Adventures with Grammy

Message From The Director

As a career park employee, it's no surprise that my conversations often revolve around hikes to the top of Table Rock, breathtaking ocean sunrises, serene paddles on lakes and rivers and thrilling wildlife sightings. In fact, my Facebook page might give the impression that these activities consume my entire life, and depending on who you ask, they might agree. Exploring the remarkable natural resources in our state is an integral part of my job, and I must admit, I sometimes take it for granted. However, something special happened last month that allowed me to experience these resources through fresh eyes—those of my mother-in-law, lovingly referred to as Grammy.

During our recent trip, Grammy celebrated her 78th birthday, and it was particularly meaningful as she had recently undergone knee replacement surgeries. Throughout her recovery, she diligently worked on maintaining her mobility by visiting local gyms and attending exercise classes. Although I've always known Grammy to possess an adventurous spirit, we hadn't shared many park experiences together. So, for her birthday, we decided to change that, because Grammy had an insatiable desire to go zip-lining!

Coincidentally, we had recently partnered with Upstate Zipline to introduce a zip-line experience at Keowee Toxaway State Park. Once I shared this exciting news on Facebook, Grammy's enthusiasm knew no bounds. My wife and I had already planned a stay at the park, so we extended an invitation to Grammy and Pop Pop to join us. On our journey to the park, we took the opportunity to explore some of the beautiful attractions in the upstate region, including the magnificent Poinsett Bridge, Jones Gap and Caesars Head State Park. As evening approached, we finally arrived at Keowee Toxaway, ready to embark on our adventure-filled weekend.

Grammy's desire to zip-line was unwavering, but she also expressed interest in kayaking, which she had never done before, and hiking a mountain trail, something she hadn't done in years. After a brief introduction to kayaking, we made our way to the water's edge, where I gently pushed (I am not sure she would agree with the gently part) Grammy into Lake Keowee for her very first paddle. Without a hint of hesitation, she took hold of the paddle and set off, reveling in the joy of this newfound experience. As someone who had never kayaked before, I expected some trepidation and challenges, but Grammy exceeded all expectations. Her confidence soared, providing us both with a much-needed boost before our zip-lining adventure the following day.

Arriving at our scheduled time, we checked in with Joann at the zip-line office and donned our gear. With Shannon on one side and me on the other, we were securely fastened and made our way up the ramp for instructions and our first zip of the day. A young boy in our group led the way, visibly nervous and full of questions. He was followed by his father and brother, then Shannon --and finally, it was Grammy's turn. It was apparent that she was nervous, but our guide was exceptional in providing her with instructions and reassurance. Grammy initially struggled to prepare herself, and for a moment, I doubted whether she would go through with it. However, with the determination of a woman on a mission, she gathered herself, settled into her harness and launched herself towards the receiving platform. Next in line, as I approached the landing platform, I caught sight of both Grammy and Shannon beaming with excitement. SHE HAD DONE IT!

The remainder of the day was filled with zips that were higher, faster and longer than the first one, and not once did Grammy hesitate. She soared across ravines, flew over the glistening lake twice and fearlessly traversed a swinging bridge that connected platforms. Her knees and body received a workout (as did ours), but her smile never faded.

The rest of the weekend was spent exploring, hiking, gathering around a crackling fire, engrossed in books, and bird watching (If you haven’t tried the Merlin app I recommend it). It served as a powerful reminder of why I love what I do— for the last 28 years, I have the privilege of being a part of sharing these incredible outdoor spaces, where people create memories that last a lifetime, and sometimes even kindle a passion for the outdoors that impacts the course of their lives.

Our parks are a place for everyone. Whether you're three or 83 years old, there is a place for you in the great outdoors. It might involve sitting quietly, listening to the melodic songs of birds, frolicking in the surf or embarking on a thrilling zip-line adventure. Our parks have something for everybody, and if Grammy can do it, so can you! In fact, we are already planning the next great park adventure with Grammy, so stay tuned for more excitement on the horizon!