We left home at 8:15 for a few days at the beach. Our goal was Hunting Island State Park near Beaufort SC. It was not raining but there was thick fog hanging in the mountains as we crossed Sam’s Gap. We drove through some rain showers off and on as we passed on across to Spartanburg and Columbia.
We turned north up Interstate 77 at Columbia to make a quick lunch stop at Congaree National Park. It was one of those parks that you always saw on the map and said “we need to go there someday and get their stamp in our passport book!” Well today was the day! It was maybe 15 miles out of the way but we crossed it off the list! A huge pine and cypress forest and sometimes swamp along the Congaree River. We ate a picnic and browsed through the exhibits in the visitor center. Since the mosquitoes were at level 5 on their 1-6 meter we skipped a hike on the raised boardwalks!
Back in the Sprinter we continued on back roads to Orangeburg to rejoin the Interstate and head south towards our destination. There were many crops ready for harvest including many cotton fields.
We reached Hunting Island about 4:00 and found our campsite. We had read the internet map wrong when we selected the site and we were a bit further from the beach than we had planned but it is a less than 5 minute walk. We could have moved closer but would have had to move on Thursday for someone who had a reservation for next weekend so we just stayed where we were. We have the correct sites circled on the camp map for next time. Almost all the sites have water and electric and are well separated with brush and trees. There is one row of sites right next to the sand dunes that do not have power but remainder are all serviced sites. There are 200 campsites but it seems much smaller as they are really spreadout. We had a quick hot roast beef and mashed potatoes supper before we begin our week of eating seafood.
We woke up to rain – not much but a little. It was a very windy day - blowing the rain out within an hour. Jane walked to the beach and watched the rather rough surf for a while. We enjoyed doing a lot of nothing until lunchtime.
After arranging our evening with Jane’s cousin on nearby Fripp Island, we set out to explore St. Helena Island. We drove past several of the original plantation homes and saw a huge vegetable farm. There was not much growing right now but there were huge trucks, buses for migrant workers, and huge empty fields. We visited Fort Fremont which is now only a ruin. It was built in 1899 to protect Port Royal Sound. Across the sound is Parris Island which we may or may not have time to visit later in the week.
We attempted to visit Penn Center which is a center dedicated to preservation of the Gullah Geechee culture. It is the site of the first school for black freed slaves in the country. It was 3:30 and the Center closed at 4:00 so we plan to go back another day. We found a hardware store back on Lady’s Island to buy a plug that Ben had forgotten. We got back to camp just in time to clean up and head across the bridge to Fripp Island and a visit with Jane’s cousin. During childhood the two cousins along with two other cousins spent a couple weeks every summer visiting grandparents in Kellogg Iowa. It had been a number of years since visiting in person so a great visit was enjoyed. True to our seafood promise – we had shrimp! Mmmmm Good!!!
A good night’s sleep again – and we woke up to clearer skies. We headed over to the beach and spent an hour or more just walking. Much calmer surf since the wind was down. It seems there is a sand bar that is stopping the shells – almost nothing on the beach to collect. After some middle of the day reading and resting, we ate lunch and headed out for a bit more exploring.
We visited Penn Center. It did indeed have an impact on the education of the freed slaves living on the Sea Islands . It began in 1862 even before emancipation. Half days were spent in educational courses and the other half day spent in occupational classes. Some of the students lived at the school and others attended the classes daytime only. The center closed in the 1940’s as a school but has remained a vital part of the black culture. Martin Luther King wrote part of his “I have a dream” speech here. Today the location serves as a meeting site, a museum, and helps blacks in the area understand their land rights and helps with passing on the Gullah Geechee culture. In 1976 it became a National Historic Landmark.
We drove back into Beaufort and visited several art galleries. We are both always looking for new ideas for casting metals or beading. As we drove back to Hunting Island we stopped at one of several seafood shops and bought some shrimp for dinner and some bait for Ben’s fishing.
We had Shrimp Creole tonight and it was very good. I used a mix from Zatarain – all I needed was a can of tomato sauce, the shrimp and rice. Not sure about the TV reception – we are watching a series of Jessee Stone movies that we brought on a hard drive. The phone reception is spotty – it will be a few bars 3G and then it will be 1 bar E. Jane the usual blogger is quite lazy and not making the trek to the camp store to get WIFI to post! In fact has not even written posts – is doing them all on 20th while Ben is fishing.
Ben had a long talk with the ranger as he was setting up traps to catch a raccoon. He has been bothering neighboring campers – evidently he sets the traps and catches him with peanut butter and honey. Then the ranger takes him away to another area of the park. Of course the raccoon eventually comes back but usually not until the complaining camper is gone! We got up and had breakfast – the bad thing this morning was the coffee pot failed. We have had this pot probably 10+ years – amazing it has worked this long…but it is going to be tough to find one that is basic and fits in the space allotted in the sprinter!
We bought a cup of coffee in the campstore as we headed out for our day of adventure for Ben. He first took the kayak out for about an hour of fishing and exploring in the salt march from the north end of the island. He had fun but caught nothing. We ate lunch at the Nature Center and then Ben spent about 2 hours crabbing and fishing along the inlet between Hunting and Fripp islands. The huge excitement during this time was the dolphins that were playing in the water about 100 feet out in the water. They were fun to watch but did not get a good photo.
What did Jane do? Read a book, catch up on email and facebook since there was 5 bar 3G on this end of the island! And Jane finally wrote the blog entries for this week.
After washing all the bug spray and sand away we headed out to find a coffee pot and eat seafood in a restaurant tonight! The Beaufort Wal-Mart was all the way across town – 17 miles – on the Hilton Head and Parris Island side of town. Thinking we might have problems finding a coffee pot that would fit in our space we wanted to go to Wal-Mart where there would be a variety. We were able to find one without all the bells and whistles that fit in the space! And only $9.99 – wonder how long it will last?
We came back across Beaufort and ate dinner at the Dockside Restaurant. It was very good. We give high marks to the Crab Cakes, Potato Crusted Grouper, She Crab Soup, and the salads and sides. With a nice view of the marsh and bay it was a very pleasant meal. We still prefer Maryland Crab Cakes but these were very good.
Another Jessee Stone film and off to sleep! Jane is reading a trilogy of books by Heather Graham set in Key West. They are historical fiction with a touch of ghost culture and beach settings. They are OK and do hold your interest. Finished book two so should finish the third by the time we get home! My goals for tomorrow are to get the blog posted and read….can’t do much real work on our last beach day!
Glad this finally got posted - will probably do the remainder when we get home!