Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Swamp Rabbit Trail

The Swamp Rabbit Trail is perhaps my favorite part of living in downtown Greenville.  This is a 13 mile walking/running/biking trail that runs through the parks downtown and up to the city of Travelers Rest.  The trail is part of a larger plan that is to have a total of 128 miles of paved, natural, and street paths around Greenville County.  The majority of the 13 miles is paved asphalt between 8-12 feet wide with mile markers every half mile.  These markers can be a bit confusing as they start at mile 23 at the end of the trail in Travelers Rest.  The plan is that mile 0 will be at the North Carolina state line.  There is about a mile and a half of trail in two sections that has a 2-3 foot wide composite rubber path.  I took a little ride yesterday and I mapped and photographed the trail.  Below is a Google map of my trip.  Click on the blue markers for photos and some descriptions.

View Swamp Rabbit Trail in a larger map

In order to be able to give a clear description of the trail I set out to ride it from one end to the other and take some photographs as I went.  This trail is a work in progress that will extend much further in each direction when completed.  As such, the current ends of the trail are not notable for their attractions or as destinations.

I started at the Eastern most end of the trail, on Cleveland Street, where I was greeted with the sign to the left.  The City/County is nice enough to let us know that, while this trail currently just ends abruptly, there are future plans to extend this portion on to other sites further South and East.  You can find the entire Master Plan on the Cities website.  According to the Mast Plan, eventually you will be able to travel from the North Carolina state line all over Greenville County and beyond all on foot/bike paths both paved and unpaved.

The next photo is the view from my selected starting point.  This area is right next to Greenville Technical Community College and is a residential area with single and multi-family homes and churches.  The trail takes us up this hill, down a short sidewalk section, and then links us to the next section.

This sign is located right on Faris Road and is easy to find.  However, down at this end of the trail there is not much in the way of public parking.  Well, actually, there is no public parking at all in this area or within easy walking distance.  As you can see from the sign, from this point it is 9.4 miles to Furman University and 12.3 to the town of Travelers Rest.

This section is known as the Hincapie Trail and is named for George Hincapie, one of our more renowned current local residents.  The next, approximately half mile, is a combination of asphalt and composite running surface that you can see in this photo.  On this section of the trail you will pass right near the Caine Halter YMCA, and there is a clearly marked path that leads off the trail to the Y.

This photo shows the end of the last section and the entrance into Cleveland park.  in a later post I will take a look at each of the parks that we are going to pass through in greater detail.  For now I just want to concentrate on the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  As you go through the park you will pass several picnic shelters, playgrounds, you may hear the nearby zoo as well.

At this point the trail picks up the Reedy River and follows it through downtown and beyond.  When I took these photos it was the middle of the day on a week day.  I wanted to show the trail as clearly as possible without putting too many people in the photos.  On a typical weekend, or even weekday morning or evening you will find many people out on the trail; walking, running, biking, and on one snowy day this past winter I passed a man cross country skiing.

The trail crosses and recrosses the river many times.  A variety of different bridge types are used to keep the trail moving westward.  This photo shows one of the newest additions.  At night the bridge is lighted using hidden LED lights which gives a fantastic look to the bridge and good lighting to the path.

Falls Park, pictured to the right, is the outdoor center to Greenville.  At the top of the photo you can see Liberty Bridge, a very unique suspension bridge that adds a wonderful architectural touch to the natural beauty of this spot.  there is so much to do and see around this park that I will have to write at least one post just on it.

Just after leaving Fall Park you find yourself at yet another park, Linky Stone Park, which is a small children's garden located mostly under and overpass.  At this point you just have to trust that you are still on the Swamp Rabbit, as the signage leaves a bit to be desired.  But, just keep moving and you'll catch the next section soon enough. this is the last water fountain for the next 6 miles, so fill up, be prepared.

After leaving Linky Stone Park you will find yourself once again on a trail that is part asphalt and part composite surface.  The composite runs for a little less than a mile here.  In this section you can start to see that a large portion of this trail is due to the Rails to Trails program.  here the trail travels behind old warehouses and the cities garages.

After leaving the composite surface behind we enter and area that runs for about half a mile where the trails runs through an active rail area.  Caution should be taken in this area as trains are often moving across the trail, particularly on weekdays.  As the trail passes right next to the rail yard, the trains are usually moving quite slow.

The trail crosses a couple of 4 lane roads as you head out of the city.  These are clearly marked on the trail and on the streets.  Since these used to be train crossing there are still railroad tracks left behind in the roadbed, so be careful crossing as it's easy to get a tire stuck in the grooves next to the rails.

 This photo is typical of most of the Swamp Rabbit Trail heading West from Greenville.  Lots of old trees growing up and over the trail provide deep shade during the spring and summer.  During the fall these trees provide an incredible show of colors as the leaves change.

This is a rest stop just as you enter Furman University.  There is parking available here, along with some areas to sit, and a much needed water fountain.

For this photo I stepped off of the Swamp Rabbit, only a few feet.  This is Swan Lake at Furman University.  In the background, behind the clock tower, you can see Paris Mountain.

For all of you road bike riders this is one area to be aware of.  It is an unfinished portion of the trail that is dirt and gravel.  It is only about 100 yards long and can be ridden over with road bikes, just be prepared for some cyclocross action.

This is a photo of the beginning of the town of Travelers Rest.  in this area the Trail runs along the sidewalk in front of lots of small local stores, and even behind a few.  One restaurant has taken advantage of the Swamp Rabbit by adding a screened in patio with bike racks so that guests can reach them via the Trail.

Here we reach the westernmost end of the trail.  At this end there is a small parking area and a covered bench, but not much more.

Thought I'd include a shot of the first mile marker.  They can be found every half mile along the trail.  Most of them have been placed, as of the time of this writing they were not yet finished.

I hope you have enjoyed this tour of the Swamp Rabbit Trail.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Peace Center

Peace Center Concert Hall
The Peace Center in Downtown Greenville was one of the things that originally attracted me to this area.   As you can see from the picture the building is getting a facelift at the moment.  The picture above is of the concert hall where large productions like Broadway plays are performed. It seats about 2,000 people and stays in use year round.  They do 3-4 Broadway play a year, check out the current calendar.  Below is the Gunter Theatre which is smaller, seats about 500.  A couple of years ago I saw the National Symphony Orchestra play there.  The ability to have access to performances like that right here in Greenville gives the feeling of living in a much larger city.

Gunter Theatre
In addition to these two buildings, the Peace Center grounds also have an amphitheater with a stage located behind them, and right on the Reedy River.  This venue is used throughout the spring and summer for live music and performances and is the main stage for the 4th of July celebration here in town.  The Peace Center provides just enough access to culture and high end performances to make Greenville a very unique small southern town.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Getting Started

Just getting started on this blog and getting everything set up today.  I plan on spending some time getting some good local photos to post here along with writing about places, people, and events.  Say tuned for the next few days and this site will be changing rapidly.