Monday, October 19, 2015

A lake hike at Furman University

During these beautiful and warm autumn days it’s a little easier to coax the boys out for a hike! I’m trying not to overschedule, I’ve got a hundred +1 things to do just like everyone else this time of year – but we can at least head over to Furman!

Furman University is just 5 miles north of downtown Greenville! I wrote about the iconic clock tower and the previous location in the west end of Greenville, but neglected to mention the 1.5 mile Lake hike. There is no better time than the present to fix that, especially since the temperatures, fall color and buzz of students on campus makes for perfect hike with the kids!

The Janie Earle Furman rose garden

Visitor parking is conveniently just next to the Barnes & Noble, which is located in the Trone Student Center. If you’re looking for a place to eat there are several options in the center, but if you’ve brought your own lunch you can grab one of the outdoor picnic tables or bring it along to eat at the picnic shelter at the opposite end of the lake. The trail runs between the Student Center and 40-acre Swam Lake, and the first place you’ll want to explore is between Trone and the Daniel Dining Hall: the Janie Earle Furman Rose Garden. The rose garden is named in honor of the late Janie Earle Furman, a graduate of Greenville Woman’s College and wife of the late Alester G. Furman, Jr., a member of the university’s founding family. No matter the season, it’s worth ducking in to see the fountain and feel the tranquility within.

The Jamie Earle Furman rose garden

Continuing on, the trail crosses a bridge over a small canal. If you were to continue straight instead and look to your right you'll see a gravel path and stairs gradually leading upward. Another interesting detour, the Place of Peace is an inter-generational temple (Hei-Sei-Ji) that once stood in Nagoya, Japan. In 2004 it was dismantled into 2,400 pieces, transported through the Panama Canal, and reconstructed by Japanese craftsmen in 2008. We’ve not yet had the chance to see the interior, but the craftsmanship and serene architectural lines of the temple are a sight in itself.

Place of Peace

Across the bridge is the Asia Garden, which together with the Place of Peace are “designed to stimulate your experience of connection to the earth, and all the peoples of the world.” A little pond and manicured gardens are contained off a pebble path, and if you choose to take this route you’ll be back on the trail in only a few dozen feet.

Asia Garden

My two older boys enjoy riding their bikes while I walk with the stroller, and what makes this hike such a success other than proximity to our home is that the trails are very safe for beginning bicyclists. There are only a few points that we have to worry about vehicular traffic, and these are easy to navigate as there are few cars utilizing these small roads. The first stretch is while walking along Bell Tower housing to the clock tower, but the speed limit is set low and there is good visibility. After the tower the trail resumes, and to your right is another of our favorite stops, the Susan Shi Garden. The David E. Shi Center for Sustainability/Furman Farm is named for Furman’s 10th president (and Susan Shi was his First Lady from 1994-2010). The gardens echo the goal of the Center, which is to support the study and integration of sustainability-related topics on campus as well as in the greater Greenville community.

Susan Shi Garden

Next you’ll pass the Amphitheatre, after which the trail loops around to continue following the shoreline of Swan Lake, and there you will find the afore-mentioned picnic shelter. The environs are more wooded for this second portion of the hike, the only structures being the Thoreau Cabin and the Lakeside Rest Room. The Cabin was built by Furman students, a replica of the cabin Thoreau inhabited while writing Walden, the same distance from the water as Thoreau’s cabin sat from Walden Pond. This is the home stretch, and I let the boys ride out far ahead of me knowing that they’ll stop where the trail meets the road. What’s interesting about this section is that it runs parallel to the Swamp Rabbit Trail – visible in places, I’m always tempted to skip over and continue on…

At the road we cross the spillway to find ourselves at the parking lot and at the end of our hike. Often we will linger a while outside the student center for a snack before hopping back in the car for the short ride home. If you’re looking for a longer hike/run, be sure to check out the Furman website and the trails map; the Lake trail is just one of the several trails on campus, various combinations of which could make for a lengthier hike. 

For a map of the trail click here.

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