Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Botany Bay Plantation

The Botany Bay Plantation is a gift and a treasure. 

 You FEEL the magic as you pass down two miles of canopied road to the entrance.  As new visitors we are given strict and careful guidance from the volunteer staff.  Watching their faces, it is clear we are entering a special place, a place to be cherished and protected. 

Our volunteer hosts -- good cop, bad cop

Botany Bay joins two plantations on the Atlantic coast of  Edisto Island, nearly 5000 acres now managed as a game management area. Traditional feed crops and woodlands are cultivated ultimately for the wildlife. The rest of us are permitted to visit for no fee, but warned to take nothing home.  They are quite serious about this...

Few of the original plantation buildings survive. This was the Ice House where slabs of ice cut from New England ponds arrived by tall ship and were stored below the floor in spaces insulated by sawdust.

 The attraction, of course, is the wildlife, and, even at high noon on a windy day, songbirds were everywhere.  Eagles swung overhead near Jason's Pond, turkeys were strutting along the edges of fields. Crops of sunflowers, millet and other low country crops enliven the plantation during the summer and provide cover and food year round.

The plantation protects over a mile of seacoast in its natural state. This section is eroding quickly and the sand is littered with a ghost forest of palms and hardwoods. 

The waves that lick around them bring in a variety of shells that would quickly be bagged by tourists anywhere else.  Here they stay, although some are arranged artistically by passersby.

Botany Bay is the kind of place we would like to visit again and again, in different light, in different seasons.  We will be back.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Edisto Beach

The long, beautiful Low Country road to Edisto Beach is a National Scenic Byway. It is a relief and a reward after a hundred miles of I-95. There are timberlands and marshes, canopied roads and crossroads stores, flocks of birds and a decorated tree --WHAT?

Somehow, I had imagined the State Park at the beach would be isolated, but we found a well developed beach community with grocery, an assortment of eateries and the requisite beach amenities -- ice creamery, bike rental and BarBQue. (This is South Carolina!) 

The campground is snug in a copse of Palms just over the dunes from the surf.  We needed that wind break last night as the offshore storm hit us with 25-30 mph winds. The Airstreams were rocking; not an awning deployed anywhere.




The Lettered Olive

 When my family visited Florida sixty plus years ago, the beaches near St Petersburg were literally crawling with live shells.  Left Handed Whelks crossed the flats at low tide in platoons;  It took no real skill to find, bucket, boil and bag far more live organisms than anyone had any right to.  We were rapacious city-bred hunter-gathers without a hint of conscience,  long before Rachael Carson was in paperback.

I remember one young boy who had "the gift".  He could locate, and dig out the beautiful Lettered Olive shells at a whim. He would proudly display them, then toss them back into the surf.  He would not disclose his techniques to me or the pretty young things assembled nearby.  I doubt this was from any well developed conservation ethic;  I will always remember him as the archetypal Mean Kid.

This story is a`propos of nothing.  My lovely beachcombing buddy this morning harms nothing and, though severely provoked, hasn't done anything mean in her life. 

 We collected a few Lettered Olives from among the windrows of mostly oyster shells along the Edisto beach.  They are "weathered" like us, but still have their style and grace, like she does.  She will abandon them near the pathways to the beach, easy pickins for the little ones entering from the campground.  Tomorrow we will visit a more private place which promises good shelling and prohibits collecting anything but photos.  

That is a lot of progress in sixty plus years.  Thank you, Ms Carson...

So....Tonight...28mph... going to 34 degrees  ...that's a wind chill of twenty!!!  Welcome to SPRING BREAK AT THE BEACH...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Fort McAllister State Park Georgia

Towing on a rare good weather day wasn't our idea, but if it had not been so sunny we might not have stopped for a glimpse of the Marshes of Glynn. If we had not stopped, we might not have met Lulu. 

This is Lulu.  She and her humans are transcontinental travelers rocking a two wheel drive Ural motorcycle.  The sidecar is Lulu's.  "A small house with a very large backyard" Visit this delightful trio here. (and brush up on your French.)

The Fort is WAY out in the marsh guarding the approaches to Savannah via the Ogeechee River.  The campground is even further out on Savage Island. The Fort was named for the owner of the plantation on which it sits.  Savage Island reportedly was named for the Sand Gnats which still thrive here and were more responsible for holding the Union fleet at bay than the Big guns at the fort.

When breezes blow, the "no-see-mus" are tolerable.  They seem selective about who they attack, and when.  Bend over with both hands full and you are dinner. 

 Patty likes the campground.
 "Nearly everyone  waves." (or perhaps they are just swatting)

The reconstruction of the battlements and "bombproof" bunkers was excellent.  We've come to expect quality from Georgia Parks, especially if
a quantity of big timbers is required.  

We sat in a breezy spot and talked with Tally Kirkland whose Civil War knowledge is encyclopedic and delivered with warmth and wit. 

Tally Kirkland

On our last day, we biked West off the island and wandered among the residential neighborhoods.  On the verge of the marshes, tall pines loosed clouds of yellow pollen. We paused to pet puppies, again to take a phone call and once again to remove a 3 inch nail from Al's rear wheel.  Remember, "bent over, two hands filled with tools"?  Oh yes, fixing that flat was torment, but lovely wife shooed off the bigger bugs and in the process sacrificed a quantity of her precious bodily fluids to the skeeters.

 You might think that Patty is admiring the real estate, but No.  It's the beautiful Live Oaks again...

Glooms of live-oaks, beautiful-braided 
          Emerald twilights,--
          Virginal Shy lights

Affable live-oak, leaning low

Emerald twilights,-- Virginal shy lights,

Affable live-oak, leaning low,--

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Crooked River State Park Georgia

    And a Perfect Day On Cumberland Island



 It is day two in a lovely state park near St Marys Georgia.  Rivers here drain the Okefenokee Swamp  and offshore is Georgia's largest and most natural barrier island Cumberland Island NS.

But the weather is routinely cold and dreary and the ferry to the island either closed or booked solid.  The visitation to the Island is limited to 300 per day.  We prowl around disconsolately, visiting the beautiful trees of St Mary's and their attendant churches, learning procedures for getting a standby ferry passage.

Then today, day three....foggy morning ...WAIT FOR IT...we load our packs... appear promptly to sign in for standby..."come back in 30 minutes" 

....SUN BREAKS THROUGH, A WHOLE BUS CANCELS and we are on board a half filled ferry for the start of a perfect day. 


 Sun is shining, a slight breeze,  bugs seem to have forgotten about us. Our ranger guide is Rene No, who has lived on island for 32 years, since the first days of the National Seashore.
  Her "little talk" was as thorough and richly detailed as any we have ever heard. We all wanted to give a standing O, but we were already standing and walking all over the Dungeness end of the Island.

We did the day visitors crawl -- down to the ruins of Dungeness, picnic under the live oaks, walk over the dunes and a mile down the shore toward the Seacamp dock where the late afternoon ferry will hustle us back to St Marys.  There really isn't time to do more unless we choose to camp under the enchanted tangle of wind twisted oaks of the island campground.

Norman and Sheila have been coming south to camp here for thirteen years.  We watched as their provisions for a week and essential camping gear were carted aboard and enjoyed hearing of their experiences. Later we found them "at home";  we talked until we had to force march across the island to make the ferry connection home.  Only then did we appreciate how far they were required to cart their gear.  We wished we were going to enjoy the quiet evening with them and the sight of the full moon glowing through the Spanish Moss.

We both admitted being tired on the ride back on the Cumberland Queen.  The sun was sinking slowly across the marsh while we quaffed lager at Lang's Seafood and downed some lightly breaded flounder.  It was a Perfect day, well worth waiting for.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

There are no words..

We are buying sympathy cards today -- actually Patty is,  I doubt there are the words.  

Two funerals today, one for an Airstream friend we never actually met and another for the husband of a childhood friend I first met when she was toddling around in snowsuits.  Both Irishmen who lived full lives, found happiness with strong women they dearly loved and died within hailing distance of the feast of St Patrick.

Patty was checking out with her chosen cards.  Connie, the checker, read each.

"TWO cards," she questioned, and then broke into sobbing. 

"I lost my son a month ago."

Patty had no words, and said so.  "I just can't imagine..."

"You know," she continued after both had eased their tears, "You are the first person who hasn't given me advice..."

In the last week I've read nearly a thousand messages to our Airstream friend Maggie, all trying to comfort and encourage and offer assistance.  All have been sincere and many eloquent.  Maggie has accepted all graciously, but ultimately words fail.

Sandy's big hearted Irish guy will be sent on his way with a huge rambunctious wake.  He financed it himself years ago and appointed planners he knew would follow through. 

Maggie's Doug will be buried from a historic old Moravian church in Iowa.  I imagine it will be quiet.  There will be words,  with strong families gathered near, but in the end there will be tears and the memories that will live silently in our hearts.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Withlacoochee State Bike Trail


THANKS to Dave & Eileen, our genial hosts and first class guides, all our Citrus County adventurers were scheduled for the perfect time and most salubrious weather. For Biking, they chose the Withlacoochee trail, one of Florida's long, smooth Rail/trails. Of course, we rode the premier section South from the quaint town of Floral City. 

Just part of the mural on the Bike Store

The highway noise faded and we found ourselves amid small ranches and lakes with glimpses of beautiful canopied roads.

Canopied roads are tempting...

Following our friends' routine, we laid out a day (and ATE PIE) but we returned to bike the same section on Sunday.  There WAS more traffic, but it was our LAST day. The winds were up and actually turned us around when a blown down tree blocked our path.  That may explain why the traffic was lighter.

Around Floral City, the motorcycles were flooding into The Shamrock for St Patty's festivities. and Aunt Martha was most gentle in breaking the news that the Strawberries were sold out. 

Well, maybe not strawberries...

Amid honey and preserves, boiled peanuts and a free book exchange,  Aunt Martha sells produce with the gentility and grace we should all try to master.