Roman Forum 2006

Roman Forum 2006
Foro Romano, from the Palatine Hill - a favorite photo from one of my favorite cities

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Morning at Paris Mountain State Park

A state park 3.8 miles from Dottore Gianni’s humble abode!

Who knew?

The good doctor should have…actually he did know, in fact he sees the mountain every day he takes a healthwalk (which is most days), just never bothered to visit it. Perhaps the seeing of it is what put him/me off, as when viewed from a distance there are several tall radio/telecommunications masts sticking up from it, which to his mind are blots on an otherwise pleasant little mountainous landscape.

You have to look closely, but about one-third of the way 
from the right marginyou can see several masts 
on Paris Mountain - practical, Dottore Gianni is sure,
but not very pretty!
Again, one third of the way from the right margin of
 the photo isParis Mountain - looks prettier here, right? 
But you can still see the masts. Taken from one of
the good doctor's walks on the Swamp Rabbit Trail 
But once upon a time, on a Tuesday in late July 2013, when the hot, hazy, humid conditions lessened somewhat, I/Dottore Gianni ventured forth, using the GPS on my I-phone. A recent convert to GPS, I bought a $1.99 app and like it better than my much more expensive Garmin GPS, particularly for the choice of voices that guide me! On Garmin I get only a few voice-choices, all American (snore), but my preferred choice on the app is a British woman who gives me instructions in classy, dulcet tones. There is also a pretty cool cockney gal’s voice to be had…and then there is the Cougar. Hmmmm…how do I describe the Cougar? She practically growls (sensuously) into my ear. I’ve not dared make use of The Cougar as instructions given by her would almost certainly get me into an accident.
The placid Lake Placid in Paris Mountain State Park
Oh, but the park! (Admit it though, you didn’t mind hearing about my GPS!). A little history, as Dottore Gianni is very fond of history, in fact he practically dotes on it. The mountain itself has been around for a long, long time. It is a monadnock, a term which the doctor confesses he was not familiar with before today. A monadnock…are you taking notes? is a mountain that rises up out of otherwise flat land. Another way of defining it is to say that it stands alone; still another is to call it an isolated mountain. This particular monadnock is not awfully far from the many mountains north of it in the Carolinas. I wonder if it knows that its buddies are, how do you say it? So close, but yet so far. Dottore Gianni sincerely hopes poor Paris mountain does not FEEL isolated! It’s not a very high mountain, topping out at a tad over 2,000 feet, but it’s a monadnock for heaven’s sake, so don’t knock it (drumroll. Thud.). The term comes from Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire, which, you guessed, is also a monadnock…in fact you might say it’s the granddaddy of ALL monadnocks!

The name of the Mount, Monadnock, has its origins in the language of the Abenaki, an American Indian tribe associated with the Algonquins. In Abenaki monadnock means…can you guess? 
A look at the entire length of Lake Placid
A “mountain that stands alone.” Dottore Gianni went to great lengths (all the way to Wikipedia) to determine the origin, so please don’t knock him either! The monadnock we’re interested in, Paris Mountain was once home to Cherokee Indians. Then in 1765 along came the first white settler, Richard Pearls by name, married a Cherokee woman and became very close to the tribe. It has been said that the Cherokees gave Pearls a good bit of land, more than ten square miles of it, and part of this land was the monadnock. However, a letter from the superintendant of Indian affairs was discovered that scolds the tribe thus: “You are constantly listening to Richard Pearis, who cheats you of your land.” So! Was the mountain a gift or a cheat? “A legend surrounding the mountain speaks of the first white men to visit the mountain. The chief of the indwelling Cherokee tribe tried to protect the mountain, and when he grew old, he passed on the responsibility to his daughter and her husband. The husband failed in this task and sold the mountain; in anger, the daughter of the chief killed her husband.”

Whichever version of the Pearls story you believe (and Dottore Gianni, cynic that he is, believes that Pearls was a hustler, a cheat,
The statue of Richard Pearls
in the Upcountry Museum
and a thief, like just about every other Anglo who settled the Americas), it became in fact Pearls’ mountain, which appellation was somehow twisted and distorted into the word Paris.  If, unlike Dottore Gianni you believe that Pearls was a sweet guy, who fell for a Cherokee, and treated them wonderfully, you can go to…well, the Upcountry History Museum, which offers you a full-size statue of him looking very Daniel Boone/Davy Crockett.

To continue – the good doctor actually has very little to say about the park, but he really likes the history – in 1890 dams and reservoirs were built on the mountain by the Greenville City
The dam at one end of Lake Placid
Water System as a source of drinking water for the city. The supply declined and Table Rock Reservoir was put in service to supplement and replace it. Also in the 1890s Paris Mountain sported a classy resort called the Altamont Hotel. The resort failed but the building remained in use, when as if by a miracle it became a bible institute (surprise, surprise, in this, the buckle on the bible belt!) But the building burned in 1920.

During the 1930s the actual park on the mountain was built as part of one of many great New Deal projects (where is that spirit today? Gone, alas, ne’er to return, fears Dottore Gianni). The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) did the work, the government having bought the land from Greenville in 1935. The state park was just one of seventeen state parks in South Carolina built by the CCC. Dottore Gianni thinks that is cool, and even though he’s usually known as a tongue-in-cheek cynic, he is very serious about this. The structures built by the CCC are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In fact brief SIDEBAR, if you don’t mind: 1935 was a great year in the U.S. because FDR’s government created all sorts of projects, many of them for the arts, including the Federal Writers’ Project, 
Poser for the original production,
though it never played this theatre.
Its one performance was at the
shuttered Venice theatre.
the Federal Arts project, and my favorite, the Federal Theatre Project (FTP). The FTP was created to be “free, adult, uncensored” but almost as soon as it started the government began to censor the content. In fact one of its most famous shows was a musical called The Cradle Will Rock which told the story of “Steeltown” USA, in which underpaid over-worked laborers rise up against their corrupt bosses. It was directed by a young dynamo named Orson Welles, but after only one preview (which was not supposed to happen, in fact the company had to march uptown, with their audience in tow, to an abandoned theatre to produce it) it was closed by the U.S. Government…the ONLY musical in the history of American theatre to receive that dubious distinction. Why? In Depression-era America a story about workers rising up against bosses reeked of socialism…even god forbid it, communism!

I could go on and on, but…well, let’s just say, end of sidebare!

The Paris Mountain State Park is lovely, near virgin woodland. In its more than 1500 acres, there are 14 hiking/biking trails of 
The swimming & boat rental area on Lake Placid,
from the park office
varying difficulty factors, a large reservoir, a small lake, aptly named Lake Placid that boasts a swimming area and canoe and pedal boat rentals, picnic spots, a Camp Buckthorn that is rentable for weddings, meetings, reunions etc, and a campsite. The central building in Camp Buckthorn was built by the CCC, as is the park office. Much ado for the citizens of Greenville and well beyond!

I was wearing sandals on my outing, so only did the easiest of trails, the .8 mile Lake Placid Trail that surrounds the small lake. At one point on this trail you leave the park proper, at the rather nice looking dam on one end of it, walk maybe thirty yards on a not very busy public road next to the dam before you slip back onto the trail and complete your circuit of the lake.

Lake Placid is at the lowest level of the park. From it you can continue to drive up a charming, tiny and winding road farther up

into the woods until you hit about 1200 feet. Along the way there are several places to park at various trails, and where the road ends, in close vicinity to Camp Buckthorn, there are two large-ish parking lots from which you can hike/bike the higher trails, one of which will take you to the reservoir, another to a fire tower, still others through beautiful woodlands. Dottore Gianni is already looking forward to a few of the least strenuous walks on the heights, but may save them for the autumn, when the colors will be even more stunning and the weather a tad cooler than in the summer heat. Even in that heat however, the walk around the lake was “wondrous cool, thou woodland quiet” (from a song by Brahms that we sang in high school chorus – Dottore Gianni was a bass/baritone –he was quite good!) compared to the heat of the city.

Oh, the park costs a mere $2.00 for adults, but for South Carolina Seniors (one of which is the good doctor), it's an even mere-er $1.25 -- I predict frequent visits, if only to sit by Lake Placid and have a placid lunch!

The swimming area and park office from across the lake