Follow Us
  • icon-facebook
  • icon-twitter
  • icon-linkedin
  • icon-pinterest
  • icon-youtube
  • icon-instagram on the Road

Five Great South Carolina State Parks

An awesome BBQ sauce recipe for camping.
And a photo tip on shooting the sunrise and sunset.

I received an email from my friend Max, who along with his wife Cindy run a great campground called Beaver Lake in Custer City, South Dakota.

He said I should try the mustard-based BBQ sauce since he knows my predilection for spicy foods.

Since grilling season is just around the corner, I thought I would break down the "Official Four" sauces found in South Carolina.

The state can be split into four regions, each with it's own style of sauce. The eastern part, which includes the coast, prefers a traditional vinegar and pepper sauce. The center of the state rocks the mustard sauce. The southwest part goes all in for a heavier tomato-based sauce that is popular across the country, (your typical BBQ sauce.) And the northwest section likes some ketchup in their vinegar and pepper sauce. It's known as "Carolina Red."

I tried a taste of the mustard sauce and while it has some kick, it needs more. As Emeril used to say, "Let's kick it up a notch." Maybe he still says it. I don't know.

I will give you the traditional recipe along with my changes at the end of this post.

But first let's get caught up in what was a busy week. Five state parks in six days. I took Sunday off to do some cooking.

I stopped at Sadlers Creek State Park last Thursday.


All five of these campgrounds are alongside lakes formed by dams on the Savannah River. I followed the Georgia side northwest and now I am going southeast on the South Carolina side.

Sadler has two loops. Sites 1 - 15 are more open and look like these two, numbers one and seven.

Sadlers-Creek_001 Sadlers-Creek_007

There is a boat ramp in this area and some nice views of the lake.

Sadlers-Creek-Boat-Ramp Sadlers-Creek-View-1 Sadlers-Creek-View-2

Sites 26 - 62 are around the corner. I have know idea why there are no sites 16 - 25. I kept running into that a other campgrounds. The mystery sites. Maybe you need to know a secret handshake and a password.

Anyway, those sites offer a bit more shade. Sites 56 and 59 got my vote.

Sadlers-Creek_056 Sadlers-Creek_059

I did not camp here but continued down the road.


To Calhoun Falls State Park.


It was still sunny when I arrived there so I nabbed some photos of the marina, the lake, and the boat ramp.

Calhoun-Falls-Marina Calhoun-Falls-Lake Calhoun-Falls-Boat-Ramp

The trees were starting to bloom and their sweet scent filled the air as I made an awning.


Yes, an awning.


I really wanted to get an awning for my trailer. The screenhouse is no longer waterproof and I would rather be outside to work than inside. Complete awnings range from $300 for a bag awning to around $1000 for a Fiamma.

Mine cost $20. $7 each for two adjustable aluminum painter's poles and $6 for a tarp. I already had the ropes and stakes.

I am blown away by how well it works. What made it work was the fact that the trailer already had an awning rail installed. Without that it would not have happened. The rail is basically a 1/2 inch tube that has a 1/8 inch section cut out lengthwise. If you have ever rigged a small sailboat you will know what I am talking about.

It was one of those ideas that came to me in the middle of the night. How to hook a tarp to the awning rail. The answer was four knots.


With the right size rope the knots would simply slide slide down inside the rail and not pull out.

Back to the campground.

Friday was wet. The rain started in the morning and kept up all day. I grabbed my (extremely) helpful umbrella and gave it a walk.

There are 86 sites here. Some of my favorites were numbers 13, 27, and 64, which was at the tip of a peninsula.

Calhoun-Falls_013 Calhoun-Falls_027 Calhoun-Falls_064

A neat feature here is the double sites, like numbers 56 and 57. Great for a small group.


I headed back to my site to process photos and test the tarp.

There was a small dry spot underneath, enough to set up my office.


Oops, better shut the vents...


The rain increased after I put the computer away.


But I stayed dry. I made some slack in the lines so the water could drain away. It was fun to watch.


An empty cooler blocked the splashing from my personal waterfall and a heater kept me warm.


The painter's poles had a hole in the handle that I used to stake them down.


I added bungees to the tie downs to keep tension on the lines.


I stayed warm and dry while my firewood was not so lucky.


Oh well, hopefully it will dry out for the next camper.

Saturday morning I left and made a stop at Hickory Knob State Park.


There are 44 sites here and numbers 11, 13, and 17 got my attention.

Hickory-Knob_011 Hickory-Knob_013 Hickory-Knob_017

The lake OK as well.

Hickory-Knob-View-1 Hickory-Knob-View-2

I camped Saturday night at Baker Creek State Park.


In site 91.


My picnic table was just a step away from the lake.


And then a storm rolled in.


Neato. With the high winds I had not deployed the awning so I called it a day and went inside to wait it out.

It finally cleared as you can see in the reflection on my car's back window.


There was a nice sunset view from the rear window of the trailer.


Followed by the sunrise later on.


Clear, cold, and windy.

Did I mention windy?


My towel dried in 5 minutes.

I needed to do some cooking so I headed back inside.


What is in that pot you ask?

3 1/2 pounds of chicken breasts.


Slow cooked for 2 hours it shredded up nicely. But the color was wrong. It needed to be more red. A cup or two of habanero sauce fixed it.



I watched the sunset and hit the sack.


Before I left on Monday morning I walked the campground.

There were supposed to be 100 sites here. But sites 1 - 50, the non-hookup tent sites are no more. The picnic tables and fire rings are gone, along with the site number poles. It looked very overgrown. Interesting.

So I went with sites 51 - 100.

A few of my favorites, along with my site, were 88, 89, and 92.

Baker-Creek_088 Baker-Creek_089 Baker-Creek_092

The boat ramp allows you to keep your vessel moored right in front of your site.

Baker-Creek-Boat-Ramp Baker-Creek-Marina

Cool. I like that.

I wound up at Hamilton Branch State Park for two nights, Monday and Tuesday.


I set up the "California Room" in site 13.


Yes, the poles are straight. It's just the distortion of the wide angle lens.

Here is another view.


OK, enough about the awning. I am declaring Spring officially here.

Just ask the buds.

Spring-1 Spring-2 Spring-3

Out with the dead wood and in with the new. Which of course meant it was campfire time.

Did anyone leave some wet wood around? Yes. Right next door.


I dragged over some downed branches to complete the necessities.

And cut them up.


That should work. I lit some pine straw and then added a few of the smaller pieces.


They smoked a little bit but eventually started burning.


I placed the larger pieces around the edges to dry.


Keep an eye on them in case the decide to start flaming.


I added a few of them to the fire and soon all was good.

Fire-7 Fire-8 Fire-9

Just in time because the sun was starting to sink.

Hamilton-Branch-Sunset Hamilton-Branch-Sunset-2

My campfire kinda blended in and just added to the colors.

Fire-11 Hamilton-Branch-Sunset-5

Tuesday morning (was that just yesterday?) I rambled down to the lake for a sunrise photo.


Here is a tip for sunrise and sunset photos. Play with your exposure compensation setting. It's that little +/- button on your DSLR. If you use your phone to take photos I can't help you. And seriously, if you do, get a real camera instead.

Here is a photo using the camera's given exposure setting.


Two stops of overexposure gives you this result.


Nasty. But two stops of underexposure gives you the results you are looking for.


And you have to do it this way. You cannot get the deep sky colors by post-processing. They do not exist in the jpeg file.

I ate a sandwich and tackled the task of photographing this large campground.

Hamilton Branch takes up almost 800 acres on a peninsula jutting into Strom Thurmond Lake. There are nine camping loops holding 184 campsites that follow the shoreline. Every site has a water view.


There was no way I could walk it. It would take too long. I had to use my bike. It was not level either. Lots of hills. Down to the loops and then uphill to the main road.

Looking at the exif data on the photograph files, it took just over 3 1/2 hours from the first picture to the last. Walking would have doubled that easily.

A few of my favorite sites were 33, 88, 107, and 177.


88 has a 200 foot long driveway.

Hamilton-Branch_088 Hamilton-Branch_107 Hamilton-Branch_177

The park just had a major update, with new pavement and general sprucing up. It looked great.

But taking the photos just plain wore me out.

I loaded the bike back in the car.


And watched the sunset while cooking up some chicken tacos next to a campfire.

Last-Sunset Chicken-Tacos

Life is good.

It's the Mustard BBQ Sauce that needs a dash of BAM!.

Here is the traditional recipe with my alterations in bold.

4 cups yellow mustard
8 ounces of beer (less for a thicker sauce, more for a thinner one)
Drink the beer instead and add 8 ounces of habanero sauce
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
8 tablespoons of brown sugar
1/2 cup tomato puree
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
Make it 7 tablespoons and add another 2 ounces of habanero sauce
1 tablespoon fresh cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

Heat all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and mix well. Cook until sauce just begins to thicken. Serve cool or warm.

Regards, Park Ranger


No Comments yet. Be the first!

Leave a Review

To Leave a Comment - Please Sign In

  • Sign-in-with-Facebook