy trails 🙂 !

Creative Outlet 101

Life can be mundane.  It can be repetitive, borrrring, frustrating, and the complete opposite of exciting.  I knew I had to do something for myself – have some kind of creative outlet that would be just mine, only mine.  (YES people I LOVE my kids and am incredibly grateful for this life I have been given – let me just get that out there).  But work, carpool, dinner, errands, grocery store < repeat x 1,000,000,000 > was starting to wear on me.  Big time.  I missed being creative, being passionate about something, anything really.

So…what to do.  How about blogging?  Writing has been proven to have all kinds of psychological benefits – from helping with depression to increasing creativity to keeping your mind sharp – it’s truly an excellent tool.  And nope, you don’t have to be an award winning author who has sold millions of copies.  It really just doesn’t matter – ya just gotta put the pen to paper.  Or keyboard to computer (um is that right?).  Which is a perk for me because surprisingly I am not an award winning author.

And what about Instagram – so many have inspired me with everything from photography to book reviews to my next outfit to where to eat dinner.  Well that can’t be hard, right?  Sort of, yep.  But maybe not in the way you think. The goal can never be about the number of likes or the number of followers, although that’s a fun game to play.  It’s about staying true to myself and using this platform in a positive way to capture and share what I love.  So, being the nerd that I am, I came up with a list to help keep myself on track 😉


  • Fulfill need to create, inspire, and engage.

  • Find new adventures.  Explore.  Hike new trails.  Jump in lakes.

  • Learn from others, share what I know.

  • Read. Read. Read.

  • Practice kindness.  Volunteer.  Help others.

  • Connect with the community.  Shop local.  Eat Local.

  • And the most important, which is noted above but worth mentioning again: stay true to myself – simply go after what I am passionate about.

I gotta say, I get excited just reading these goals.  A creative outlet just for me.  No expectations other than my own.  No frills.  Just me, a camera I don’t know how to use, and pretty awesome place I live in to explore.  What’s your creative outlet?  What are your rules for using social media?  How do you stay sane?!  Lemme know.

Trail Tip Tuesdays: Lake Conestee Nature Park

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Six miles south of Greenville lies the Lake Conestee Nature Park.  If you haven’t been and are wondering if you should check it out, YES.  Yes you should! There are parts of this beautifully done park that make you feel as though you are far, far away from the upstate.  It’s a great adventure full of wildlife, education, and views.  You can hike to your heart’s content, bird watch, explore the bog-walks, or just play on the playground and have a picnic.

One of our favorite things to do is look for wildlife – and indeed there is a lot to see here.  Turtles, snakes, birds, dragonflies, bees…you get the picture.  It ALWAYS makes for an exciting adventure.  Or you can follow their Learning Loops, which seems awesome but I am more of a “explore as you go” type person…either way I don’t think you can go wrong.


While some of the trails are paved, we don’t mind, you are still surrounded by beauty.  And anyway, there are SIX MILES of natural trails so you don’t even have to step foot on much of any asphalt if you really don’t want to.  Note – they are mostly flat so it’s not so much of a “hike” as it is a “walk”.  Some of y’all might love this, others not so much.

One perk – a lot of the trails  (paved or not) are nice and shaded, which you will be grateful for on a hot summer day (tip: go EARLY in the summer months because your children will be crying and whining and sweating and dying in the heat – along with YOU, your dog, your partner…. just trust me.  I know this from experience)

There are also benches and overlooks throughout the park that are great for taking it all in, or resting because it’s soooo hot (not referring to my own family here).


Trail info:


Hike or no hike, you can still hang out at Lake Conestee Nature Park for the solar eclipse on August 21st (assuming you didn’t make plans 8 months ago…I think we are in the minority over here with no plan!).  Just click on the pic below for more details.


***There are multiple entrances to the park, but I suggest going straight the main entrance at the former Municipal Stadium.  We did indeed get very lost the first time we went!  Check it out here:  http://lakeconesteenaturepark.com/about/

Until next Tuesday, happy trails 😉