Driving into Poinsett State Park under a canopy of hardwoods draped in Spanish moss, one would expect to find trails offering the usual flat coastal terrain.
OK. So it's not like hiking to the top of Table Rock. But trust me on this one, you'll be sweating a-plenty after a few miles on these up-and-down trails.
I recently walked a combination of three interconnecting trails that start at the ranger station adjacent to Old Levi Mill Lake. The Coquina Nature Trail, an easy 1.5-mile loop, is a great introduction into this topographic limbo. It passes through a mountain-like environment generally not seen in central South Carolina.
On the short climb to a trailside shelter, you'll find galax and mountain laurel - Upstate staples. On other parts of the hillside, you'll walk under trees covered in Spanish moss - the signature vegetation of the Lowcountry.
From the shelter, which sits atop a 100-bluff, you'll get a great view of Old Levi Mill Lake, originally a freshwater reserve for rice planting. While you're sitting there enjoying the serenity, check out the stonework on the shelter. It's made from the trail's namesake coquina, a naturally occurring limestone made of broken seashells.
About half way through the Coquina Trail, we decided to veer off onto the short, .5-mile Hilltop Trail. This is where you'll begin some modest climbing. At the end of this trail, we connected to the Laurel Group Trail. Named after the rustic mountain laurel that surrounds it, this route winds through a moderately difficult mountain-like landscape.
One terminus of the trail connects with the Coquina Trail, taking us back to our starting point by the ranger station.
After a picnic lunch at the old bathhouse, we hiked the Scout Trail, an out-and-back two-mile trek through the swampy section of the park. There was no climbing involved on this trail, but plenty of the lowlands-mountain mix of trees, including mountain laurel, red cedar, giant oaks and dogwoods.
If you really want to up your game, you can hike many more miles by connecting to the Palmetto Trail that runs through the park and the adjoining Manchester State Forest.
To learn more about the Poinsett State Park trails, visit www.southcarolinaparks.com or call the park at (803) 494-8177.