I started to understand the true meaning of the Palmetto Backcountry as I made my way through a tunnel of trees along the back roads of McCormick, SC, one of the 5 counties in the Old 96 District of South Carolina. I have traveled South Carolina my entire life, but definitely not anywhere like this.

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As I turned off of SC State Highway 7 toward Hickory Knob State Resort Park, I passed a beautiful 18-hole championship golf course, which I followed up to the office where I parked my car, ready to begin a 2.3-mile hike along Beaver Run Trail. This hiking and biking trail runs along the shoreline, and offered some nice views of Lake Thurmond as I hiked up to the resort’s skeet shooting range. I had never shot skeet before this trip, but when you’re in the Palmetto Backcountry and the district that is home to the National Wild Turkey Federation Museum, skeet shooting seems only natural. After hitting my first 7 out of 10 shots and feeling like a real Annie Oakley, I missed my last 10, but was still awarded some shotgun shells and a clay pigeon.img_0022Next, I made the short drive to Earth Connection Outfitters to rent a stand up paddle board. My adventure began at Hickory Knob where I enjoyed a refreshing paddle in and out of the coves of Lake Thurmond. The remote location was great for a first time paddler like myself, where I didn’t have to worry about wakes from nearby boats. It was also a great, relaxing way to unwind from the day’s activities.ecooutside-3After having worked up quite an appetite, I decided to check out a few local restaurants, starting with dinner at The Mill House and Good Times Brewing in nearby Greenwood, SC. I ordered Pauley’s Preferred pizza, which was hand-tossed, and topped with fresh vegetables and homemade red sauce, one of their six homemade options. img_0163The pizza was baked in a brick oven, which gave the crust and vegetables the perfect crispy finish. Good Times Brewing, one of the 4 microbrew pubs in the district, offered 10 different locally made brews on tap, and what goes better with pizza than beer?

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After a full day of adventures, I headed back to Hickory Knob Lodge for a good night’s rest. The next day, I was hungry…again, so I decided to check out the Sunday brunch at the Carriage House Restaurant at Inn on the Square in Greenwood, and it definitely did not disappoint. In the south, brunch is a meal that combines breakfast and lunch, but here, brunch is an entire ballroom full of perfectly cut fruit, southern soul food, fresh seafood, sauces, dips, desserts, and everything in between. The variety and quality of the food, accompanied by a live blues band, was the cherry on top of a great weekend in the district.

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As much as I would have liked to explore all of the other activities, restaurants, and historic sites that the district has to offer, it just gives me an excuse to come back. Cheers to new adventures in Old 96.