You know how when your Christmas tree comes in your front door right after Thanksgiving and you suddenly have to rearrange the entire living room furniture to make the tree fit?
You find yourself pushing a leather ottoman into the hall and stashing that extra lamp in your guest bedroom and filling your hall closet full of year-round decorations to make enough space for the red and green holiday ones instead?
That’s sort of how we feel over here at TravelersRestHere on the website this month.
We shared with you a few weeks ago about our good friend and website creator Celeste Hawkins transitioning out of her ownership role with TravelersRestHere. (And thank you so much for the kind words and the thoughtful notes and the sweet comments about the fantastic job she has done in creating and maintaining a wonderful spot here online for us all to share our love and inform our locals and our visitors about just exactly what it is that keeps people driving their cars and riding their bikes right onto our Main Street week after week.)
Our same staff of writers are still typing and creating and we are full of glad that they are hanging around and sharing their talents. Our Instagram feed has a talented photographer and we’re making a handful of nips and tucks here and there – adding a little gloss and breaking out the polish and shine for a bit of this and that.
We don’t want to fix what isn’t broken.
Our purpose is still people and stories and what makes Travelers Rest, Travelers Rest.
But we’ve got a little fine-tuning to take care of first.
A little redecorating, if you will.
Don’t worry – we aren’t ditching the beloved sweet potato pie and serving up brussels sprouts instead. (Not that’s there’s anything wrong with brussels sprouts, mind you.) We’re just adding in a few of our own special secrets to the menu.
Mostly, right now, we want you to know what’s going on. To keep you informed. And we want you to keep tuning in. Keep sharing our page and keep reading our weekly blog posts. Keep telling us what you think and what you want to read on this page and in our weekly newsletter. (Which, speaking of that little newsletter, you’ll be seeing again appearing in your inbox soon enough. But, for the time being, the newsletter is on a mini hiatus.) Especially keep following along on Facebook and Instagram – that’s going to be the easiest place to remain informed and up to date on our progress here on the website, but – more importantly, that’ll keep you up to date on the stories and the faces of our favorite small town – TR.
The Upstate of South Carolina is full of surprises. Not only are people flocking to visit all our scenic area has to offer, but apparently birds of prey are doing the same!
Thousands of raptors fly past Caesars Head State Park annually — a South Carolina State Park located in Cleveland, SC, at the gorgeous Blue Ridge Escarpment — during the fall months.
This state park is popular with the hawks because of several dynamics unique to the area: the updraft, the distance between the park and other stopping points along the birds’ annual migratory path, and also the thermals specific to the escarpment due to the sheer cliff faces at the park.
“I’ve seen hawks take some pretty spectacular power dives,” shares Marion Clark. “People get excited about it.”
Marion’s been an avid participant in the Caesars Head Hawk Watch for the past 28 years. A retired pastor, he has served in the past as president of the Carolina Bird Club — a group that, alongside other volunteers, participates in an annual count of the hawks that cruise past Caesars Head’s 3,200-foot overlook every fall.
“One time I brought my grandson with me to count the hawks,” Marion recalls. “He was five years old. A bird flew by and my grandson said, ‘Look everybody. That’s a peregrine falcon. He can fly 242 miles an hour and is faster than a race car!’ Everyone laughed. It’s truly phenomenal how fast they fly.”
Although the broad-winged hawk is the most common sighting, the park’s bird count records (faithfully kept by volunteers like Marion since 1988) show that they’ve also spotted bald eagle, osprey, sharp-shinned hawk, Cooper’s hawk, merlin, American kestrel, Mississippi kite, turkey vulture, and black vulture, as well as ravens, warblers, hummingbirds, red-headed woodpeckers, and blue jays, too.
While these many birds have a noticeable presence at Caesars Head from the start of September through the end of November, they most often make their trek during the last half of September. That’s when the sky’s most likely to be full of them.
Of course, you can head up to Caesars Head anytime during that timeframe to have a pretty good chance of catching the hawks on their flight path. But the park also offers its annual informational Hawk Watch event with a park ranger, this year on Sept. 17 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
“The hawks stay hunkered down until the warm air starts rising, so your best times of viewing are probably from about 11 to 4,” Marion says.
He adds that the visitor’s center at Caesars Head is happy to let you know how the conditions are looking if you give them a call in the morning.
“The views and the number of hawks migrating is almost entirely dependent on the weather,” Marion advises.
If temperatures are not right or there’s a heavy fog, then the hawks’ times will be varied and your viewing will be limited
Another great South Carolina location to spot these beautiful birds in motion is South Carolina’s tallest mountain: Sassafras Mountain in nearby Pickens County. The birds can also occasionally be spotted by Lake Jocassee, Lake Hartwell, and Table Rock as well, but the viewing area at Caesars Head is ideal.
A group of hawks is called a kettle, and one kettle can boast as many as 500 hawks at a time, although generally several hundred is more standard. 2014 still holds the record high at Caesars Head, with over 14,000 hawks passing by the state park.
When you make the lovely drive up to Caesars Head yourself, be sure to stop at the visitor’s center, where you can find more information and take fantastic photos of the birds in migration.
Traveling up the mountain and taking in the panoramic view make for a great morning’s adventure for all ages in your family.
And, even if the hawks aren’t putting on their best show that day for you, you’ve still enjoyed Mother Nature and some pretty spectacular landscapes up ahead.
Writer: Lacey Keigley // Editor: Celeste Hawkins // Photography: 1) Public domain and 2) Celeste Hawkins
Sure, you know about the popular and beautiful state parks at Table Rock and Jones Gap and Lake Jocassee. And we all know our beloved Paris Mountain. But where else can a person pop a tent or hang a hammock in or near Travelers Rest, SC?
Turns out, Travelers Rest is well situated to facilitate all kinds of outdoor activities and adventures. We are at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with plenty of opportunities to fish and hike and wander the woods. And camp.
So we’ve asked our friends and our neighbors and then compiled this list of five lesser-known camping spots near our neck of the woods. For this list, we’ve tried to keep our camping options limited to locations within a one-hour radius of home sweet home, here in Travelers Rest.
1. Mile Creek Park
Over in Six Mile on Lake Keowee, you can discover Mile Creek Park. With over 60 campsites on the picturesque thin peninsula jutting out into the lovely Lake Keowee, you’ll be sure to find a cozy spot for your crew.
Mile Creek provides several comfort stations, multiple playgrounds, and also convenient water access to get on the lake for fishing and boating and swimming.
Location: 757 Keowee Baptist Church Rd. Six Mile, SC 29682
Also located on Lake Keowee, High Falls Park boasts more than 90 camp sites, with about 10 of the sites being waterfront. Even if your tent isn’t bunked against the water’s edge, the water activities are nearby and plentiful. Boating and fishing and swimming opportunities abound, and the park even features playgrounds and miniature golf.
Just across the North Carolina border in Saluda lies the family-friendly Orchard Lake Campground. Although there are more RV campsites than tent sites at Orchard Lake, you can still find nearly 20 spots to set up your tent.
At Orchard Lake there are two lakes, with one lake reserved just for catch and release fishing. Popular with families, Orchard Lake has over 50 acres, with trails and a zipline, volleyball, badminton and more — all the classic summer camp activities you might recall from your own childhood days.
4. KOA of Travelers Rest and Northern Greenville County
Just minutes outside of the town of Travelers Rest sits a streamside campground operated by the well-known, nationwide KOA organization. Here, you’ll find six tent sites with electricity and water and four primitive sites. Each tent site is situated along the water’s edge for maximum enjoyment.
Just a few miles from the landmark Caesars Head State Park, you’ll discover this little gem of a camping spot. Located on over 60 acres is a private, secluded campground that feels like a step back in time. The campground offers all the modern-day amenities, however, including a heated swimming pool, a camp store, and a schedule of regular events — such as ice cream socials and pancake breakfasts.
Of course, like so many aspects of what we love about Travelers Rest, there are a bounty of other options. Maybe we missed your favorite little tree-lined oasis. If so, would you mind sharing it with us in the comments below?
You hear that name? Travelers. Rest. It’s like a command and an invitation.
And those of us lucky enough to call this “Dark Corner” home agree that Travelers Rest is a place that encourages and beckons us to do both.
Travel and come home.
Explore and rest.
Travelers Rest is located in the northern part of Greenville County in an area called “the Upstate” of South Carolina, about midway between Greenville, SC, to the south and the Carolina border.
Here’s what is fabulous about this little corner of the earth:
It’s close enough to Greenville to reap all the benefits of a big city, with none of the drawbacks of a big city. Advanced medical care. Trendy restaurants. Educational opportunities. Cultural events. Twinkly lights in the inviting downtown.
It’s close enough to Hendersonville, NC, to treat it as a weekend tourist stop. You can take your guests over the mountain for apple orchards, Christmas tree farms, small town bakeries, and the home of a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet: Carl Sandburg.
Here’s a more complete list of nearby cities, in case you get the travel bug during your time in Travelers Rest:
Greenville, SC – 10 miles
Spartanburg, SC – 32 miles
Hendersonville, NC – 33 miles
Asheville – 54 miles
Charlotte, NC – 103 miles
Atlanta – 155 miles
Knoxville – 160 miles
Charleston, SC – 222 miles
Myrtle Beach – 261 miles
And right here, Travelers Rest is full of charm and small town, know-your-neighbor vibes and good people and great food. So if you never want to leave TR, you can skip out on those other directions and still have everything you need and want.
You know. Travelers rest here.
But the locals do, too.
Travelers Rest. That idyllic-sounding name for this small town? Well, it came about because of the town’s important location for travelers years ago.
You’ll find TR at the base of the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains. Whether you call the Blue Ridge escarpment the beginning or the ending of the picturesque mountain range, it’s easy to recognize that the town’s convenient location is a perfect resting spot for whichever direction your wagon is headed.
In the early 1800s, in fact, travelers and drovers (livestock herders) would often stay for the winter before or after they crossed the more treacherous North Carolina mountains to their next destination. That’s how the town got its name. It was the “travelers rest” before or after their journey.
The town was officially established with the name Traveller’s Rest in 1808, but somewhere along the way, it became, simply, Travelers Rest.
The town of Travelers Rest has come a long way from the days of providing a respite for hungry drovers and weary wanderers, but in a lot of fantastic, small town ways, the welcome is still of the same flavor.
A steady stream of new businesses and restaurants have opened up along Main Street and throughout downtown over the past several years to accommodate the over 5,000 residents who live here now and those just passing through, too.
Two particularly popular features have drawn faithful followers: the Greenville Health System’s increasingly popular Swamp Rabbit Trail and the trend-setting Travelers Rest Trailblazer Park.
The Swamp Rabbit Trail officially opened in 2009. This greenway system stretches from Travelers Rest right into Greenville and beyond. The trail is beloved by bikers and walkers and outdoor enthusiasts, with over 500,000 users each year.
Trailblazer Park — which you can actually reach via the Swamp Rabbit Trail, if you’d like — is a performing arts and cultural center that hosts frequent events throughout the year, perhaps the most popular being the seasonal farmer’s market during the summer months.
When you take your turn as a traveler resting here, you’re welcome to rest, of course. But if you feel the need to move around a bit, as well, you will find much to occupy your time and imagination. And your stomach, too.
Travelers Rest boasts an increasing number of local, family-owned unique culinary offerings. (Visit our restaurant guide to get all the details.) You should not leave town hungry, with choices from a brewery to a specialty crepe restaurant, hand-crafted pizza, ice cream, rooftop dining, a bakery, an incredible slice of coconut cake, and so much more.
Although the supplies the original drovers might have needed to stock up on won’t make your modern-day list, the shops in TR will provide for all your needs and wants. Specialty shops offer local t-shirts and local roasted coffee, hand-crafted gifts, running shoes, clothing, pottery, outdoor gear, and just about any other item a traveler would require.
After you’ve stocked up, Travelers Rest is the perfect jumping off point for hitting the trail. Within an hour’s drive, there are several lakes and state parks and hiking trails and camping for the explorer in you.
He’d probably driven by it a hundred times before he actually took the time to bring along his camera equipment at exactly the right time of day for the photograph he’d already been forming in his mind’s eye.
“I like to keep the art vague to let the reviewer bring their own feeling to it,” local artist Brian Kelley says.
And when you see the photograph featuring the side of the old Jarrard Hardware, located out on Geer Highway heading toward Marietta, your own feelings likely bump right into the artist’s feelings.
Brian, who lives and works in Travelers Rest, is a photographer, an artist, a carpenter — a jack of all trades of the creative variety.
This print, hanging in TR coffeeshop Leopard Forest, is an example of one of Brian’s favorite mediums and styles. It’s more than a photograph, really. It’s a bit of a painting, too. The process Brian utilizes originated back before color photography.
This photo of the hardware store was taken with a film camera during that golden hour right before sunset.
“I love to shoot during certain times. I always look for the light,” Brian shares. “When I do photography like that, I feel as if there is a truth to it. A truth to the moment.”
Afterwards, Brian prints the photo in his darkroom using a special paper.
“Once the developed image has been thoroughly washed and dried, I apply oil paint to the surface using cotton-tipped bamboo skewers,” Brian explains.
Following this step, the extra oil is removed and what remains is the final product — complete with its own unique subtleties and tones.
Travelers Rest offers much for inspiration for Brian’s personal style and vision.
“I really look for subject matter that compliments the process,” he says.
Subject matter like a Travelers Rest icon known as Little Texas Grocery. This photo employs one of Brian’s other trademark styles: Polaroid emulsion transfer.
The work is tedious, particular. Which suits Brian just fine.
“I don’t want to do things that are halfway done,” he confesses.
Just like the image in the photo itself, the process of the Polaroid transfer is a fading art. Brian says that Polaroid is no longer producing their film.
Another series of Brian’s — the sunflowers on the Walker Farm in northern Greenville County — undergo this same process to create their surreal, timeless appearance.
This process uses 35mm color slide film, an enlarging printer, and the art of transferring the image by using the exposed negative to literally place the image on another surface such as wood or glass or paper. There’s the use of hot water and cold water baths and separating the backing, and it’s all a very delicate working.
That entire hands-on, elaborate process is a piece of the appeal for Brian.
“I’m tactile,” Brian says. “I want to experience it, to touch it.”
He says the same about the history of a location, like the history of Travelers Rest.
“A lot of my friends are in their 70s. Speaking from experience matters so much to me,” Brian adds. “I live in the margins. And when I travel, I love the feeling of coming back home to Travelers Rest.”
You may wonder why a mountain called Paris Mountain casts its shadow on the small town of Travelers Rest in South Carolina. Wouldn’t a mountain like that belong, instead, somewhere in northern France? Well, this peculiarly-placed peak actually earned its name all because of a typo.
Today, those living in and visiting the Greenville area lovingly embrace Paris Mountain as part of the area’s enjoyable outdoor offerings. Everyone looks forward to visiting Paris Mountain State Park sometime in the year, perhaps to go hiking for miles on a chilly day or at other times to beat the heat with a swim in Lake Placid.
Local restaurants like The Cafe at Williams Hardware in Travelers Rest even sell t-shirts and wooden signs that read, “If you can’t see Paris Mountain, you’re too far from home” — a sentiment shared by those who’ve made their home at the base of the mountain for some length of time.
What you may not realize is that Paris Mountain could have just as easily ended up with a different name. In fact, Paris Mountain was more or less what we would today call a misspelling, a typo.
See, the man named Richard Pearis and the mountain named Paris Mountain are linked together in a roundabout, shaken-down-through-history sort of manner.
One of the first documented white settlers in Greenville County was a man by the name of Richard Pearis. Pearis was an Indian trader and a British Loyalist who moved to the Greenville area from Virginia.
The stories about Pearis vary greatly, and, honestly, none of them paints the romantic picture that you might like to imagine for one of the earliest landowners and namesakes of the Upstate area.
At various points in historical documents, Pearis claimed ownership of more than 1,000 acres, property which included the present-day Paris Mountain.
He also owned over a thousand acres of land in Virginia, where his wife and three children were living when he first embarked on a trading expedition in what is currently northern Greenville County in the mid 1700s.
In Greenville, Pearis helped establish a store for trading and ultimately decided to stay in the area. Land records show that Pearis created a plantation in the Greenville area that included a store and a gristmill, as well as a sawmill.
Those same records show a discrepancy in the information regarding the owner of the land. At times, it seems Pearis had his young half-Cherokee son George listed as the landowner. George would later transfer the property, quite conveniently, to his father.
Naturally, questions arose as to whether Pearis had obtained his land legally or through inappropriate means.
Some records indicate Pearis took advantage of the Cherokee people by supplying them with liquor and then enticing them into heavy drinking before convincing them to sign legal documents that declared Pearis as the property owner.
Other records imply that the Cherokee people offered Pearis large amounts of land as a gift to him.
Still other documentation suggests that Pearis occasionally forged letters — supposedly written by the Cherokee leaders — to the colonists, expressing their intent to hand some land over.
Obviously, Pearis worked hard to gain possession of the land in Greenville, by any means possible.
During the Revolutionary War, Pearis sided with and fought for the British. Even the documents and letters featuring his name and his position in the British army state that his leaders thought him to be useful but a “scoundrel.” They found him “untrustworthy in all ways.”
He was taken as prisoner during the war and spent several months captive in Charleston.
Upon his return home, Pearis discovered that his plantation in present-day Greenville had been burned and completely destroyed. In a story that suddenly shifts to sound like a modern-day tale, Pearis left his family to secure his own safety after the war, moved to the Bahamas, and purchased land there.
He remained in the Bahamas until his death in 1794.
As a landowner in Greenville County, Richard Pearis owned a substantial plantation, and his legacy continued. For years following his departure from the area, the land around the mountain and the mountain itself was simply referred to as “Pearis’ mountain.”
Through the years, the name stuck — although the character of Pearis faded from local memory.
But what about the spelling. How did Pearis Mountain change into Paris Mountain?
Well, strict and standard spelling rules were simply non-existent in the 18th century.
Take, as another example, the town of Travelers Rest, which went by Traveller’s Rest at one point in time.
In fact, Richard Pearis himself spelled his own last name in both manners — as well as a few other variations — on different papers at different times during his life.
But perhaps it’s all the better that today, Paris Mountain reminds us of a European city known for its own beloved local landmark rather than one of the less reputable characters of Greenville’s history.
Writers: Lacey Kiegley and Celeste Hawkins
Editor: Celeste Hawkins
Photography: Featured image — The City of Travelers Rest; All other images — Celeste Hawkins