From the moment you enter The Sea Pines Resort Forest Preserve you have no doubt that you have arrived in a very special place.
Established in 1970 via special covenants filed by the Sea Pines founding family, Charles and Joseph Fraser, the Sea Pines Forest Preserve is a protected area for wildlife habitat and outdoor exploration. Since the very humble beginnings of a few hiking trails and resting enclaves, the preserve has grown to include bridle paths, wetland boardwalks, bridges and fishing docks.
This 605-acre parcel of land set aside by the developers of The Sea Pines Resort, features sand ridges, forests, wetlands and ponds, and an extraordinary field of wildflowers.
Having personally hiked and biked the natural, boardwalk and dirt road trails, which, according to the South Carolina Trails program of The South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism total approximately eight-miles, I find it difficult to place any of the awesome features in any favorite order. Each attribute of the preserve holds its own special attraction. Thus, my narrative will describe features randomly.
However, on entering the preserve, there is an information station with maps and descriptions of the suggested highlights and the information station has several comfortable benches on which to sit and plan your journey.
As you begin your exploration you will come upon one of the more talked about features of the preserve, the spectacular wildflower meadow by Lake Thomas. If you have chosen one of the six months in which the field is in full bloom you will be fortunate in viewing a scene that initially feels like you have stepped into a painting by Claude Monet.
As you meander the trails it will prove to be most interesting to have gathered some historical facts about the land the preserve occupies.
The preserve's landscape has been evolving both naturally and with the assistance of humans for over 15,000 years. Up until the sixteenth century the human alterations were the handiwork of the region's earliest inhabitants, Nomadic Native Americans.
Probably the most visited archeological site in the southeast and definitely the most visited archeological site in the Lowcountry is The Indian Shell Ring in the Forest Preserve. It was built 4,000 years ago by the first wave of Hilton Head transplants, members of the 29 Native American tribes that inhabited, what today is known as South Carolina. They visited the Island during summers and several elected to stay and make this Lowcountry paradise home…sound familiar.
I digress, returning to the hike, this ring of shells, piled several feet above the ground, were used by Indians as a refuse heap. Refuse would be placed outside the ring of nearby huts, which were made of branches and palm fronds. The interior of the Shell Ring was kept clear and used as a communal area.
This Indian Shell Ring is truly unique in that it is still undamaged. It is one of only 20 Shell Rings still in existence. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is protected by law. Some of the Indian Shell Rings were originally 10 feet high and 30 feet wide at the base. This one located in the Sea Pines Forest Preserve is 150 feet in diameter.
This is just one of the intriguing sites you will pass as you progress along the well-marked and maintained trail.
The infrastructure that the Sea Pines shepherds of the preserve have managed to construct or excavate in the natural setting of the forest are amazing. One that I enjoy traversing and marvel at the blending with the surroundings is one of the bridges that crosses a small waterway, allowing the explorer safety, tranquility and the beauty of the forest undisrupted.
Shortly beyond this bridge you will come to the very beautiful main lake of the preserve. Serene and tranquil it offers to the explorer an opportunity for photos, videos or just relaxed gazing.
Follow the trails around the lake and stop here and there to simply take in the beauty and quiet of the environment and the scene.
But keep in mind that the inhabitants of this magnificent bit of real-estate have been hereabouts for as long as the land mass that today is known as South Carolina has existed. They have been on the earth some 200 million years. Goodness, they have outlived the dinosaurs by some 65 million years.
Be sure to extend them the respect their longevity deserves. Always give them the wide berth they may want. Be aware, don’t feed or harass the original Lowcountry citizens Alligators!
For more information about Sea Pines Forest Preserve, contact (843) 842-1979.