‘It’s just gorgeous’: About 20 hikers kick off new year with tour of state park in Florence County

Pee Dee

FLORENCE COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW)– Hikers chose to ring in the new year by spending some time outdoors as South Carolina’s state parks celebrated 2022 on Saturday by offering the first hikes of the year.

One of those hikes was in Florence County, where Park Ranger Regina Kaye Huff led a group of about 20 people on a tour of Woods Bay State Park, sharing details about its history and ecosystem. The park is located near Olanta.

“This gives people the chance to go outside for the first time of the year, to experience nature, unwind and relax,” Huff said.

She said the park is a popular place to check out wildlife, including alligators.

“This time of year, you aren’t going to see a lot of alligators because they go through a process called brumation, which is when they stop eating to keep their metabolism low,” Huff said.

Even though there were no gators to be seen, hikers did get the chance to check out some birds and turtles. Sharon and John Howcroft brought their cameras along on the hike and said there’s nothing quite like capturing the perfect wildlife shot.

“It’s a great feeling,” Sharon Howcroft said. “It’s hard to describe, other than it is like, ‘Oh yes!’”

The Howcrofts are Ultimate Outsiders, which means they have visited each of the state’s 47 state parks. Of all the first-day hikes offered on Saturday, they said they chose to visit Woods Bay because it is one of their favorites.

“It’s just gorgeous,” John Howcroft said. “It’s like something out of a movie, like a Star Wars planet or something.”

Huff said the hikers were very receptive and said she hopes their experience will encourage them to come back to Woods Bay or to visit some of the state’s other parks.

“We believe that there should be a harmony between humans and nature,” Huff said. “Seeing an animal or a bird for the first time on the first of the year is a great experience, so I’m hoping everyone had the chance to enjoy that.”

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