By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
PLANS FOR THIS YEAR’S SOUTH CAROLINA 7 (SC7) expedition are in full swing with new tracks being mapped out for new destination stops.
“SC7 was founded on the idea of creating greater public awareness of and protecting the seven natural wonders of South Carolina,” says Dr. Tom Mullikin, a global expedition leader who chairs the gubernatorially established S.C. Floodwater Commission. “Those seven natural wonders will always be the primary focuses of the annual SC7 expedition, but we’re also going to be exploring equally magnificent neighboring areas: This year with traditional track deviations through the cities of Florence, Conway, Myrtle Beach, and Hilton Head.”
Founded by Mullikin and today jointly led by his also-founded Global Eco Adventures (also the S.C. Floodwater Commission) and the S.C. National Heritage Corridor (U.S. National Park Service), SC7 is a statewide, monthlong expedition physically led by Mullikin and his team of handpicked adventurers (scientists, military leaders, even state legislators) every July beginning July 1. “We literally celebrate Independence Day on the trail,” says Mullikin.
But it’s not simply Mullikin’s team: Each year, SC7 involves a growing number of volunteers and outdoor enthusiasts, young and not-so-young – hiking, climbing, kayaking, rafting, and SCUBA diving – across South Carolina as they explore the Palmetto State’s seven named wonders and various on-trail and off-trail excursions in between. The seven designated wonders of the Palmetto State include Sassafras Mountain; the Jocassee Gorges; the Chattooga River; the Congaree National Forest; the Edisto River; the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Basin – universally referred to as the ACE Basin; and Bull Island-Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge: “Each one a unique geographical treasure,” says Mullikin.
SC7’s chief logistics officer Michelle McCollum, who also serves as president of the S.C. National Heritage Corridor, says: “This year we will have several themes throughout the month: Environmental Resiliency through Active Engagement, Health and Wellness through Green Exercise, and Economic Development through Eco-Tourism. The activities and special events happening as the team traverses the state will center around these concepts.”
More than simply trail-trekking and paddling rivers (though there is that): “SC7 is partnering with MUSC and Explore Charleston to hold ‘Adventure Out Weekend’ from July 20–23,” says McCollum. “On those days, the public can sign up for a whole host of activities ranging from morning yoga and healthy cooking classes to surfing lessons and beach hikes.”
SC7 begins in the South Carolina Upstate, specifically Oconee Passage, before winding its way south-southeast toward Columbia and the Midlands, generally paralleling the famed Palmetto Trail. As in previous years, SC7 2022 concluded in Charleston with a grand event aboard USS Yorktown attended by Lt. Governor Pamela Evette, other VIPs, and deck-landing parachutists prior to kicking off a smart-reef installation operation off the coast involving an SC7-organized and led team of retired Navy SEALs, former Marine Recon operators (primarily members of FORCE BLUE) and S.C. State Guard divers supported by all manner of boats and a helicopter.
“We do much more than explore: We work,” says Mullikin, himself a former U.S. Army officer and retired commanding general of the S.C. State Guard. “Whether cleaning and clearing ditches along highways, picking up trash on our beaches, or installing high-tech artificial reef systems on the ocean floor, we are bettering the world we live in. And that has always been one of the principal aims of SC7.”
In 2023, SC7 will conclude on Hilton Head Island. “We will also collaborate with and highlight some of the amazing resiliency initiatives already completed by the Marines on nearby Parris Island, home of the famous Marine Corps Recruit Depot,” says Mullikin.
The SC7 expedition’s ‘Virtual Field Guide’ will be available online by April 15. For more information, please visit southcarolina7.com/.