Georgetown County Highpoint Trip Report

Date: May 13, 2004
Author: Ron Tagliapietra

About March 20, I did the 4 spots in the northern tip of the county with Nathan Chancy, the young engineer who climbed Mt. Sneffels and 5 other cohps in Colorado with me last year. From Yauhannah, go west on SR 261 to SSR 14. Turn north (right), pass through Williams Hill, and continue north when it turns to gravel. When you get to the T at the end of the road, park. (There is higher ground on the right side of the road to the left, but it is in Williamsburg County.) You will see the large area to the left in a large plowed field. You can backtrack a bit to the two spots on the right side of the road (both obvious, but both possibly man made). The fourth spot is small and certainly lower than the others.

This trip was a guided kayak trip from a company based in Georgetown. It accessed a public dock on Sandy Island but did not visit the highpoints on the island. The USGS map and topozone are completely wrong. There is no bridge to the island. Besides being told this in Bucksport, I have recently been told this again by Brookgreen Gardens and the Sandy Island Wildlife Refuge. In fact, you can find the entire history of the planned bridge and why it was never built (the locals living there were opposed to it because they didn't want the island to turn into a resort like Hilton Head) on a web site. Another web site calls it the largest undeveloped island on the east coast. While it is certainly large (perhaps 8 by 3 miles), it sports a couple small hamlets and power lines. On the other hand, it has no paved roads and no bridge to it. The kids take a water taxi to a school bus.

Wednesday I left home to visit Sandy Island with Brad Batdorf and Adam Shaffer. Adam, fire fighter, nursing student, and tree cutter, was our canoe expert and had a canoe and a kayak on top of his jeep. Brad, a coworker of mine who had lived in Murrells Inlet for several years, was our zoology expert. Adam, strong and tall, paddled the kayak, while Brad and I rowed the canoe. We put in at the Wacca Wache landing, west of Murrells Inlet. This is opposite the easternmost point of Sandy Island and at channel marker 57 in the Waccamaw River, which is the intracoastal waterway. We headed north and upstream to marker 56 and then continued west to marker 54. On this last stretch, Brad enjoyed pointing out the osprey, buzzards, great blue herons, and night herons. Marker 54 is on a tower on the west bank of the river and marks where you turn into a side creek. It took us about 25 minutes to get there in the canoe, Adam waiting for us in the kayak.

It was low tide and we scraped bottom several times pushing into the creek, which is the northernmost tributary on the island shown on the quad. Five minutes later, after seeing an alligator and hundreds of fiddler crabs, we reached the first dock (this is the public dock and on the right side of the channel). We tied up the boats and buried the paddles under leaves near the carport. We then hiked the trail to the south and picked up the power lines. We had hiked maybe 15 minutes when we stopped for lunch, where Brad found a black racer (snake). Later he spotted a lizard, a woodpecker, and a turtle. Our total hike for the day was at least 10 miles, of which I will explain only the 7 miles needed to reach the four highpoint candidates. (Our detours will be obvious by the fact that we arrived in Ruinsville from the south!)

Hike south along the power lines about an hour until the power lines turn left sharply but the trail continues south. (The power lines continue to Ruinsville and beyond, but Ruinsville is farther than shown on the quad and farther east, too.) Leave the power lines and go south to the next junction. Turn right, and follow it down to a small structure, where you can then go uphill to your left. Follow this path to the three highpoint candidates, about a half hour walk from the power lines. Return the way you came, leaving the trail for the fourth hp candidate. Just before reaching our water craft, Brad saw a coral snake, which let us photograph it. Brad touched its tail twice and it slithered away. This was my third poisonous snake sighting, and the first such in South Carolina (others were a copperhead in TN and a rattler in CA).

Canoeing back, we found the rivers close to high tide. No scraping this time. Our hike lasted 7 hours, plus the hour round trip for the canoe. Although there are many ups and downs on the island, the total elevation gain is only 75 feet since the highpoint is not even 80 feet above sea level, and therefore none of the downs and re-ascents count. We ate in Murrells Inlet and slept in Huntington Beach State Park, enjoying the surf in the morning before heading back home.