Thursday, August 28, 2014
By Susan A. Sistare, produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project. Updated for accuracy in July 2019.
When I told my brother, an avid mountain biker, that I was going to visit Croft State Park, he responded casually, “Cool. It’s two bucks to get in. But I guess you knew that.”
Actually, I didn’t know that.
“What can you do there?” I asked him.
He looked at me like I had three heads. “YOU’VE NEVER BEEN TO CROFT STATE PARK???”
I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t.
But neither had my good friend Christine, a Spartanburg native like me. So off we went with our two dollars and drove the scenic route to Croft State Park, or what we locals know as simply Camp Croft, located just off Highway 56 near Pauline. This 7,000-acre natural site—once an Army Training Camp during World War II—is now a paradise for outdoor activities of all kinds.
Our primary objective for the day was to be on the water. At first we leaned toward renting a canoe for $15/hour (or $25 for the day), because neither of us had ever canoed before, but ultimately settled on the $10/hour kayak rental to squeeze in an upper body workout.
For a summer day in South Carolina, the heat actually wasn’t overbearing for once, and a merciful breeze made for a lovely kayaking experience. My friend and I were accompanied by several Canada Geese, a few fishermen (you can rent a fishing boat too, or bring your own) and an assortment of interesting little water creatures.
“Cleanest lake around. I’ve been coming here since I was a little kid,” Dennis Mitchell told me as he helped his young son Dylan hold a fishing pole. “My dad used to bring me here all the time.” It was heartwarming to watch history repeating itself, a father and son out there fishing. The whole scene was blissfully peaceful.
And here is my short list of do’s and don’ts for the Croft paddling experience—some of them more obvious than others—that came to me as I peacefully paddled along Lake Craig:
Unfortunately, number one on this list is the only thing I remembered to do before getting on the lake. I was waterlogged from the waist down after our blissfully peaceful paddle. And after my kayak was safely stowed, I made a musical thump-dump-thud sound on the grass as I raced for the nearest bathroom. Another good thing about Croft State Park, though, is that it’s easy to dry your clothes under the hand dryer in the bathroom. That bathroom was amazing!
After drying out, we hiked both the Craig Trail (most of which is also suitable for mountain biking) and the Nature Trail (open only to hikers), which is only 1.5 miles long. It is an easy hike by most standards, great for novices or those with small children.
In addition to hiking, mountain biking, and various methods of lake travel, one can also fish, camp, bird watch, go skeet shooting, ride horses (if you have your own) or find geocaches scattered throughout the park. There are also several picnic areas and playgrounds for kids. The park is open year-round with extended hours during daylight savings time.
“What do you want to do now?” I asked my friend Christine as we finished the Nature Trail.
“Well, we don’t have to go to the gym after this total body workout,” she said.
And so, because we didn’t have horses or tents with us, we decided we should come back to Croft State Park some other time when we had a big group of friends, especially friends with horses and tents. Also, I vowed to be more prepared next time (refer to my list). At least I wasn’t sunburned!
We ended our journey with lunch in downtown Spartanburg. Maybe it was all that kayaking and hiking, but I do believe it was the most satisfying lunch I ever had.
Rita—our server—asked us why we were so sweaty and all eight of our limbs appeared to be jelly-like. “We spent the day at Croft State Park,” I replied. “It was awesome.”
“Really?” she said, pouring our tea. “What can you do there? I’ve never been.”
I looked at her like she had three heads. “YOU MEAN YOU’VE NEVER BEEN TO CROFT STATE PARK???”
Croft State Park is a big park with lots to do. A green retreat in the heart of fast-growing Spartanburg County, the park offers more than 17 miles of biking and hiking trails, a playground, picnicking and camping, as well as fishing and boating in two lakes, including 165-acre Lake Craig.
Susan A. Sistare, Produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.
Susan A. Sistare is a local author, skydiver, and teacher. She lives in Spartanburg with four cats and too many roommates.