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It’s a great time to explore Pleasant Ridge and Poinsett Bridge

Recently, we were looking for something to do on a Saturday, and I’ve been curious about Pleasant Ridge Park in Marietta, knowing that it has one of my favorite features – a waterfall! Given the distance from Greenville, it seemed to make sense to pair this visit with something else, and I was happy to see that the historic Poinsett Bridge was just up the road on S.C. Highway 11.

Pleasant Ridge is operated by Greenville County Parks, Recreation and Tourism. During Segregation, it was the African-American Park, while Paris Mountain State Park was designated for whites. The Leroy Smith Nature Trail is named for its devoted superintendent who served from 1951 until 1979.

Along the way, we stopped at The Original Cider House in Travelers Rest on Highway 25. Even though we had plenty of snacks, we couldn’t turn down fresh fruit. And the girls also felt strongly that Moon Pies were a necessary addition to our picnic basket. They even used their own money! Even if there’s not much produce in season, the Cider House offers plenty of preserves, farm fresh milks, and of course, cider. The Original Cider House stays open year-round, while many of the roadside stands are closed. It’s open seven days a week.

Before long, we arrived at the Pleasant Ridge park. The park map indicates the Leroy Smith Nature Trail is .58 miles. Beyond the parking lot, visitors will see the Leroy Smith Nature Trail sign in front of a grassy picnic area with a rushing stream.

I was perplexed by the fact there were two signs for the LST trail – one on the right and one on the left. First, we tried the one on the right, which oddly dead-ends into the much longer Jorge F. Arango trail. Knowing the JFA trail is about 6 miles, I definitely didn’t want to get confused. It seemed safer to turn around and backtrack.

The left entrance was marked “waterfall” at the trailhead. Later, looking at the Greenville Rec website, I noticed something I’d missed: “Direction of use for the Leroy Smith Trail is always clockwise.” Oops!

The waterfall was only a few feet up the trail, so this is a nice place to visit, even if you’re not a fan of hiking.

My kids were fascinated by the rock wall ruins of the old grist mill, and they loved hiding among the rocks and climbing on them. (And I didn’t think they were so terribly high that I’d worry about my elementary age kids falling; if I still had a preschooler, I would’ve felt differently.)

It was a warm fall day, so they took their shoes off and splashed in the shallow water. A friend had warned she’d seen Copperhead snakes there, but luckily, we didn’t run into any.

Up on the hill from us, there was a unique picnic shelter with clapboard siding like a house, and the inside has a brick fireplace. There are even rectangular holes in the shape of windows. It was a cool slice of history. Unfortunately, the ancient restrooms held less charm.

I was able to walk a little farther up the trail on my own to the sign marked for the old moonshine still. Just to the left of the sign, there were a set of steps that climbed up to the playground and the lake. The playground wasn’t fancy. It had two swings, and the old-style merry-go-round we rarely see these days. The restroom here was also old, but it seemed slightly cleaner. The lake itself is a bit more like a pond. Swimming isn’t allowed, but fishing is. Previously, we’d gone to another entrance and found the lake, but we were perplexed about locating the waterfall.

If you should happen to enter near the lake, walk to the playground, and there you’ll find the LST trail. Take the trail off to the right and follow the creek, and soon you’ll come to the waterfall.

After our leisurely picnic, the girls played in the grass and tried to hop over the stream. They didn’t have much interest in doing the complete loop of the LST Nature Trail – despite being a fall day, here in South Carolina, that’s no guarantee against getting hot and sweaty – so we packed up our picnic and headed for our next stop. I hope

Oddly, despite seeing two signs for the Poinsett Bridge on the way, there was no sign at the parking area. The parking lot is just past the Boy Scout Camp Old Indian. There is a crosswalk painted on the road, a black railing on the right and a gravel lot on the left. Park in the gravel lot, and as you cross the street, the old, stone bridge will come into view.

For those unfamiliar with the Poinsett Bridge, the historic Gothic stone arch is believed to be the oldest bridge in in the state. The historic marker at the site said that it was part of the road from Greenville to Asheville, but the Greenville Rec website indicates the road was much longer – connecting Charleston to Tennessee. The namesake, of course, is Joel Poinsett, one of Greenville’s founding fathers and former Congressman, and Ambassador to Mexico, who brought the poinsettia flower to the United States.The Poinsett Bridge is located in the 120-acre Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve. Although I saw references to hiking online I wasn’t able to find a trail map or specific information. When we arrived, though, it was easy to see that a trail followed alongside the river. That’s nice because even without a map, you’re not getting lost. It would be fun to come back and explore another day.

I’d seen many photos of the bridge, but none had any people to give any senses of scale. It was much larger than I’d expected. Also, the opening allows a narrow stream of water to pass, but the river widens to lovely broad shoals on either side of the bridge.

Growing up in Greenville, I’d heard about the Poinsett Bridge for years. What I hadn’t heard, however, was how beautiful the stream and natural area is near the bridge. The area is a place I’d hope to explore on another (cooler) day.