story by Zach Hughes | photography provided by Zach Hughes and SCDNR
One of the things I truly love about traveling in South Carolina is as you travel west from the Pee Dee the landscape slowly changes right before your very eyes. It doesn’t matter which road you take, but with each passing curve, the fields begin to transform into hills. The further west you travel the more dramatic the hills begin to present themselves. Growing up in Florence, which is somewhat flat, the Midlands always had a unique draw to it.
Of the many roads west that you can see this transformation, one of my favorite drives is to take 151 northwest past Hartsville. I will even admit that I have always been drawn to Hartsville as well because of this. Once you get up around Lake Robinson, the dramatic hills let your eyes see for miles.
On this particular trip a few weeks ago, we recently found a very interesting and surprising reason to travel right into the Midlands. Located within the east side of Lancaster County, and just outside of Chesterfield and Kershaw Counties, is a place called Forty Acre Rock. Hidden within these hills, the enormous rock covers the top of the tallest surrounding hill and peeks its head through the trees surrounding it.
Over the years, I have heard friends speak of this rock and thought it was about time I go check it out. As I mentioned before, the drive there was half the fun. Once you have made it past Hartsville, the hills really begin to present themselves as the road begins to rise and fall as if you are navigating a boat over long rolling waves in the ocean.
Once we got close we decided to take a hike to the rock from the lower parking lot. It just so happens that this was the first day-hike that my wife and I took our newborn son on. Strapped to my chest in a baby carrier, we took off down the trail in search of a big rock.
Curving through midland hills and luscious green trees the trail took us northward and the path increased in elevation ever so slightly. There was a light drizzle from the overcast sky, but that’s okay, it made the trees seem even greener and more alive. After passing through an opening, cut out for power lines, we found ourselves towing the edge of a small creek that cut through the ground like a snake. In following that creek, it led us to a small waterfall that lay out over a rather large piece of rock cut from the earth. A quick step over the small rocks at the base of the waterfall, and we were faced with a nice steep trail upwards.
As we hike our way up the edge of the waterfall via roots and jutting rocks, we could tell that the ground was beginning to change. Rocks were becoming even more frequent, and that means we knew we were getting close. The top of the waterfall was merely a small stream that seemed to cut its way through a wall of rock. Around the corner and through more trees we found ourselves at a crossroads. To the right, we could continue to follow the stream and to the left, it looked like it was a trail almost straight up. But through the trees, we could see that at the end of this trail was a clearing. So naturally, we went left. This being the steepest part of the trail we found ourselves some makeshift walking sticks just to help with the climb.
As we neared the top, the trail was quickly surrounded by rock and the trees came to a sudden end. What we found at the end of the trail was a field of wavy rock slab that seemed to cover acres of land. As we trekked up this patch of rock, our walking sticks scraped against the rock with each step. It almost seemed like an abandoned parking lot that throughout years of wear began to sag and give way to the earth. Small patches of vegetation out of the pools of water and cracks in the rocks told a story of how alive this place was. Near the top, you could see for miles through a clearing in the trees. Although you are not quite on top of the world, you feel like you can see over the Midlands for a fair distance. This patch of rock is also surrounded by a ring of trees and plant life, only to come to an abrupt halt when facing the rock.
This place is truly unique in the nature of its existence within the Midlands. It is well worth the day trip from wherever you are in our state, even though it is not as well known. It is a decent little hike to the top, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes and check the weather before making the trek. All in all, we were pretty well pleased with our experience of the place. As the weather begins to warm up, make sure to take time and go explore this natural wonder. You will be surprised what a place like this may reveal to you.
Zach Hughes resides in Florence with his wife Alexis and their newborn son Christopher (pictured above). Zach is a local entrepreneur and has spent most of his time working around the automotive industry. In his spare time, Zach enjoys discovering South Carolina and dabbling in journalism