Bicycling in the Upcountry

East Bound and Down: Upstate South Carolina

Brice Shirbach

For the first time in the rich and storied history of this series (See: hyperbolic), there isn't a singular focus on any specific city for this particular story. I spent a week in a town called Travelers Rest, South Carolina, a community of roughly 5,000 souls located in Greenville County. Travelers Rest is about 10 miles directly north of the county's namesake city, Greenville. While Greenville itself holds the Palmetto State's 6th largest population, its surrounding metropolitan area is the state's largest. Greenville is just 1 of 10 total counties that make up the westernmost part of South Carolina known as the Upstate, which as it turns out, is where you'll find a staggering amount of really good trails, along with some really cool people to ride them with.

I arrived at The Swamp Rabbit Inn, located in downtown Travelers Rest, in the early afternoon on a sunny and warm late-February day. I chose to spend a few weeks in the southeast to collect some images and stories with the hope that I could get away from the sporadic and wintry behavior of my home in Pennsylvania, and land in a place with much more reliable weather and trail conditions. Average temperatures for this part of the world this time of year are typically between the mid 50's and low 60's (that's fahrenheit for fans of the metric system). In fact, throughout the year average highs never dip below 50 degrees. Only 2 of my 7 total days in town saw average temperatures. The rest, much to my delight, were well above. 

While Greenville functions as the area's primary urban center, Travelers Rest is a much quainter and quieter town compared to its neighbor to the south. Travelers Rest gets its name from being a common resting point for weary travelers in the early 19th century who needed a place to wait out winter in the North Carolina mountains before continuing their journey north. While the town itself doesn't have a whole lot in the way of singletrack and mountain bike trails, it does have one of the east coast's premier mountain bike skills areas, located in Gateway Park. From my dwellings, it was a pleasant five minute pedal down the Swamp Rabbit Trail, the region's preeminent greenway, past several coffee shops, restaurants, and retail stores, to Gateway. The 16-acre county park is home to a number of features, including a pump track, a PBJ flow line (a point-to-point track with pumps, berms, and jumps), several rhythm sections, a cross country loop, and a handful of wooden drops and features. A 30-45 minute jaunt through the park would prove to be a perfect complement to my morning routine while in town, along with a cup of coffee and any one of the dangerously tasty southern breakfast options. 

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