A mother-daughter naturalist team has written a comprehensive field guide to the best parks, preserves and special places in South Carolina.
Several years ago, Susan and Liesel Hamilton set out to systematically see all of the natural wonders the state has to offer. The result is “Wild South Carolina,” a book listing 38 must-do trips for nature lovers.
“A lot of field guides will tell you, ‘Go to this trail, take a left, then take a right.’ But they don’t say why places are special or why they were put aside in the first place,” Liesel Hamilton said. “We really wanted to focus not so much on, ‘hike this path,’ but what makes each place special.”
“Wild South Carolina,” published by Hub City Press, launched Saturday at Books on Broad in Camden.
Both Hamiltons are certified Master Naturalists, meaning they have extensive knowledge of the geography, flora and fauna of the state.
Liesel Hamilton is a University of South Carolina graduate currently pursuing a masters degree in creative writing from George Mason University. Her mother, Susan Hamilton, is a Columbia resident and former journalist who works with several environmental non-profits.
The book divides South Carolina into three travel regions: Piedmont/Mountains, Midlands/Sandhills and Coastal Plain/Coastal Zone. Each entry has a description and history of the place along with a “Good to Know” box of detailing what to watch out for and optimal times of year to visit.
I was amazed at how much was in our backyard that we didn’t realize.
Author and Master Naturalist Susan Hamilton
On sunny winter days at the Caw Caw Interpretive Center in Ravenel, for example, visitors might see the normally black swamp water transform into a rainbow of colors when the sunlight hits it at just the right angle.
Or if one headed to Devils Fork State Park in spring, they’d likely see the rare Oconee bell flower.
“I was amazed at how much was in our backyard that we didn’t realize,” Susan Hamilton said.
Throughout their travels, she said they experienced a variety of natural wonders as well as a few misadventures, like getting chased by a snake at Poinsett State Park, veering their car onto side roads to watch wood storks near Edisto Island and trying three times to see the spider lilies on the Catawba River.
“Landsford Canal has an amazing display of spider lilies. They take up the whole river. It’s one of the largest collections in the world,” Liesel Hamilton said. “The first time we went, the water level was too high. The second time, the water was too low. Finally, on the third try, we were able to do it with kayaks.”
The biggest return on the book project was getting to spend so much time outdoors together, Susan and Liesel Hamilton said.
“It gave me a very special relationship with my daughter. It brought us really close,” Susan Hamilton said. “It’s been really exciting to write with her and share it with her.”