Tuesday, March 26, 2019

On reading, hiking and bread-baking my way through the new year

We’ve always been an ‘outdoors’ family, but in the past year – new schools, new responsibilities – I noticed the car was racking up increased mileage, while I was becoming more sedentary. Carlines to get kids picked up, shopping trips to feed three hungry boys, time at the computer to manage the mundane chores of a mother’s life.

Blogging has long been a release for me, but in recent years has taken on a life of its own: a tribute to the outdoor spaces in the Upstate and a diary of one family’s travels in the Southeast, but also a huge commitment of time and energy. Upon our return from France I felt I had reached a crossroads – what would become of Femme au Foyer? While the transition from expat abroad to Yankee hiker in SC happened without much thought, with the recent arrival at what feels like another fork in the road, I feel that I have to be a bit more deliberate with my time – there is just less of it. While writing about these natural places gives me great pleasure, I enjoy the exploration of them even more, and while I will not be abandoning the blog entirely, I will be shifting focus, and blogging less often.

With the New Year, I set about with new priorities for personal growth: hiking, reading and baking. My goal is to hike 365 miles this year, read 10 books a month, and bake bread once a month. Inspiration was drawn from cookbook club, my cousin Kaiva's Instagram feed, a 'daughters who like to read' message thread, and the dozens of trails within an hour's drive still unexplored, even after some 15 years in the Upstate. Instead of writing about places I will be out in them, all that time spent in the carline will be put to good use, and the taste/smell of home-baked bread will hopefully be more common in our hectic kitchen. With March drawing to an end, I can announce that it has so far been a successful endeavor; I’ve logged 97 miles of trail, baked four different breads (baguettes, rupjmaize, cornbread and scones), and read 32 books – and there are a few days left in the month!

While I’m proud of each mile that I’ve charted, I’m feeling especially accomplished looking at my reading list. While my usual fare tends towards mysteries (extra points if it’s a game warden solving a murder!), I’ve ventured outside the boundaries of suspense into everything from social commentary and poetry to short stories and nonfiction – here they are, in the order that I read them (and I've added amazon links that have reviews and more complete descriptions for those interested): 

1. Where the River Ends – Charles Martin
2. A Delicate Touch – Stuart Woods
3. Squirm – Carl Hiaasen
          Hiaasen’s book for young readers are just as lively and entertaining as his adult fiction!
          Exotic bird trafficking, fly fishing, and the 2009 heist of 299 rare bird skins from a British natural history museum… a surprisingly fascinating read…
5. The New Iberia Blues – James Lee Burke
          James Lee Burke is one of my all-time faves, and although maybe not the most striking, the newest Dave Robicheaux novel was no different from his usual.

6. The Witch Elm – Tana French
          Longing to pack it all up and go… Completely not my usual read, however intriguing look at the growing community of nomads traversing the U.S. between seasonal jobs.
8. The Story of Land and Sea: A Novel – Katy Simpson Smith
9. Birds of America – Lorrie Moore
          A book of short stories that has it all: the funny, the sad, the banal and the grace.
          Struck so many chords with me that I went and bought it after returning the library’s copy. This book vocalizes so many thoughts, feelings and emotions that I’ve heard from friends, family and my own heart over the last 5 years.
11. Bearskin: A Novel – James A. McLaughlin
          “James McLaughlin expertly brings the beauty and danger of Appalachia to life. The result is an elemental, slow burn of a novel—one that will haunt you long after you turn the final page.”

13. The River of Kings: A Novel – Taylor Brown
          I’ve been fascinated with the The Altamaha River (Georgia’s “Little Amazon”) since I read Janisse Ray’s “Drifting into Darien: A Personal and Natural History of the Altamaha River” while living in the middle of nowhere, Georgia. This novel has a good balance of the natural world to mystery to the human heart.
14. The Girl Who Was Taken – Charlie Donlea
16. The Mountain Between Us – Charles Martin
17. Fates and Furies: A Novel – Lauren Groff
19. Crimson Lake – Candice Fox

20. The Library Book – Susan Orlean
          A story of a fire – a big one, mind you – woven into the larger tapestry of the role of libraries in the modern world.
21. The Winter of the Witch – Katherine Arden
          The third book in the Winternight Trilogy, a Russian fairytale that was spellbinding – possibly my favorite of the year so far!
22. The Gilded Wolves – Roshani Chokshi
24. Bad Optics: A Woods Cop Mystery – Joseph Heywood
          The wildland firefighter in me could smell the smoke in this novel, but was also astonished that I hadn’t read it until now.
26. Upstream: Selected Essays – Mary Oliver

27. Alternate Side: A Novel – Anna Quindlen
28. The Victory Garden: A Novel – Rhys Bowen
29. Becoming – Michelle Obama
          Chicago was my home for a quarter of a century, and I enjoyed seeing it from the author’s perspective. DC is about as far from home as it gets, and I enjoyed seeing it from a woman’s perspective. And with today’s political climate, there was insight into the racial divide as well…
30. Bridge of Clay – Markus Zusak

31. Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens
          “Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.”
32. Only Killers and Thieves: A Novel – Paul Howarth
          An epic tale set in the 1880s ‘Wild West’ Australian frontier: brutal, cruel and tragic. Despite the harsh imagery, no regrets – a raw, no-holds-barred, coming-of-age story that I couldn’t put down.

What’s next? Returning to a few mystery series that I’ve not yet finished, new books by favorite authors coming out in the next months, and a half-dozen books on hold from rabbit-hole wanderings on social media. Tell me – have you read any of the titles on this list? If you’ve got suggestions for me of novels in the same vein as these, I’m all ears – I’ve got 88 books to read this year!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Glendale Shoals Preserve

The story of the small town of Glendale is similar to that of Greenville. The textile industry thrived in the Upstate, mill towns flourishing on the banks of rivers such as the Reedy and Lawson’s Fork Creek, until cheaper labor overseas, technology and automation, and international trade agreements led to its demise. Today, the former milltown boasts an Upstate hidden gem – Glendale Shoals Preserve.

Located just six miles east of Spartanburg, Glendale owes its presence to Dr. James Bivings who arrived in the area around 1830 and started a cotton manufacturing company. Bivingsville Mill was profitable until the late 1840s, when Bivings sold his share and left the area. After the partners declared bankruptcy the mill was auctioned off, and one of the businessmen involved in the purchase later bought out his partners and took over mill operations. In 1878 Dexter Converse (founder of D.R. Converse Co. as well as Converse College) renamed the town & mill Glendale, and the mill prospered until the collapse of the textile industry in SC.

The mill shut down in 1961, and then in 2004 there was a fire (see the Glendale website for photographs); today only ruins remain. The site has been incorporated into the Glendale Shoals Preserve, a 13-acre park that includes a pedestrian bridge, the dam, the shoals, a canoe/kayak launch and nature trails.

Glendale Shoals, as seen from north bank of Lawsons Fork Creek

Parking is located behind the Glendale Post Office, adjacent to the Goodall Environmental Studies Center. Part of Wofford College, the center includes a garden, vineyard, laboratory, classroom/conference center (the restored former mill office), and an amphitheater. When starting your explorations here don’t overlook the “Poet’s Garden” with its hidden view of the dam and ‘take a poem, leave a poem” mailbox.

The garden, vineyard, and former mill office

Glendale Shoals Trail on the north side of Lawsons Fork Creek is about ½ of a mile long. It leads through the mill ruins, past a Labyrinth (built by the Philosophy in Action Living-Learning Community at Wofford College), and through a segment of woods to the border with private property. At this end there is a small seating area, as well as a sandy bank on a section of river that is sometimes used as a swimming hole. There are no trespassing signs indicating the end of the preserve. A connector to the Glendale Greenway can be used for a loop hike that totals about 1 mile from the parking area.

The labyrinth, with a mill tower in the background

Once back at the parking area, head across the Glendale Bridge to reach the trails on the south bank of the creek. The Pratt truss-style bridge was originally built in 1928 to replace an old one-lane bridge, and featured a new pedestrian lane in addition to the two lanes for automobile traffic. In 1977 a 250-foot reinforced concrete bridge was built to replace the structure, rerouting traffic on a more direct route to the west.  The 1928 bridge was recently reopened to pedestrians in 2018 after a full restoration, and has a scenic view of the shoals and to the pond on the opposite side.

In additional to textiles, the iron industry also predominantly features in the history of Glendale. The iron ore along the banks of the creek, limestone bedrock and available timber were all contributing factors to the establishment of iron works on the banks of Lawsons Fork Creek, just west of the park. The iron works were served by one of the earliest roads in the Upstate, "Georgia Road,” an important route during the colonial and Revolutionary War eras. As the iron works were on the opposite shore from the town of Glendale, a bridge was necessary to allow workers to cross the creek, necessitating the 1800s precursor to Glendale Bridge.

Having crossed Lawsons Fork, there is a staircase descending to the creek and the trail that runs just under ½ mile along the south bank. After heavy rains portions of the trail may be inaccessible/dangerous, however the views of the shoals and dam waterfall are better from this side of the river. There are two points of access from Emma Cudd Road; keep in mind parking on this side is more of the gravel pull-off than parking lot variety.

During the summer the exposed rock is a beautiful place for a picnic, while the sandy area off Glendale Shoals Trail is great for building sand castles. (Side note: one thing to remember is that debris and trash frequently get deposited in these flood zones during high water events; glass and other hazards could pose a hazard to children at play.) Progress is being made on the invasive exotics along the creek, and the garden is well tended and interesting for kids to explore.  At just under an hour’s drive from Greenville, Glendale Shoals is well worth a stop while in the Spartanburg area.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...