It’s here! It’s here! The third installment of the Swamp Rabbit Trail posts, also known as the Furman University to Travelers Rest section. And…all I can think about is how ugly the pictures look. It’s not spring yet, so everything is brown and bleh. Ah, well. I suppose sometimes you just have to take what you can get.
And this is what you get. I’ve taken some liberties with Google to highlight areas of the trail. (The official trail map is available through the Greenville County Recreation District’s website, here.) This is a longer section of trail, so my little map has divided the section into sections.
Map 1: Furman
1. This is the missing link between the downtown Greenville and Furman sections of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. In the undisclosed and probably distant future, there will be one, 13-mile long supertrail. For now, there are pieces. I’d also like to note that they really are serious about this “none shall pass” business. For a bit past the road block, the railroad ties have been pulled up but the fist-sized pieces of gravel remain. It’s not pleasant to run on and when they paved the rest of the trail they established the little road block to discourage trespassers…or marathon trainees attempting to maximize the available distance.
2. There are gravel parking areas in multiple places along the trail, but the one I always use is the one closest to Furman’s campus. I occasionally park at the Furman Lake if it’s a weekend and I don’t feel like parking in gravel, but I developed a healthy respect for Campus parking police during my undergraduate days and will go to great lengths to avoid more of those pesky parking tickets. Call me paranoid, but I learned my lesson pretty well after I accidentally left my car in faculty parking for three days. Walking back to the dorm one day, I saw a green saturn with tickets all over the windshield. I had a second to think, “oh, that poor soul” before I recognized the car as MY green saturn. “What the? Crap!” Where was I? Oh yeah, parking. To get to this parking area, take Hwy 276 to Duncan Chapel Rd. Take a left at the top of the exit ramp and then a right at the first stop light. You’ll drive past Furman’s campus. On the right side of the road just past the softball fields, a small, gravel parking lot with a train car beckons. Let the running/biking begin!
If you head away from Duncan Chapel on foot, you’ll have about four and a half miles of trail in front of you. If you head the other way and cross Duncan Chapel, you’ll have less than a mile before you hit the NONE SHALL PASS sign and have to turn around. The Marathon Expert and I frequently start with the shorter section to add a little mileage without having to pass our cars towards the end of the run. I don’t know about you, but when I see my car I usually want to STOP.
3/4. Another great way to add some extra mileage is to run laps around the Furman Lake (I’m sorry guys…I really can’t call it “Swan Lake.” It just feels silly.) I believe ME and I’s record is four laps…or was it five? Regardless, when we really need to get in the mileage we’ll run a lap or two around it, then run up to Travelers Rest, and then repeat. It can be tedious, but at least it’s safe and the laps around the lake really do help mix things up a bit. The lake is also home to what I believe to be every distance runner’s fantasy — the public restroom. I could scarcely believe that these were open year round…but indeed they are. Indeed they are. After two (and a half?) marathon training sessions out here, it should go without saying (although of course I’ll say it…) that their presence has saved me countless times. Thank you, public restroom!
Enough bathroom talk. There are three entrances to the lake. The first is a little under half a
mile from the parking lot. It’s on the right side of the trail and paved. The next is unpaved (mulch) and has foilage that is gorgeous in the summer (when I took the photo) but less so right now. The last entrance is perhaps more about erosion control than transport — oversized pieces of gravel are perilous for the ankles.
Map 2: The Middle
5. As you head in the general direction of Travelers Rest, you’ll pass what ME and I tend to refer to as that “spooky old warehouse.” Scott, the increasingly avid road biker, would like me to warn other bikers of the “non-mountain” variety that this is the lone unpaved portion of the trail and could pose a risk to those skinny tires. I believe that the plans are to pave this portion when the spooky old warehouse is torn down. Until this happens, it tempts the youth of America to graffiti it up. While I’m glad they’ve found a creative outlet that isn’t my garage door, it still leaves a little to be desired.
6. One of the great things about the Swamp Rabbit Trail is that, because it was originally a railway, there are no steep hills. You’ll meet some gradual inclines going each way (I tend to think that the way to Travelers Rest is more “up” and the way back more “down,” but this could have more to do with the fact that the last half of my run is always towards Furman.), but nothing to utterly sap the legs or the spirit.
Map 3: Traveler’s Rest
7. Roughly three miles from the parking lot, you’ll enter Travelers Rest. TR has been “beautifying” all winter in an attempt to promote the trail. During the course of our training, we’ve seen the addition of a gazebo and sitting area, promotional signs, and an area with permanent maps of the trail. Renovation is also underway to turn a hardware store into a restaurant. I don’t know if it’s open yet, but if I were, say biking or walking instead of running on the trail I’d definitely be tempted to stop by. The TR section used to be a little confusing, but now it’s (mostly) very clear whether or not you’re still on the trail.
8. The exception is the intersection of Main and Center streets, otherwise known as THAT PLACE WHERE YOU CROSS THE ROAD. There are other places where the trail crosses a perpendicular road, sure, but these are few and far between and infrequently traveled. This is the first place where the trail itself crosses from one side of Hwy 276 to the other. The good news is that there is a stop light at this intersection…the bad news is that you’ll have to wait for it to change. Of course…anytime the trail crosses a road you should do like mama taught you — look both ways and be careful.
Once you cross the road, you’ll pass by Sunrift Adventures, a bike/kayak/everything outdoor shop. Behind Sunrift is Gateway Park, which is only of interest in warmer weather when it, too, has bathroom facilities. (I know through trial and error that they are closed for the season.)
9. Keep on keepin’ on, and you’ll soon find yourself at the other end of the trail. You’ll know you’ve reached the end when the trail runs out, but if you’re looking for landmarks you’ll see part of the Greenville Hospital System on one side of the road and a cemetary on the other. (Sidenote: Actually…you’ll pass three cemetaries over the course of the trail. Try not to think about it too much.) There’s also a gravel parking area on this end of the trail.
And that is my very good pal, the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Is there anything I left out? Other Swamp Rabbit experts, feel free to chime in via the comments!