Under Exposed: The South Carolina Upcountry

The twenty-first century fades on the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway. Known for the Gaffney Peachiod, early American history, and the Blue Ridge Mountains and foothills, automobiles drive past landscape seemingly unchanged with exception of the road.

Before you pack up for Orlando or California, consider what you might find on roads less explored. There are foods you’ve never tried, or names and words you never thought went together such as Peachoid. What is the Peachoid?


The Peachoid stands as a statement that South Carolina produces and ships twice as many peaches as Georgia, and it is a starting point on the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway. Photo Courtesy of Gaffney Board of Public Works.

A common misconception is Georgia, the Peach State, grows the most peaches on the East Coast. The fact is the small state of South Carolina grows the most peaches in the United States after California.

Native to South Carolina, I know most tourist attention is given to Charleston and what is called the Lowcountry—anything below Columbia, SC.

What was forgotten, and why did writers and historians important to the Carolinas forget the Upcountry?

According to my former history professor and author Dr. Walter Edgar, the upper half of South Carolina was considered wild and a place where small time farmers lived before 1800. Native Americans—Cherokee, Catawba, and other tribes—also lived in what is now a scenic highway and part of the Blue Ridge Mountains/ foothills region.

History lesson over.

What else makes the Upcountry special?

The natural wonders of mountains, parks, and waterfalls. Or history, food, and character.

A lot of character.

Signs and names of stores caught my attention as my husband and I drove on SC 11. One billboard read, “Stop here. Try Peach Salsa.”

I experiment when I cook. I enjoy cooking apples, bacon, and pepper jack cheese together and stuff the mixture inside a pork chop. But, peach salsa? This is when we need Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods.

Would you try peach salsa?

As we drove to Wildcat Branch Falls, we passed a cabin. The name of the store said If Its Junk Antiques.

We drove by produce stands and smaller places in front of houses promising the sweetest and best tasting peaches and melons in the country. But, we had not reached our destination.

Wildcat Branch Falls sits off the side of the road. Stone steps lead to a higher waterfall.

Water poured into a small pool. We took our two-year-old son out, and let him walk into the pond. He cried at first, but a boy who prefers the big pool, got the hang of walking along the sandbar in the water instead of on rocks and sticks.

A woman dug rocks out of the water. At first I assumed she was a geologist. Fifteen minutes later a little girl, and four older boys rushed  down the stone steps. The mother of one or more of the boys handed them rocks.

“Have you skimmed rocks before?” one boy asks another.

“No.”

The boys lightly tossed the rocks so they skimmed the water.

A game once played by Tom Sawyer lives on in a generation where boys and girls’ fingers press video game controllers and iPod tablets. 

There might be something to those Upcountry foothills.

Words and Waterfall Photos By Rebecca T. Dickinson

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3 thoughts on “Under Exposed: The South Carolina Upcountry

  1. Elliot August 5, 2012 at 11:39 PM Reply

    I used to go down the river and skim stones when I was a child (in Northern England). I’m not sure we could do that where I currently reside, we would have to travel.

    From my limited experience of travelling in the US, it often gets more interesting the further you get from the larger cities, which is not to say that certain large cities are not interesting in other ways. But as you travel, and if you keep your eyes open, there is much to explore.

    • rtd14 August 6, 2012 at 9:46 PM Reply

      There is so much to explore everywhere. The US is such a big country, and I want to hike every mountain with my bad knee and see what makes the Rockies view different from that of the Smokey Mountains. (My next blog will be about the Smokey Mountains. I finally went on vaccation.)

      What is the furtherest you’ve traveled in the California countryside?

      • Elliot August 6, 2012 at 10:13 PM

        Not too far in. I’ve been to the Napa / Sonoma area, around Yosemite, and camped in Big Sur. I would like to explore the area across from Santa Barbara more (where the film Sideways was mostly shot) and maybe much further north.

        For our honeymoon, we did an East Coast road trip in the New England area and finishing in Boston for a few days.

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