Stories, Memories and Being an Ultimate Outsider

It’s been over a year since I wrote about our new campaign to “Become an Ultimate Outsider!” The program starts with the guide to South Carolina’s 47 state parks. As you browse through the book filled with interesting facts and great photographs and see how many experiences wait, you think: “Maybe I should try this.” You learn that you have to get the book stamped at each park you visit and you think: “Interesting, this could be fun.” Then you get your first stamp: “Oh yeah this is fun, I have to get more stamps!” As I wrote when the program was first introduced, the challenge is more than just getting your book stamped and riding through the park. It’s the activities that create even more memories. There are opportunities for kayaking, riding horses, riding bikes, hiking, camping, picnicking, walking, campfires, s’mores, shelling, birding, fishing, photography, golfing, laughing, learning, discovering and many more. But you get the picture, lots of fun! Last month, we held our first Ultimate Outsider Reunion, a day set aside to celebrate this signicant accomplishment and get to know our Ultimate Outsiders better and make some more memories!

We gathered at Lake Greenwood State Park, one of the original state parks built by the CCC with a great history, great facilities and a fairly central location. As you ride through the gates of Lake Greenwood, you are drawn more to what is missing than what is there. The wall is obviously incomplete. This appears odd at first, but a closer look tells the story. Just beyond the “wall” are woods filled with large cut stone, ready for the skillful hands of one of the boys of the CCC to utilize his newly acquired skill of stone masonry. They never got the chance as a “day that would live in infamy” changed their lives. They literally stopped what they were doing to serve their country and change the world. Little did these CCC men know that the work they did prior to war would change our world as well. Their legacy of building South Carolina’s state parks is told at Lake Greenwood in the Drummond Center. The perfect place to celebrate our heritage and start a new tradition with our Ultimate Outsiders.

The day was filled with fun activities: kayaking, fishing, outdoor games and programs all about state parks and the joys of being outside. A classic state park cookout with hot dogs, hamburgers, all the fixings and lots of conversations sharing memories highlighted the day. I particularly enjoyed turning the tables on the Outsiders and asking them the question I am asked most often: “So now that you have visited all 47 state parks, which one is your favorite?” The answers didn’t surprise me, as they were very similar to mine: “Well it depends on what kind of trip I’m interested in. The mountains or the coast, the lakes or close to home.” The answers I enjoyed the most were the ones with a story, like: “Barnwell is my favorite. It was our last one and we made a weekend out of it. A special time of family reflections and memories.” There were as many “undiscovered” parks as there were ones that are household names. I told a few stories about my own adventures at the parks. I made new friends and talked about park “bucket lists” and timing your visit with significant events like fall colors, spoonbills or lilies.

At the end of the day, I think we all agreed that on this particular day Lake Greenwood was our favorite park. Why? It’s the journey, the opportunity to connect with family, friends and the resource. It’s about making memories, telling stories and planning the next trip. It was a reunion and we were all connected through the places we visited, our experiences and our love for our state parks. If you’re not an Ultimate Outsider, consider it. We’ll have another reunion next year, filled with friends and memories. As for now your parks await you… stand where presidents stood, walk along the edge of North America, see trees that were here before Columbus’s voyage to the Americas, visit a rain forest and climb to the top of a mountain or a lighthouse, share a laugh by the fire, watch the sun come over the Atlantic or set behind the Blue Ridge. Smell bacon and coffee on a crisp fall morning… make some memories and enjoy the journey.

See you in the parks!

Phil