I like to pretend I’m a photographer. I’m not. I’ve got some decent equipment, and I know the basics, but I can’t seem to come up with those awe-inspiring shots that I see at shows such as Artisphere. This morning was another of those awe-inspiring mornings after a day of storms, so I decided to load the gear into the convertible and see if this would also be photo-inspiring.
Part of my problem is finding subject matter. There is so much fascinating imagery even right here in my back yard, but for some reason I feel compelled to trek to find something even more interesting. Today, I decided to take pictures of the disappearing rural regions of upstate South Carolina.
Traffic on Woodruff Road
It’s getting harder and harder to fine rural areas in the Piedmont. I wanted to avoid the madness that is Woodruff Road, but it was necessary for my route if I were to avoid the interstates. Greenville has no planning and no real zoning. Mile after mile went by of clear-cut, treeless development, with subdivisions named for the former geographic features, while bearing absolutely no resemblance to those features. There were isolated pockets that had not been subsumed by the sprawl, but these were bordered on all sides by McMansions on postage-stamp sized lots.
Woodruff Road has become the poster child for unbridled development in Greenville County. this was recognized by a 2002 article in the OnEarth online journal published by the Natural Resources Defense council .
Excess growth into the countryside is an overwhelming environmental problem — here and just about everywhere else. Between 1982 and 1997, the Greenville-Spartanburg area had a 22 percent increase in population but a whopping 74 percent increase in urbanized land use. Nationwide, in the last twenty years the hundred largest urban areas have sprawled out over more than 9 million additional acres of natural habitats, farmland, woodlots, and other rural space.
But Thomas Meeks of the Greenville County Planning Commission says immigration has had little if any impact on Greenville’s sprawl — other than providing the labor to build it. In fact, given that most of the immigrants take relatively low-paying jobs on construction sites and in the nearby peach orchards, it’s hard to see what role they play in driving construction of suburban shopping centers, corporate campuses, and exurb McMansions with eight bedrooms and four-car garages.
|Hereï¿½s the list of the 10 most sprawling regions with their corresponding scores:|
|1||Riverside-San Bernadino, CA:||14.2|
|2||Greensboro-Winston Salem, NC:||46.8|
|6||West Palm Beach, FL:||67.7|
|10||Fort Worth, TX:||77.2|
According to the website Sprawl City, Greenville ranked 64th in the nation for urban sprawl from 1970 – 1990, and according to a study by Smart Growth America, the Greenville-Spartanburg Metropolitan Area ranks 5th in the nation for uncontrolled urban sprawl.
Well, I could rant about urban sprawl until I’m blue in the face, but until we get rid of the BJU crowd that now runs county council, I don’t think we’re going to get any relief. What galls me most about the BJU crowd is that they wrap everything in a Republican brand of Christianity. Apparently God wants uncontrolled growth because that insures freedom and property rights, and anyone who says otherwise is a socialist and doomed to Hell. Yeah, right.
OK, Ranting over. Crossing the Greenville County line brought visions of the rural areas which I sought. I wasn’t just looking for wide open farms, but unique locations such as old churches, bridges, and communities. Road names are often a hint of where some can be found, such as Nazareth Church Road or Harrison Bridge Road. I turned down several of these, and was rewarded with small, wood-framed church buildings. However, having forgotten that today is Sunday, I didn’t want to disrupt their services with my photography.
Old General Store in Cresent, now a Garage.
I drove through the community of Crescent, paused on the bridge over Van Patton’s Shoals to see where I used to swim (now covered in large "No Tresspassing" signs), then continued to the town of Enoree. Towns such as Enoree grew up either along rivers which could be dammed for energy (Pacolet, Lyman, Lockhart), or grew up as stops along railroad lines (Barksdale, Narnee, Grove Station, Joanna, Kinards, Jalapa, Gray Court, Owings, Ora), or were simply crossroads where several country stores could be found (Youngs, Cresent). Enoree, typical of many of the textile-based communities, has well-kept sidewalks, an old community center, and a local school, all of which bespeak of a pride in the community and the largess of the main employer. Most activity, however, has migrated along with the mills. The storefronts are boarded and the community centers are closed. All that remains are the well-tended (for the most part) row houses and sidewalks.
Old Bridge at Musgrove Mill.
I headed south on 221 through the community of Ora, and played back memories of my youth – rafting on the Enoree River from below the dam to Yarborough Mill, walking barefoot down the middle of Warrior Creek all the way from 221 to Highway 49, exploring a dilapidated old house in Ora before the phrase "breaking and entering" was even in our vocabulary. In Ora, I turned onto Highway 308 to Goodwin’s Crossroads, then turned onto Duncan Creek Church Road (name of a river AND a church – must be a good road.)
I eventually wound up at Musgrove Mill Historic Site . I skipped the area developed into a state park, and headed to the other side of the Enoree River to Horseshoe Falls. I really expect to find the falls and river access blocked off with No Tresspassing signs, as is the case with so many rivers now. However, the state has done a nice job providing river access to the falls on the tributary creek, and to the Enoree River itself. This looks like a perfect swimming/wading hole, and I’m glad people can still get to it. I again thought back to my youth, and the fact that these were the only swimming places we had – Van Patton’s Shoals, Goodjoin’s Bridge on Rabon Creek, Tyger River, and Warrior Creek are now all off-limits. I guess if I were a property owner, I would not want a bunch of yahoos breaking beer bottles on my property and possibly drowning.
My plan from here was to drive through Sumter National Forest to the town of Whitmire, then turn north to Rose Hill Plantation State Park and make my way back home across Spartanburg County. Whitemire was very similar to Enoree, but with a bit more life. There were the same neat sidewalks, a failed textile mill, a river close by, and a railroad. In this town, as in many nearby, it was easy to see which were the right side of the tracks, and which were the wrong side.
Old General Store in Kinards Station.
I looked at a map, and instead of turning north, decided to turn south to see my parents in Prosperity. A short visit later, I headed north on Highway 76 through Newberry, Jalapa, Kinards, Joanna, Clinton, and Laurens. The smaller towns and communities along this route owe their existence more to the railroad than to a river. Kinards is a quaint little spot in the road with old general store architecture and large farm houses. Joanna is just depressing, with it’s large mill boarded up, empty storefronts, and generally dead appearance. Clinton seems not much better, even though it sports some huge old homes near Presbyterian College.
I drove quickly through Laurens and Gray Court, and finally hit an interstate to arrive home tired and sunburned, and with very few photos. I had thought good photography would be like going out and picking flowers. Perhaps it is, but despite the many things I came across today, I just didn’t find that one special flower. I’m sure it was there.
One thought on “In Search of the Rural Piedmont”
I like the Old General Store best. It looks like the Grange Halls we have around here (Western Cascades). Adventures like these is why we are selling our home and 2.65 rural acres to buy an RV. I want to see the rest of the story… P.S. We will be using biodiesel and solar so that our footprint is as light as possible. It will be lighter than now…that’s for sure.