I may have let a prematurely warm February day get the better of me.
I drove to my closest State Park and purchased an All Park Passport for $99. This level of passport will get our vehicle into all 47 South Carolina State Parks. (In the past we had only purchased the Selective Passport but there were a dozen parks not included with it.) I picked up an Ultimate Outsider booklet that will allow me to gain a stamp at each park and, when complete, return for a free T-shirt. (Because we all need another T-shirt, am I right?)
Almost two months into our twelve month pass we’ve officially made it to one and a half parks. What does “officially” mean? Thank you for asking.
My self-imposed rules for officially visiting a state park require entering the park boundary, taking a photo of the two of us in front of an official park sign, walking SOMEWHERE in the park, and getting the park’s official ink stamp in our Ultimate Outsider booklet.
The above criteria were established upon visiting our first “official” park: Little Pee Dee State Park in Dillon County. We considered adding the requirement to collect a pinecone or rock from each place but assumed that would violate many state laws.
By the way, Little Pee Dee was a nice, simple park with a hiking trail and small lake. The locals are extremely proud of the new asphalt entrance road. We were most impressed with the white sands on the rim of a Carolina Bay.
The second park we visited was Devils Fork State Park on Lake Jocasse. We entered the park domain and hiked a trail to view the rare Oconee Bell flowers, but then our standards were compromised. We did take a group photo that include our friends hiking with us but failed to place a park sign in the background. (A do over is now required.) And then there was the stamp.
The first park we visited had a simple unmanned, self-inking stamp sitting on a wooden ledge next to a map (pandemic protocol evidently). It worked perfectly. Devils Fork was a different story. I assume the rangers have grown tired of replacing their stamp because it was inside a wooden box which was screwed shut. You had to somehow position your booklet under the proper 2”x2” square opening on the bottom of the box, support your book with one hand, then stick your other hand, or about three fingers, into a very small hole in the wooden box, and press down. If you’ve grown up anywhere in the South I am going to assume you have a healthy respect for sticking your hand in dark wooden boxes that have been sitting outside. For the 10-15 people who have read Frank Herbert’s Dune series, I imagined the Bene Gesserit priestess telling Paul to place his hand in the small, dark box. When he asked her what was inside the box, she replied “Pain”.
Luckily the pain I experienced was not physical but rather emotional. The stamp only inked HALF of the image it was intended to produce in my book. I contemplated my options and tried a second time. Again the same half, luckily lined up on the first attempt. I walked away muttering that I would be writing a sternly worded letter of protest if I was denied a T-shirt over this incident.
We have 45 and 1/2 parks to go at this point to be Ultimate Outsiders. I’m sure it will get easier as temperatures warm up and vaccines become effective.
I just hope there are no more small, dark boxes.