Day Trip to South Carolina – Yellow Branch Falls

Another weekend arrived and we wanted to take the dogs on a hike. We’ve done a lot in North Georgia and decided to try South Carolina instead. Since we’d gone to Lake Keowee for the Solar Eclipse, we decided to explore the surrounding area. Our travels lead us to Yellow Branch Falls in the Sumter National Forest.

Since we were also trying to get some practice driving for our teenagers, we drove up to Clayton and then on a windy road to Mountain Rest. There, we stopped at a local restaurant called the Rooster’s Call for burgers. Since we had the dogs with us, one of us stayed in the car with the dogs (and AC running) while the others ordered. I had the pimento cheese burger which was hearty.

Just about five miles down the road, we parked at Yellow Branch Falls. The trail is about 1.5 miles to the falls. As we climbed up and down, dodging tree roots along the rugged path, we passed friendly hikers and other dogs.  After 1.5 miles, we came to the falls.


You can walk on the rocks at Yellow Branch Falls

There were several things I particularly liked about these falls. First, you could walk right up to the rocks. There was no dedicated platform where people were squished together. We had fun climbing the rocks and one person was napping on one of the ledges.

I also liked that although they were not tall, these falls were really wide. The water cascading down wasn’t located in one big burst, but in nice trickles all around. It was like a gentle shower.

After returning to the car, we drove literally across Hwy 28 to Issaquena Falls and Stumphouse Tunnel Park. For a $2 parking fee, you can visit both in less than an hour. We drove to the parking lot for the falls. Just a short walk away is a view of the top of Issaqueena Falls. The wooden platform area was crowded and some people were taking the ten minute walk to the base of the falls.

Issaqueena Falls is taller with a 200-foot cascade

We drove over to the other parking lot to see Stumphouse Tunnel. I couldn’t figure out what it would be, but the sign explains it all.



In a nutshell, construction of a railroad tunnel through the mountain began before the Civil War, but was never completed. Now, you can walk in the tunnel area. Using our flashlights from our cellphones, we could feel the cool air as we walked through the wet, sometimes sloshy, earth.

Entering the tunnel


Inside Stumphouse Tunnel

You don’t appreciate the light until you turn around and walk back towards it to exit. Its like another world inside, completely oblivious to the outside world.

After leaving South Carolina, we took a windy path to Toccoa, Georgia. I’d heard there are falls you can almost drive up to on the Toccoa Falls College campus. Our map directions took us to the wrong part of the campus, but a helpful person gave us directions. Some of us were tired and cranky and opted to stay in the car. We went into a Visitor Center, walking through a gift shop and towards the back of the building. I had no idea what to expect. So far, I wasn’t impressed. We continued to walk a few feet and there it was – a tall, really tall waterfall.

Toccoa Falls right on the Toccoa Falls College campus


Who knew this would be right here on a college campus? It was another one of those falls where you could walk around and enjoy. One lady had a stroller and when I walked by, something inside yelped. It was a baby – but two small dogs.


As we left, we went into the student center to use the restrooms and fill up our water bottles before driving home. The students were courteous and said things like, “How are you doing?” and “Hello.” I later found out it is a Christian college of only 750 students on 1,100-acre campus. It might be worth looking into for our family.

One last view of Toccoa Falls

Solar Eclipse Viewing – Lake Keowee, SC

A co-worker of my husband owns a lake house on Lake Keowee near Sunset, SC. What started off as a casual invitation ended up being a department-wide solar eclipse viewing party in the path of totality. Luckily for us, spouses and kids were also included.

Although the company rented a shuttle bus, we took our own car since there were four of us. Our stuff alone filled the trunk – camera, tripod, swimsuits, towels and school textbooks.

Traffic was jammed north of Atlanta so our mapping system took us on scenic country roads near Braselton, GA. Back on I-85, we entered SC where tailgate tents dotted the rest area. “Well it is free parking and free bathrooms,” my husband said.

Driving through Walhalla, we noticed a few campers and people stationed in front of a church and several spots alongside the road.


We were the first group to arrive at the lake house located at the Cliffs of Keowee Vineyards. We donned our swimsuits, walked down the stone steps past a cozy hammock nestled in the trees and another patio area about mid-way down before reaching the dock where red Adirondack chairs greeted us.

Refreshing! The water temperature varied from warm to cold. An hour later, the bus dropped off about 20 people. We ate fried chicken, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, biscuits and the most chocolately, chocolate-chip cookies ever.

On the dock before the eclipse

The sky turned cloudy, but the sun still shone. Something was different. When have you been in an overcast situation but the sun is still shining above you. It wasn’t the clouds blocking the sun. It was the beginning of the total eclipse. Guests donned their solar eclipse glasses while I looked through my homemade “camera obscura” box.

The beginning of the eclipse (the blue crescent moon shape is just a reflection from the camera)

At first I could see the shadow of the sun with a tiny piece cut out. As the minutes progressed, the circle looked like more of a piece was cut out until it looked like a half-moon, then a crescent moon and finally a sliver.

A view from solar eclipse glasses

Another group of people arrived as we headed back down to the dock. “I keep wanting to wipe my eyes,” one guy said. “Yeah, it’s like things are hazy.” I was thinking this was pretty cool but quickly it became dusk and then evening. What looked like a sunset appeared on the horizon.

The solar eclipse is here!

“This is it!” somebody cried. I didn’t bother to look through my “cereal box” camera. It was dark with a sunset, but it was 2:37 in the afternoon. At the top of my peripheral vision, I saw a dot. Somebody could think that it was the moon shining overhead, but it was the sun.

Before we knew it, it started getting lighter. And in what seemed like just a few seconds, light filled the sky. Words like “surreal” and “eerie” don’t do justice to the phenomenon we experienced.

Just a few minutes after total darkness

People jumped back into the lake, others went back for more food. Ever the conscious time-keeper, I hustled my family back in the car so we could “beat the traffic” home. What is normally a 2 to 2 1/2 hour drive took 5 hours, but it was worth it.