Posted November 24, 2017 – Narrated by Carmen
See our 5-Bambi rating legend at the end of this review.
During the calm before the storm – weeks before Hurricane Irma made landfall in Port-au-Prince, her path still a mystery – we gingerly drove toward South Carolina with three evacuation strategies, depending on which way the wind may blow.
From Asheville, North Carolina we descended south as the morning skies brewed question mark clouds above the Blue Ridge Mountains. Early afternoon, we pulled into Enoree River Vineyard for a Harvest Host camp night.
But the moment we stepped out of the truck the heat and humidity slapped us clear to California and back. What was it? “85 feels like freaking 105” or something like that? So, Jim cranked up Big Red, our Honda generator, …
… and powered up the air conditioner to cool us down a spell so we could arrive crisp and cool for the tasting – which was excellent by the way.
As our hosts departed the grounds for the night, they graciously opened their spacious view deck for our personal use.
So, on his first night ever in The Palmetto State, Jim went full-tilt hillbilly on the porch, ruminating about the intentions of the sky, it’s mixed messages and what was ahead.
Would this storm be soft serve or Chunky Monkey?
Would Irma skip Florida and skim the Atlantic seaboard or turn and blast Mississippi and Louisiana … or central Florida and Alabama?
Smarter people would have turned their rig toward Kentucky, but we longed for lakes and beaches.
Tropical storms move slowly. We have time. Let’s just keep the tank full, settle down and deal with what seemed to be shaping up to be the storm of the decade in a place that neither of us has ever been before and know next to nothing about.
Little we knew that South Carolina would soon have us under her spell. Ignorance in our favor because the features that ultimately captured us were far too subtle to serve as attractions.
Peu á peu (little by little) the charms of this unaffected state won us over by not really trying.
We set out for Dreher Island State Park on Lake Murray, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, engineered in the early 1930’s.
Driving past the Prosperity/Clinton sign which, according to locals, is one of the most stolen signs in South Carolina …
… we turned toward the park. It was like picking our way through a garden maze – even with GPS we had good reason to feel lost.
South Carolina keeps all the best stuff hid deep in the dark woods. Maybe you won’t find it and just turn around and go home. That’s all right.
We crossed two bridges to the entrance and finally, the sign!
Then we passed the day use area into the campground with just a little bit of drama.
Two lakefront camping areas, Area A and Area B, have views and access to Lake Murray. Ninety-seven paved sites for RVs and tents, and 15 sites just for tents.
The asphalt road into Area B was narrow, steep and curvy. Half of the paved sites are right on the lake and a few of the sites have small private beach areas.
The well-shaded sites include picnic tables and fire pits. Each is asphalt paved and equipped with water and 30 amp electrical hook-ups (no 50 amp), and no sewer hook-ups.
Most sites are large and able to accommodate RVs up to 45 feet, all can handle up to 30 feet.
There are several pull-through sites, but most are back-in. This is a hilly area and most sites are not level, and some of the inside sites are on an extreme slant.
There are two free dump stations – one in Area A and one in Area B – near the dumpsters. There is no trash pickup but dumpsters and recycling bins are near the dump stations.
Our Verizon cell service was OK at our site. No WiFi is provided, but you can go to the Visitor Center and use the park services WiFi there.
We moved once during our 6-day stay (we had planned and paid for 14 days) and though we had no complaints, the second site gained supremacy over the previous one.
If there are “bad” sites on the water we didn’t see any.
With taxes, we paid $31 a night. All sites are reservable and we got ours the previous night on the toll-free number, 1-866-345-PARK. Reserve America also makes reservations for Dreher Island.
This is such a relaxing park – serene, quiet, starlit with soft warm breezes and birdsong …
… the weather was perfect for daytime walking and cycling the park roads. Pets are allowed, on leash, anywhere in the park. No air conditioning was required.
There’s a nice walk along the quarter-mile Billy Dreher Nature Trail. From shelter #7 and #8 parking lot, there is a two-and-a-half-mile hike along the Little Gap Trail.
In addition to these two hikes, a short multi-use trail runs through the middle of State Park Loop.
The bathrooms in the campground and throughout the park were cleaned as expected.
Since we had no sewer hook-up we used the shower facility in the B section and the private stalls were all spotlessly clean and well-maintained. There are no laundry machines.
There is a community building for group events. Picnic shelters are around the lake and cabins are available for rent.
A recreational swimming area – roped off for safety – is provided near the walking bridge. Fishing along the bank seemed to be a popular local pastime, but taking naps is the primary activity at DISP.
A convenience store with a boat launch and fuel station is central to the day-use area.
I took a few spins around the island on my kayak and spotted wild deer on the shore, eagles and other fishing fowl. Nearby, I discovered an upscale residential area with a golf course and clubhouse.
The hard-working men who were paid 50¢ a day to build this lake did a lot right, but they really missed the mark with that moonrise. It serves no purpose other than to break your heart. Sunsets too … like salmon caviar on a golden Omega-3 sky with no champagne to go with that eye-feast because …
… liquor is forbidden in the park. Oh, you think I’m kidding?
Frayed Knot!, barely a half-mile away, fixes that situation. We were there so often the entire staff learned Pico’s name thanks to the dog-friendly deck. Frayed Knot is hailed as one of the top ten best dive-bar diners in South Carolina. We didn’t quite hit all of them, but we’ll be back.
On the day Irma made landfall in Florida, we skedaddled into Columbia for emergency supplies and a side trip to River Rat Brewery.
Over pints of 803 IPA and Tabasco Saison we got the news that Beauty was parked in the eye of the storm.
So … after some “stress nachos” and more beer …
… we fueled up the truck and headed back to Dreher Island. Governor McMaster expedited our strategy by ordering an evacuation of all South Carolina State Parks.
When we arrived back to the campground it was raining and the rangers told us we had to clear out by Sunday morning and gave us a refund. So, we broke out the ice cream …
and when Sunday came, we headed north.
Even though forced to leave early, we proudly give Dreher Island State Park a “Four Bambi Rating.” DISP has cycling, short hikes, long walks, kayaking, excellent naps and is dog-friendly.
If DISP had better WiFi and a swimming pool it would be awarded a “coveted” LIB 5-Bambi rating. We’ll be back!
If you want to see our exact route, click here.
*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.
|Our “BAMBI” rating system explained:
– One Bambi: Should’a boondocked.
– Two Bambi’s: Better than a Cracker Barrel or Walmart.
– Three Bambi’s: Adequate for a short stay.
– Four Bambi’s: Great place! Met our expectations for an extended stay. Needs minor improvements or is not ideally situated for all our preferred recreation (hiking, cycling, swimming, kayaking) without driving.
– Five Bambi’s: Destination Camping at it’s best! Critical as we are, there’s nothing we’d improve, and you can bet your sweet Bambi we’re going back!
Click here to see our other campground reviews.