The old man sits at the trailhead of Peachtree Rock Nature Preserve near Columbia, S.C., patiently carving hewn sparkberry limbs into walking sticks, but waiting anxiously to spin you tales of decades past. He tells of an alcohol still busted up by revenoors 50-plus years ago near the odd-looking sandstone rock and its nearby stream. He tells of farm fields across the road that now sprout homes.
He admits that he hasn't been to the rock in decades, can't remember what grew in the fields across the road. But he comes each day, by 9:30 a.m., to claim his unofficial kiosk for visiting hikers.
Mostly, he seems patiently anxious to sell one of his gnarled sticks covered with a glossy patina of polyurethane; each come with a lifetime guarantee.
The rock feature (shown in the photo) is a short trek downhill from the parking lot. It looks like an upside down pyramid, teetering on its point. Insects appear to have bored holes in it. Visitors have carved names in the porous surface. It's an amazing feat of geophysics, or as one young boy said, "That's a heck of a rock."
A small waterfall drops over a sandstone shelf downhill of the rock, making a scenic spot for picnickers, and one family was staging an Easter egg hunt for a gaggle of youngsters around the waterfall and woods.
Further along the trails of the preserve rises a similarly precarious-looking rock, Little Peachtree Rock, another pyramid on point. The preserve offers more than 7 miles of trails, always a sandy base and sometimes a thick layer of natural sand. The trails are wide open. We hiked 4 miles of them and saw only four other hikers outside of the main Peachtree Rock and waterfall site.
According to the South Carolina state website, the 306-acre site is open dawn to dusk.
From Columbia, S.C., Interstate 26 to exit 113 (airport) and drive 11 miles southwest on SC 302 past the airport to a hard left onto SC 6. Drive 1 mile to the trailhead parking lot. And look for the old man carving walking sticks.