As you know – I always thought it was a Bridge too far…

This last week has been your regular ‘busman’s holiday’ for me (and Whitney in truth).  A relative of my host has a cabin up in the wooded area around the base of Table Rock Mountain (State Park) which is quite the quintessential weekend escape.  The trouble was the ‘creek’ (stream to you and me) needed a bridge which fitted in with the rocky, woody surrounds.  I quite fancied the idea of a cabin in the woods – dreams of racoons and bears wandering by and wild hill folk to ‘chew the fat’ with – so I agreed that when I came over Whitney and me would knock up a lil’ ol’ bridge so that crossing to the fire-pit was safe and easy.  As you saw in my earlier post, fire-pits are an essential in any outdoor living area – in fact just last night I stood around one with some good old boys listening to stories of life in the hills and coast of South Carolina (my ear is now well atuned to this strange delivery of English that emanates from these kind, generous Southern folk).  So it came to pass that I found myself in that woodland cabin in the fairly out-of-the-way outback of Pickens County, with the incredible granite slopes of Table Rock as a backdrop.

Table Rock Mountain, Soth Carolina

Table Rock is an amazing granite block sticking out of the forests of the State Park.

Cabin in the Table Rock mountains SC

The'Cabin' isn't quite what you might think - it's got electricity and (sometimes) water, and the best log fire I ever saw !

The word cabin is as non-descript as the word ‘creek’; at once it can be a ramshackle pile of timber or a habitable retreat, a wide fast flowing stream or a trickle, a ‘nant’.  The one we had to cross was neither, the one branch has some water running through, about a metre or so wide, the other branch seemed dry apart from a small trickle through the piles of leaves and sticks.

I first saw the setting on a wet misty Saturday morning and listened to the ideas of the man who was to commission the edifice.  He had some grand plans but I had an idea of how to meet his requests and did a quick sketch which met with approval.  At least it was approved until such time as I quantified the materials required…  I estimated we would need around 10 tons (it actually required another 5 tons of building stone plus another 5 or so of filling)!

Creek before bridge is installed

The little creek before we installed the bridge...

The stone was acquired from a stone store called ‘Stone City’ in Greenville.  The first 7 pallets cost around $2400 and were delivered on the Monday.  We started building on Tuesday afternoon and apart from a few hours on Wednesday when I got to visit Pickens Flea Market (a sort of huge car-boot market) we put in about 8 hours a day for 5 days to get the job done.  I will expand on the project when I get back to Wales next week – uploading photos and finding time is difficult just now – especially about the snakes and other ‘critters’ that we uncovered….

For now let me just say living in the cabin, whilst cold some mornings, was great fun and the work was hard but satisfying.  Mostly the pure pleasure I got from working again with my old walling pal from Wales and the sheer jaw dropping expression of the the owner when he saw the completed structure, has ensured this will remain one of the highlights of this marvelous trip.

Dry Stone bridge over small creek in Table Rock.

And this is what we built - a double arched dry stone bridge with each arch 4ft wide and 2ft high, together with a small water fall and pool. A little keepsake for kind and sincere people from a very grateful Welshwaller and his Carolinian side kick.

I’m racing through the last couple of weeks for which I apologise, time sitting at a computer has been limited but I will be able to give a full account next week, home is suddenly looming large !

Following the bridge building and the stay at the cabin in the fabulous wild countryside of the Table Rock State Park, I had a short weekend of meeting family and friends of my host.  The food was, as always on this trip, astonishingly good and the friendliness and welcome I received – as well as the ‘in awe’ expressions for the work Whitney and I had done – was a good end to a hard but fun filled week.  Next it was off to Charleston for a three day tour of the famous coastal town.

On the way out to the coast – some 3 hours drive – we diverted to take in the Congaree Swamp which is one of America’s National Parks.  It was (to coin a phrase oft expressed here-abouts) ‘awesome’.  A two and a half mile long boardwalk takes you through the swamp which is full of very tall trees and strange sounds.  We sighted some very rare woodpeckers and saw a number of brightly coloured birds as well as some astonishing trees and treescapes.  I can’t wait to share the photographs with you.

Charleston was something else, definitely worthy of a blog post all to itself.  The town has an important history both in the role it played in the British era and War of Independence but also in its involvement with slavery and the Civil War.  The harbour remains important today and has many attractions including the famous 2nd World War Aircraft Carrier, Yorktown, which is a floating museum.  That visit topped off a wonderful 3 days of gastronomic discovery – my first fried oysters for instance – and mind blowing scenery.  I visited Fort Sumter which saw the first shots of the American Civil War fired upon it, I went to one of the worlds most exclusively expensive resort areas which hosts the 2012 Ryder cup, and I saw THE most incredible tree I ever saw.  There were more disturbing sights too I have to say, like a poor black beggar lady one night as we merrily went off to a $100 dinner, the poverty of the cabin dwellers and the legacy of the plantation economy.  All of this has made the last week exceptionally memorable.  I’m not sure it wasn’t all topped today when I was given a tour of a private collection of finely restored classic tractors and farm machinery just on the outskirts of Greenville.  I’ll bring you that too, it is unbelievable.  For now, I’m heading back north to Durham for a couple of days – highlight is definitely going to be the concert tomorrow night of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, great country music played in the auditorium of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – before returning to Washington D.C. on the weekend.  There I’ll meet up with some more old friends (well actually,  this time they are all young !) from the Smithsonian Festival and catch a few more sights.  Then, on Tuesday afternoon I’ll go out to Dulles Airport for the long sad return over the ocean to, what I hear is, a very cold Wales.

Maybe I shouldn’t tell y’all this…. for the last 4 days I’ve been getting sunburnt in temperatures of 70F and more !  Oh well, payment will surely have to be made for such a fantastic time.  I’m going to miss the sights and sounds, the people and the food, it will be with a heavy heart I fly into the evening gloom for the long sleepless night that takes me to Heathrow.  Welshwaller needs to head back to the hills and get working; there’s a lot to do before my next adventure in May, but lots still to share with you of this last four weeks in the land of a zillion Stars and Stripes !

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2 Responses to “As you know – I always thought it was a Bridge too far…”

  1. monasticdave Says:

    I have to say, that bridge looks stunning. I’m glad you have had a good time!

  2. claudia telliho Says:

    Holy Mackeral!!! That bridge is *$&*)$-ing unbelieveable. Kudos to you and your trusty side-kick! Makes me wish I had a “crick” in my backyard so you could build me one. Amazing!

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