Running The Palmetto Trail

It’s easy for running to get monotonous — especially when you’re repeating the same routes over and over. The appeal of running — at least to me — is getting the opportunity to explore new places and understand the people, the politics, the infrastructure, the environment, and the history that led us to where we are now. In July of 2018, I got bored. I started looking for new places to go and new routes to explore. As luck would have it, the Palmetto Trail runs about a quarter mile west of the front door of my house.

Palmetto Conservation Foundation

The Palmetto Trail will run 500 miles across the state when it’s completed — from Awendaw to Walhalla. I started from Columbia, traveling north, and then did the second half from Columbia going south. I mapped out connections between the official trails to cover the yet-to-be-finished sections. The runs were often completed out and back.

Running up Broad River Road one day in August, I realized there is value in documenting this journey. I grew up in Atlanta, and in college I was captivated by a book by David Kaufman called Peachtree Creek. It was a documentation of his journey through what, to my knowledge, had always just been a little stream in my neighborhood — the place where we dumped our crawdads when they got too big for our fish tank. It introduced readers to a small cross-section of the evolution of the city of Atlanta. I hope to do the same with this — even if it is mostly for my own edification.

SC DNR

Starting on the coast, in the Francis Marion Forest just north of Charleston, the Palmetto Trail leaves the beaches and marshes in the coastal zone and transitions to the swamps and forests of the outer coastal plains. Meandering along Lake Moultrie, Lake Marion, and then the Congaree River, the Palmetto trail enters the rich farmlands of the inner coastal zone. The trail then rises into the Sandhills region, an ancient beach head. After leaving Columbia and crossing the Broad River, the trail pulls into the Piedmont region, before taking a left-hand turn and running the course of the Blue Ridge Mountains, from Spartanburg through Oconee.

Trail Development and Conservation in South Carolina

While the Palmetto Trail wasn’t established until the mid-90’s, there’s a long history of conservation — both in terms of the Palmetto Trail and across South Carolina. The Francis Marion Forest, the Manchester State Forest, Congaree National Park, and the Sumter National Forest all sit on various portions of the trail, making up only a small portion of the parks and forests that dot the landscape of South Carolina. There are also sections that are yet to be completed where other state forest trails — like Harbison State Forest — serve as a substitute.

…and now we start! Stay tuned for updates.