POMARIA — The sounds of the Peak to Prosperity Passage of the Palmetto Trail include dozens of varied bird calls, the gurgle of a meandering creek and, now, the narration of informative videos on a mobile device tour.
The rail trail in Newberry and Fairfield counties is the first section of the statewide Palmetto Trail to get the full high-tech treatment. Hikers and bikers can stop at 12 spots spread out over 10.8 miles, scan QR codes into their smart phone or tablet, and listen to information about the history or natural resources in that area.
If you go to the trail to get away from the high-tech world, don’t fret. Just keep walking past the small, round signs.
But if you’re curious about the back-story, the mobile tour adds to the hiking or biking experience. They tell about the rail line around which so many communities grew, the cultural touchstones those communities have held close, the creatures who thrive around the Broad River and Crim Creek and the process that turned the former rail line into a public trail.
“Every now and then, they provide an added bonus,” Furman Miller, one of the local residents who has adopted the rail trail, said of the mobile tour stops.
“We tried to strike a balance,” said Meredith Walker, communications director for the Palmetto Trail. “We don’t want to have a super high-tech trail. That’s not why people come to the trail.”
The mobile device tour, built through the OnCell website, was funded by a grant from the Greater Chapin Community Endowment. The signs with the QR codes went up last week, just in time for one of the best periods to hike the trail. In the next three weeks, the leaves on trees lining the trail will add bright yellows and reds to the corridor. And when the leaves fall off the limbs, the view into the forest opens up.
If you’ve never been to the Peak to Prosperity section, the easiest access points are just off 213 near the Broad River in Fairfield County (turn at the Palmetto Trail sign) or at Wilson’s Grocery on U.S. 176 in Pomaria. Hikers should wear sturdy shoes, and bikes must have wide tires to deal with sections of rock ballast left from the railroad days. The rail history also shows in the trail’s relatively straight course and gradual elevation changes.
The Palmetto Conservation Foundation, which coordinates the building and maintenance of the Palmetto Trail, plans to add mobile device tours at many popular sections. The Wateree Passage in Sumter County is next on the schedule, Walker said.
About 315 miles of the planned 425-mile trail are built and open. Some mobile devices lose service along the trail because much of it is in rural areas. People can download the videos and other information before leaving home by going to www.myoncell.mobi.