Fishing Lessons

IMG_8330 - CopyAfter spending a lot of time this winter watching birds, I learned that they have a wide variety of fishing styles, techniques, and skills.  I thought that shorebird fishing consisted simply of a dive or beak stab, followed by a quick swallow.  But no, bird fishing is a sophisticated and fascinating business.

For example, one evening at South Carolina’s Huntington Beach State Park, this brown pelican fished for about an hour off the causeway.  He patiently harvested tiny fishes through the sieve method—lots of work for not much protein.   IMG_8339 First, he took aim and lunged.

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Then he slowly, slowly pulled his head and bloated throat pouch up, engorged with water and minnows.   It was a gradual process, with the water slowly seeping out his beak until his head was fully up. IMG_8392 - CopyIMG_8394IMG_8395IMG_8397 - Copy

IMG_8336IMG_8327 - Copy (2)He held his head fully upright, beak down, while the remaining water dripped out his beak tip and then abruptly pulled his head back, with great bill chomping, and swallowed the little fishes.IMG_8398

IMG_8399 - CopyAfter attracted a bevy of photographers, he flew off to fish elsewhere.IMG_8378IMG_9199IMG_9200IMG_9203

This egret was after larger prey.  She suddenly went into a frenzy of wing flapping and stomping, all around the edge of marsh tidal pool.

IMG_8435IMG_8436IMG_8437IMG_8439IMG_8440IMG_8441IMG_8442IMG_8443IMG_8444Then she went in for the kill—a good-sized fish that she carried onto the mud bank.  IMG_8447She dropped it and let it slither around in the mud for a bit before picking it up and awkwardly downing that sucker. IMG_8452IMG_8455IMG_8458

One Gator, Two Gator, Three Gators, Four …

IMG_9025Some places are more of a surprise than others.  When we headed south in the fall, we stayed at Hunting Island State Park in South Carolina based on rave reviews by several RV bloggers.  Not surprisingly, we loved it.

Six months later, now heading north in the almost-spring, we stayed at another South Carolina coast state park with a similar name–Huntington Beach State Park.  We had no blogger recommendations for this park, and knew little about it, but it looked interesting.  It was … and more–a very nice surprise.

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To start with, it had alligators–huge armored grandfather gators, adorable smiling-like baby gators, and everything in between.  And there were lots of them, very close, swimming and sunning. IMG_8837

This is a "how many gators can you spot in this picture" puzzle.

This is a “How many gators can you spot in this picture?” puzzle.

I count five in the picture above, but you have to look really closely at the foreground.  Here is a close up, with three baby gators.

I counted five in the picture above, but you have to look really closely at the foreground to see the babies. Here is a close up, with three baby gators.

It was a gatorpalooza.  Throw in miles of empty beach and more birds than you can throw a stick at and you have one of my favorite campgrounds in our travels.

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IMG_8653The park is right off a main road leading to the highly commercialized Myrtle Beach, which battles with the Panama City, Florida area for the title of Redneck Riviera.  So it was a surprise to find an oasis of alligators and birds, left alone in relative peace.

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There is a causeway leading to the campground, with cars randomly stopped while their occupants take pictures of alligators sunning on a little island a few yards away.

Causeway.

Causeway.

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This fellow was right at the edge of the causeway, about three yards from the road.

This fellow was right at the edge of the causeway, about three yards from the road.

Birders with spotting scopes lined the road, trying to catch site of the eaglets in a nearby nest or photographing the birds fishing, sparring, and courting in the oyster beds and marshes.IMG_9067IMG_9328IMG_9069

The campground was a mix of wooded and open spots with two pathways directly out to a beautiful dog-friendly beach.  IMG_9058

The park was established as a bird and wildlife preserve by Archer and Anna Huntington, a wealthy and somewhat eccentric couple who first came to the island seeking ease for Anna’s tuberculosis.  She was a successful sculptor and he had various interests, including a love of all things Spanish.  The house they built in the 1930s, Atalaya, is open to the public, but is in pretty bad shape.  IMG_8879The park puts on an interesting tour, but the house itself was ugly, dark, damp, and cold.  I couldn’t wait to emerge into the sun again.  IMG_8880The land around Atalaya, however, is lovely and, thanks to the Huntingtons, isn’t covered in water slides and Ruby Tuesdays.

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I spent a lot of time watching alligators and birds.  Their eyes,

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and wings,IMG_8598IMG_8954IMG_9097

Check out the reflection of the bird in the middle.

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and signs of spring.IMG_9004IMG_9009IMG_8483IMG_8622IMG_8969IMG_8607

An Outsider in Charleston

IMG_8256I love exploring new cities, even if only for a few hours.  And that’s what I did in Charleston, South Carolina–a petite bon-bon of a city that is almost a caricature of a mythical South.

We decided to leave Edisto Island a day early because we had a 9 am Monday appointment to get a new trailer tire in Charleston.  We did not want to leave Edisto in the early-morning dark and then contend with Charleston’s congested morning commute, so we booked a Sunday night spot at Charleston’s popular James Island County Park campground, much closer to the tire place.  That gave us an unexpected free Sunday afternoon in Charleston.

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George wanted to take care of some chores, so he and Zoe dropped me off downtown and I had three hours to simply wander around the city before meeting up with the campground’s shuttle bus at 4 pm.  Sunshine, good walking sandals, no agenda, camera in hand–sweet bliss.

The first thing I noticed was churches, lots of them, in a variety of colors and shapes, dominating the streetscapes in every direction and giving Charleston one of its nicknames, “The Holy City.”

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My favorite church, the pink French Huguenot.

My favorite church, the pink French Huguenot.

The young and the dead on a Huguenot tombstone.

The young and the dead on a Huguenot tombstone.

Charleston’s other nicknames are “Chuck Town” and “The Big Sweet Grass Basket.”  Not nicknames that make me want to visit.  But if you want a sweet grass basket—this is the place for you—there were vendors selling them to tourists on every other corner.  The basket stands were outnumbered, however, by the horse (and mule) drawn carriages, bulging with tourists and loud tour guides hawking a little southern charm.

IMG_8190Every time I came to a new street, there was another carriage, hauled by one or two beasties patiently waiting or slowly clip-clopping up the street, adding to the fantasy-like atmosphere of another era.

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Charleston is an old city, founded in the 1600’s at the confluence of two rivers joining the sea.  In the early days, it was unusual in that it welcomed immigrants of all religious persuasions (except Roman Catholics (there has to be some group on the outs)), giving it a rich mix of cultures.  It also welcomed lots and lots of slaves, being a main point of entry for slave ships.

In my meandering walk, I most enjoyed the French Quarter.  It pales in comparison with New Orleans’ French Quarter.  In comparison, Charleston’s is a baby-sized area and so much more polite and restrained.  But the houses were colorful and had a decidedly European feel.

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IMG_8202IMG_8205IMG_8206I had expected Charleston to be a lot like Savannah, but it feels very different.  They both are full of lovely old houses with oak-shaded streets, but Charleston is bounded by rivers and oceans, giving it a more wide-open, oceany feel.

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Charleston’s famous Battery, a defensive wall and promenade, stretches along its waterfront.  I found it awash with tourists—all of whom were people-watching and house-gawking—I was the only freak who seemed to notice the dolphins playing in the water.

IMG_8219The Battery area is flanked by ornate antebellum homes, full of high money and southern manners, but with little privacy from tourists’ prying eyes and lenses.

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This tourist is taking a picture of the house interior.  A common sight in Charleston.

This tourist is taking a close up of this private residence–a common sight in Charleston.

Some creepy statuary.

Some creepy statuary.

This house will keeps the tourists at bay.

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Such a strange southern mix, this city that defied the Union and started the Civil War at Fort Sumter, while also prizing appearance, manners, elite social societies, and debutante balls.

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South Carolina Society Hall motto

South Carolina Society Hall motto

Even the sewer covers are attractive.

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There is little visual record of Charleston’s black residents when walking through the old streets.  But I did stumble on this plaque by the courthouse.

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While Judge Waring’s admirers should be rightly proud of his lone dissent against segregation, they left out the rest of the story, which found the plaintiff Brigg parents losing their jobs, the local Reverend who assisted their efforts surviving a drive-by shooting and the torching of his church, and all of them leaving this staunchly segregationist state.  It’s not a pretty history.

Courthouse, within spitting distance of a church, of course.

Courthouse, within spitting distance of a church, of course.

I also learned that Charleston had a significant earthquake in 1886, between a 6.6 and 7.3 on the Richter Scale—a surprise to me.

Confederate Veterans Home damaged by the earthquake

Confederate Veterans Home damaged by the earthquake

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I walked up and down streets.

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Notice the horse and carriage reflected in the window. Inescapable.

IMG_8189IMG_8188IMG_8269IMG_8270IMG_8257I wound my way back to the Visitors Center to pick up the shuttle and ran into the John Calhoun statue.  Most statues are at a reasonable visual level.  Not this one.  This staunch defender of slavery is raised to a godlike height, staring down at us mere (northern) mortals with a disapproving scowl. IMG_8273IMG_8277

I couldn't make out any details of the statue except through the telephoto lens.

I couldn’t make out any details of the statue except through the telephoto lens.

Tents were going up in Marion Square for Charleston’s fashion week, balloons escaped above, and little piggies sparkled.

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People are Strange

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Strange?  Not so much, they were riding for charity.

We spent a few memorable days on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, with odd encounters and over-the-top glorious warm, sunny weather.  We stayed at a private RV park on the waterway, where each site is individually owned and decorated.  You cannot reserve sites in advance, but we knew that we might be able to snag a waterfront site because we were arriving on a Sunday morning, when many people were leaving.  We arrived fairly early for check-in and found limited available waterfront sites due to dock construction.  But, fortunately, one lovely site right on the water had just opened up and we grabbed it.  Yesssss!!!

After we went through the routine of backing in (a bit difficult because of the large truck parked across the street) and unhooking the trailer, George went to hook up the sewer hose and discovered a charming surprise—a spill from the previous occupant’s black tank.  It was a two-foot wide puddle of sodden disintegrating clumps of toilet paper and crap (literally).  Nooooo!!!

What kind of people leave a dump of sewage behind?  Did they think no one would notice?  It’s bad enough having to act as a roto-rooter for your own sewage in an RV, but having to come face-to-face with someone else’s is downright puke-worthy.  After an initial non-reaction from the woman manning the park’s office, apparently a light dawned—uh-oh raw sewage—and she came running over, immensely apologetic.  Fortunately, another waterfront site had been vacated while we were trying to figure out what to do.  So, we were able to move.  Management also kindly offered us a free night. Things were looking up.

Our personal dock.

Our personal dock.

Shortly after unhitching for a second time at the new site, we were approached by a middle-aged brother and sister, who stopped to ask questions about our trailer.  The woman cornered me by the picnic table with a non-stop, one-sided talk fest.  She pulled up her shirt to show me a rainbow of blue and yellow bruises from broken ribs she sustained in a ping-pong game with her brother (“we’re very competitive, you know”) and then went into graphic detail about the effect the painkillers she received had on her bowels.  I will spare you the details.

All this happened within an hour of arriving at Hilton Head.  Ouch.

The new site, however, was exquisite, with its own dock and a view of the harbor.  We spent most of our time just sitting outside, soaking up the warmth and sun, and looking out over the water.

Our morning breakfast view.

Our morning breakfast view out the window.

The RV park had—let’s say an unusual culture, with lots of people in huge Class As and Fifth Wheels who stay there for the whole winter.  They seemed to think it was beneath them to acknowledge short-timers and were some of the unfriendliest people we have encountered on the trip.  You would think we were sporting buboes.

Dwarfed.

Dwarfed.

It’s fascinating how people enjoy a little snobbery even when they are living in what is, in essence, a trailer park.

A park street.

A park street.

This guy was hanging around.

This guy was hanging around.

Herons were a common theme in site decorations.

Herons were a common theme in site decorations.

Little flags adorned many sites.  St. Patrick's Day themes were popular, not sure what this bunny signified.  Early Easter?

Little flags adorned many sites. St. Patrick’s Day themes were popular, not sure what this bunny signified. Early Easter?

Surprisingly, there was a very good restaurant in the park, over the laundry, looking out on the water.  The food was delicious and inventive—much too good for many of its clientele.

View from our restaurant window.

View from our restaurant window.

We went for dinner at sunset one evening and sat next to a table with three grim, moneyed, older couples.  They insisted on having the blinds drawn, “too bright,” complained that the gumbo was “too seasoned,” and loudly pointed out that “some people think it’s ok to wear baseball caps in restaurants, but not us.”  George, two other men, and a woman (all over 50, but the youngest in the restaurant) apparently were causing great irritation to this man by wearing baseball caps and he felt it was his duty to inform them of their rudeness.  I thought he was rude on several counts, but politely refrained from saying anything.  Perhaps I should have informed Mr. Complainer that his liver-spotted, combed-over head would have been greatly improved by a hat and his vein-popping, crusty ankles by a pair of socks.

Sunset over the dock construction.

Sunset over the dock construction.

Many people adore Hilton Head.  It has gorgeous beaches, top-notch golf courses, lots of shopping, and good restaurants.  But, it was not our style–too much traffic, too many people, too many stores.  I rode my bike all around the island’s bike paths one day and had to continually dodge broken beer bottles, fast-food bags, styrofoam food containers, a dead cat, two dead raccoons, a dead squirrel, and aggressive traffic.

The only photo worth taking on my bike ride.

The only photo worth taking on my bike ride.

I was thrilled to get back to our serene little spot on the water and didn’t venture out again.

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After four days, we left for Edisto Beach State Park.  The weather turned cold, cloudy, and very windy—too cold to really spend any time at the beach.  IMG_8150We stayed at the inland part of the campground, which gave us some protection from the wind, so we enjoyed its trails in a dense, gloomy, Tolkein-like woods, where the trees seemed to have faces. 20150314_093642 One trail led to the remains of a Native shell-mound. IMG_8152IMG_8161

There were lots of families at the Edisto campground over the weekend.  In fact, it was full.  One afternoon, we were puzzled by what sounded like a loud, annoying cell phone ring that didn’t stop.  It turned out to be an ice cream truck weaving through the park.  The seven children at the site next to us were eager customers.  The summer weekend campground season has already begun.      IMG_8176IMG_8139

Hickory Wind — CCC in SC

croppedWe spent only two days in South Carolina after leaving Hunting Island.  We drove inland on back roads through small towns, decades past their prime, now emptying of people and sinking into decay.  We saw gas station after gas station sitting dead, with the last posted price of gas giving a sense as to how long they had been abandoned.  Whole areas looked like the backdrop for The Walking Dead.  It was pretty depressing.

Then, as we approached the outskirts of Aiken, South Carolina, we abruptly entered an oasis of prosperity.  Aiken is thoroughbred horse country, and suddenly there were acres and acres of neatly fenced pastures, state-of-the-art barns and paddocks, and shiny well-muscled horses.  There was, quite obviously, some money residing in Aiken.

Aiken was a storybook fantasy of a gracious southern town, with a picture-perfect downtown of thriving businesses, wide tree-shaded streets, multi-colored, multi-angled old houses, B&Bs, and tiny horse pictures on the street signs.  Scratch under the surface prettiness and dig around a little, who knows what dirt you may find, but, at first view, it was quite lovely.

We were not there to sample Aiken’s charms, however, just passing through.  We stayed at a small campground about fifteen miles out of town, Aiken State Natural Area, which we picked for one reason—it was there—at a convenient stopping point on our route to Georgia.

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The backyard of our Aiken campsite

Zoe approved of the Aiken campground

Zoe approved of the campground

We knew very little about the campground, which can be a nice thing these days.  It’s easy to research a place to death ahead of time, wringing every bit of surprise out of new destinations.  It’s good to be surprised now and then.  And this little campground was a wonderful surprise–it felt like a forest retreat from an earlier era.  It was beautifully designed and built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s.  The CCC was a New Deal public works program for unemployed, unmarried young men on relief, usually on conservation or natural resource-related projects.

Park bridge built by the CCC in Oregon

Small bridge built by the CCC in Sylvan Lake Park in South Dakota’s Black Hills

I have appreciated the CCC’s work since I rode on the Blue Ridge Parkway when I was young and I continue to be amazed by how widespread a mark they left—often with their signature stonework—and how beautifully their work has endured.

Blue Ridge Parkway tunnel--CCC construction

Blue Ridge Parkway tunnel–CCC construction

Did they enjoy the work—those young men—many hauled out to the country from their city homes, working in a military-like environment, and having to send most of their pay home?  I hope so.  And I hope that they had some inkling of how decades later, people like me would marvel at their work and give them a silent thank you for it.  A nice kind of immortality, I think.

The Aiken park headquarter's stairs.  I loved the curved end to the stone rail.

The Aiken park headquarter’s side stairs. I loved the curved end to the stone rail.

Not surprising for the times, I guess, the CCC was segregated and an African-American company created the Aiken State Natural Park.  They did it well.  It is a small park–but thoughtfully designed, beautifully executed, and now immaculately maintained.

Headquarter building fireplace area with chairs and porch overlooking a small lake.

Headquarters fireplace area with chairs and porch overlooking a small lake.

A road circles the park, with several ponds and recreation areas.  There is a small campground, a headquarters building, and canoeing on the Edisto River.

Park road

Park road

The campground also is laid out in a circle, with about twenty-five campsites around the circumference surrounded a grove of enormous pines.  There was no underbrush, just a carpet of pine needles, and a large campfire area with benches and a monster grill.

Campground.  We were the speck of red.

Campground pine grove. We were the speck of red on the left.

While there, we hit a cold snap that caught several groups of tent campers by surprise. They made roaring fires and bundled up.  In the morning, the campground smelled like bacon, wood smoke, and pine—a sweet combination. But I was happy we had our cozy trailer and weren’t having to leave the comfort of warm sleeping bags to emerge to frigid tents and shivering around the fire.  Been there, done that.

The park road was a nice walk, with sassafras and hickory in full color.  When I was young, I used to dig sassafras root for tea—it was my favorite.

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I moved to Alaska soon after sassafras was identified as a carcinogen and sassafras does not grow there, so I stopped drinking it.  In a few more years, I intend to start digging the roots and drinking the tea again.  At some point, you should be too old to have to worry about carcinogens anymore.

Mitten-shaped sassafras leaves.

Sassafras and pine.

Hickory

Hickory

Spanish moss

Spanish moss

There is a little dock on the Edisto River for launching canoes.  The Edisto is a black water river, sluggish, and stained by tannins to a dark coffee color.  The dark color made the tree reflections especially vivid.

The sleepy Edisto

The sleepy Edisto

Blackwater reflections

Blackwater reflections.  Looked like a painting.

Near the dock was an artesian spring overhung by a huge camellia bush in full flower.  Pink camellia petals were strewn all around the moss of the spring.  Just as I wondered about the people who constructed the stonework and buildings of the park, I wondered who it was that had to foresight to plant that camellia.

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IMG_3894Thanks CCC.

 

Princess of Tides — Hunting Island, South Carolina, Part II.

IMG_3477Zoe was bred to be a water dog.  And she is true to her breed, following her nose to any body of water large enough for a swim.  But in Alaska, she mostly swam in fresh water and did not have many opportunities to be an ocean beach bum.  She was blissful during our week on Hunting Island–salty, soggy, and smiling–with twice-daily romps in the waves–often with no one else around.

Hunting Island-117We all spent most of our time on the beach.  It was about four miles long and wasn’t just an ordinary stretch of sand.  The more we walked, the more we discovered.  The campground was near the north end of the beach and a walk to the north often meant solitude.

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Looking north at low tide.  Just Zoe.

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Curve where north end meets the estuary

After about half a mile the beach ends, curving around into the tidal estuary.  There were lots of shells, and some sand dollars and sharks’ teeth.  We saw a few horseshoe crabs, which intrigued Zoe.

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You can see the crab legs working--a push up and forward, then hunker down.

These prehistoric-looking crabs move ponderously.  The legs push the shell up, stalky eyes peer ahead, it scoots forward a bit, then hunkers down, to slowly repeat the process.

Where the campground abutted the beach, there often were several people shore casting and they were actually catching fish.  So were the dolphins, which trolled back and forth offshore, accompanied by gulls, in what looked like fertile fishing grounds.

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A redfish. I was told it was too big to keep because it’s spawning size.

Heading south on the beach, there was a sandy expanse inshore with a minnow-rich marsh pond, a resident egret, scores of crabs, and deer and raccoon tracks crisscrossing the sand.

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But the most intriguing part of the beach was the drowned forest, where the sea has encroached on the trees, leaving a ghostly landscape of the skeletons of palms, pines, and hardwoods surrounded by sand and water.

Hunting Island-103Hunting Island-115Hunting Island-120Hunting Island-116Hunting Island-406Except at full low tide, it was difficult to round the point of live trees bordering the drowned forest, so we would take a path through the woods to get to the next part of the beach.

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The path’s tall trees were full of woodpeckers and one day while watching the birds, I startled two good-sized beetles rolling a dog turd down the center of the path, trying to navigate the roots. I felt like I was watching a Nature Channel show on African dung beetles.

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It was utterly fascinating.  They worked together quite effectively and had gnats hitchhiking on their backs, apparently waiting for their turn at the table.  We found that quite a few people at Hunting Island did not clean up after their dogs.  A shame, but, in this case, it made some beetles and gnats very happy.

The path was short, leading back to the beach and the Hunting Island lighthouse.  A black and white beauty–it’s open to the public for a bargain price of $2.00.

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IMG_3548During the week we were there, the caretakers were trying to kill wasps that had nested on the top near the light.  As we ascended the steps the smell of insecticide got stronger and the surviving wasps were still swarming around the outside walkway at the top.  It made the trip up a little extra exciting.  George ran up and down the nine flights of steps for exercise several times during the week.
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Window almost at the top

Window view — almost to the top

Spectacular views from the top

Above the trees at the top

Emerging from the lighthouse area, there are many more miles of beach, strung right along the dense palm and pine forest.  It was just stunning.

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Sandcastle on walk headed south

Sandcastle on walk headed south

And an hour later on the way back

And an hour later on the way back almost erased by the tide

We never made it all the way to the southern end of the beach.

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Sunrise

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Low tide, high tide, it’s all good to Zoe.

Lowcountry Boiled

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Several hours of driving South Carolina’s spine-jarring, pot-holed Interstate 95 brought us to another world.  In those hours, we went from North Carolina’s crowded Wilmington coast–much of which looked like any other suburban part of the country–to Hunting Island, a state park in a unique and relatively unspoiled area of South Carolina’s Lowcountry.  It is a place heavy with history, beauty, and humidity.

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After leaving the interstate, we passed through lovely Beaufort, South Carolina (a worthy destination itself).  We drove on through salt marshes, golden with cordgrass, and sandy pine barrens and farmland on St. Helena Island until we came to a very narrow bridge to Hunting Island.  St. Helena does not allow gated communities or condominium developments and generally has maintained its rural feel, with small farms, lots of trailers and rickety houses, shrimp boats, and some funky tourist shops and restaurants.

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I cannot do justice to the area’s unique history in a short blog post.  But, to give a few highlights, it was a popular stop-over for pirates, the descendants of its plantation slaves developed a unique and rich Gullah culture, and it’s where Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his “I have a dream” speech.

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Hunting Island and Fripp Island are the yin and yang outer barrier islands.  Hunting is a state park with a campground on miles of undeveloped beach and neighboring Fripp is a gated resort community.  They serve different demographics, but the ebb and flow of sand and water on each island is affected by what is done on the other.

Hunting Island’s state park is the state’s most popular and we had to book our campground reservations months in advance.  Nevertheless, we were surprised at the line for check in, a first on this trip.  The park was fully booked, even during the week in October.

There was a southern coast T@B gathering while we were there

There was a southern coast T@B gathering while we were there

The roads in the campground are notorious for their narrowness and tight turns through trees, but the turns were overshadowed by the sight of an enormous spider web spanning the road overhead with a large (three to four inches across) yellow spider sitting in the middle waiting for her prey.  She was impressive.  We settled into our jungle-like site and were promptly attacked by swarms of pesky little gnats.

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Our first days were buggy and humid, humid, humid.  It was the type of humidity that makes you feel sticky just sitting at the computer.  Hot, humid, and buggy—we were not in Alaska anymore.  But, as in Alaska, the seafood was extraordinary.  We hit the local fish market, Gay’s, and brought home fresh local shrimp, scallops, and mahi.  The roadside farm market was next, where we bought tomatoes, squash, purple sweet potatoes and a Gullah melon for what, to us, was the amazingly low price of $8.00.  The sweet potatoes ended up hatching insects and I’m not sure what was “Gullah” about the watermelon, but it was delicious.

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We also bought some little handmade sweet grass baskets from a woman selling them in her front yard.  She said her grandchildren helped make them.  They smelled like fields of ripe grass.

We saw egrets, dolphins, deer, an alligator, and a vast mudscape of crabs along the marsh boardwalk.

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Marsh boardwalk

Marsh boardwalk, first section

Marsh boardwalk, second section, the mud on the right was the crab neighborhood

Marsh boardwalk, second section, the mud on the right was the crab neighborhood

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A little guy on the rim of his mud hole

Hunting Island-511There were some downsides.  The campground was beautiful and lush, but badly in need of a clean up.  Our campsite was covered with cigarette butts and the previous residents cleaned up after their dog but then left the bag in the fire ring.  Lovely present.

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There were some grim, worn-out looking people at the campground who had a “don’t mess with me” edge to them.  One couple had a “Confederate Parking Only—If you don’t like it, go back North” sign at their campground, flew a large confederate flag, sported a car plastered with inflammatory bumper stickers, and had two abused-looking dogs barking at the end of short leashes as if they wanted to devour every passerby. Our across-the-road neighbor treated George to a jacked-up tirade about what is wrong with this country, which was mostly a litany of things that he passionately despised.  In passing by, I interjected that his view of the Constitution was not exactly accurate (I couldn’t help myself). I imagine that I added a new category to his list of things to despise—uppity Alaskan women.

Sun filtering through the leaves and woodsmoke

Sun filtering through the leaves and woodsmoke

There were some funny aspects to the campground, too.  Drinking was supposedly prohibited, but the gift shop offered at least a dozen different types of shot glasses.  And one night we heard our neighbor, an elderly guy with a booming voice, telling stories at the campfire, one of which ended with, “and then he lit a fire in the fireplace and the snakes came out and got him.”  I wish I had heard the rest of the story.

By far the best part of Hunting Island, however, was the glorious beach—miles and miles of it.  But that will have to wait until the next post.

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