When we inquired about visiting Lick Fork Recreation Area near Edgefield, South Carolina, we were told that it wouldn’t be open for our visit. Sumter National Forest had delayed the opening a month later than last year. When we let the National Forest folks know that we were working on a project for the tourism bureau about the outdoor resources of the area, they gave us permission to slip past the gate.
That was easier said than done. When we arrived at the gate, all we could see was a long road disappearing into the woods. By bike, I would have no problem working my way back to where the bike trail began, although we didn’t know exactly where that was. Sandy, on the other hand, wasn’t looking too excited about walking an unknown distance just to get to the start the of a hiking trail of unknown distance.
Looking carefully at the map, we found that the Horn Creek Trail crossed a gravel road. From there, it appeared to be a shorter walk to the hiking trail, and I’d just start and finish the bike ride from the intersection. Sandy would walk the bike path in the opposite direction to the hiking trail.
On this ride, we would try out the new Helmet cam. Using the Velcro accessory mount, I was able to install our new GoPro to the top of my helmet
Notes to self when riding with a movie camera:
1. Watch what you say, they can hear you.
2. Remember there is a device sticking up ‘above’ your head, do not let it strike a tree limb.
3. Pay attention to the trail and its surroundings. Don’t spent too much time looking at the bike or at your feet.
With the camera rolling, I was off. Quietly, at first. I wasn’t really sure what to say. Yes, it can happen! I didn’t have anything to say. Don’t worry, it didn’t last too long.
Maybe it was the camera, or just the thought of it being there, but I was cranking along much faster than my normal pace. My mind said go for it, my lungs, heart and legs said whoa. What are you trying to do? We are not used to riding through the woods, uphill. At any speed.
With my heart pounding, and the sounds of my panting recorded, I announced to “my viewers” that I would be taking a short break on the log up ahead to catch my breath and let my pulse slow down. Telling them that they were welcome to join me. As if they had a choice.
The path was easy to follow and small wooden bridges took me over dry creeks. This made for easier riding. The uphills weren’t all that difficult, as I look back. My skill levels and flatlander abilities are what made it seem harder that it had to be.
After a couple of short rest breaks to lower my heart rate, I changed my riding style and used the gears more. But the time I made it to the kiosk at the trailhead, inside the recreation area, I was breathing regularly and enjoying the ride.
Around the four mile mark I found myself on a high point, able to look off across the rolling hills at the ridges off in the distance. It’s views like these that make all the uphill pedaling worthwhile!
Being at the top, I knew it was time to go back down. The map showed that I would be following a creek at the bottom. When I pulled along side of the creek, I had to get off the bike and take pictures. The water was moving quickly, with pools and small waterfalls. I could hear the sounds of water along the path. Wild azaleas and mountain laurels bloomed along the edges.
I was hoping that Sandy’s hike had brought her along this creek. It was too beautiful to miss.
As the creek and bike path went in different directions, I rode by the main parking lot in the recreation area, with a view of the lake on the other side. Looking at the lake, I missed the sign that would have kept me on the bike path.
I rode into the parking lot, down to the water and then up the road a bit. I turned around when I arrived at the camp host’s closed-up little trailer. It’s a strange feeling to be almost the only person inside a closed park. You can see where hundreds of people come to camp, fish, bike and hike. But there’s no one there but you. Only the sounds of nature to hear.
Back on the bike path, I came to the intersection of the hiking and biking trail. With Sandy not yet in sight, I continued toward the road where we had parked. Off in the distance, I spotted our car. It always feels good when you know that you’ve made it back to where you started.
After a short break, Sandy still wasn’t back, so I put the bike up on the rack and started walking back toward the hiking trail.
After I’d made only a few steps she emerged from the woods and our visit to Lick Fork was done. As we drove away, we found ourselves asking, why isn’t this recreation area open? The weather was perfect and all of the azaleas, wild and planted, were at full bloom. When the park finally opens in another month, the beautiful blossoms will be gone.
Disclosure: this ride was one of two dozen trails visited as part of a paid project for the Old 96 District of South Carolina. The opinions here are our own.