Just 35 minutes from downtown Charleston, Summerville has long been a favorite destination for visitors looking to experience the warm hospitality and charm of a small Southern town.
If you enjoy spending time outdoors, I've got several ideas for places you can visit and things you can do in Summerville. I'll start off today with the Sawmill Branch Walk/Bike Trail.
Located in the southern end of the city near the Historic District, this 10-foot wide trail runs alongside the old Sawmill Branch Canal, offering a pancake-flat, traffic-free path to walk, jog, rollerblade or ride your bike. If you traverse the entire length of the trail up and back, it's 14 miles of uninterrupted exercise.
You can start your trek from any one of several parking areas located along the trail. On a recent visit to Summerville, I parked my car at the entrance on Black Oak Boulevard off Gahagan Road and headed southwest down the trail on my bike.
A buffer of trees separates the trail from the adjacent neighborhoods, making for a peaceful, scenic ride along the canal. As I rode on the path, I came across a number of cattle egret foraging for food near the water. In the past, I've seen white ibis, snowy egrets and great blue herons, along with a turtle or two.
The route crosses several busy roads, but underpasses are provided keeping you safely away from traffic. At a couple of different points, the trail switches from one side of the canal to the other. Depending on the time of day, you may be riding in the shade of trees.
Mile markers can be found along the length of the trail, which ends at the YMCA Oakbrook sports complex near Dorchester Road. If you need to take a restroom break, there is a portable toilet by the soccer fields.
When I reached the end of the trail, I made a U-turn and rode all the way back past the spur that leads to the Black Oak parking lot to check out the most recently opened section of the path. It runs another half-mile to East Richardson Avenue.
If you cross the street, you can ride on a sidewalk into Summerville's historic downtown. At the corner of South Main Street, you'll find Guerin's Pharmacy. Founded in 1871, it is the oldest pharmacy in South Carolina.
Inside you'll find an old fashioned soda fountain serving malted milkshakes and ice cream. Go for it - you've burned the calories!