Our Second Home

Walterboro, SC – September, 2016 After leaving Pennsylvania we made a beeline for our property in South Carolina. We were looking forward to taking it easy for a couple weeks, catching up on maintenance on our trailer and truck, and saving a little money.

We had enjoyed our 3,000 mile trek up north and had done a pretty good job of staying on budget. I had expected we might go over on fuel but despite the inclusion of $74 in tolls in this category (mostly in Ohio and Pennsylvania) we came in very close to our $400 per month allowance. Staying on our lot and close to home for a couple weeks would keep it that way.

We had gotten a break from those summer days in excess of 100 degrees and relished a few cool, fall like days. But the temps were higher than average up north for most of the trip and therefore higher than we expected. In general this was good news but it did keep us from taking advantage of boondocking opportunities. We rarely compromise on having air conditioning when night time temps are over 75 degrees. You really can’t put a price on a good night’s sleep and we need AC to get one.

It was pretty easy to find sites close to our budget in Wisconsin and Michigan but when we hit New York and Pennsylvania it was mayhem. So by the time we got to SC we were about $400 over budget on camping fees for the summer. A couple weeks on our own land would get us back on budget, well almost.

We were also excited to see how the lot had fared; how overgrown it had become and if our new plantings had survived. When we arrived it was a little overgrown but not nearly as bad as we had imagined it might be.

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There was some brush as high as our waists but it only took about 30 minutes to clear the drive so we could move back into the woods. And by the end of the day it was almost back to the way we had left it. The hostas I planted had all survived and about half of the azaleas did although none of them had grown significantly.

When I walked back into the woods to retrieve some tools I almost face planted smack into this fellow.

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He was the biggest, most terrifying looking spider I’ve ever seen with the exception of tarantulas. He was huge, as big as my hand. Thank god I stopped just short of running into him or you would be reading my obituary right now because I know I would have died!

Meanwhile Jim is wondering where his loppers are and I’m running for my camera. He was beautiful in his own disturbing way. We didn’t kill him, just skirted him the rest of the day. The next day he had moved which didn’t put me at ease. Where the heck was he now?!

Let’s just say I moved pretty carefully through any previously untraveled parts of the property after that. Good thing we hadn’t planned to do a lot of yard work ’cause I wouldn’t have been much help. I did see one more just like him during our stay but not nearly as large.

This seems like a good time to introduce you to the nearest town to the property, our adopted second home. Walterboro, South Carolina is the county seat of Colleton County. It is a charming place.

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The downtown is vibrant and active. I love this old bank that is now a café and a Christmas themed store all year. There are also many excellent antique stores.

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The courthouse was built in 1822.

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This was the town’s first jail. They built a water tower with three cells in the bottom.

It was replaced with this striking looking jail in 1855 which currently houses some county offices.

This is my favorite building in town, the county library. I was able to get a library card and have taken advantage of their extensive DVD collection, generally good wifi, and occasionally even borrowed a book. They also have many great tools I can access online like free Mango language lessons and, of course, eBooks I can download to my electronic devices.

When you are in a new area for any length of time it is always worth asking if you can get a library card. Like my momma was fond of saying “it never hurts to ask, all they can say is no.” Every library system has different requirements and some you can simply say you are new in town and give them the campground’s address as your own. I currently have 3 library cards and can use their on line tools and eBook collections no matter where I am in the country.

Walterboro has some nice hiking trails through a bayou they call the Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary.

We enjoyed afternoon strolls along the boardwalks. We made the mistake of stopping by early one morning and were run out by the mosquitos. We always hoped to see an alligator but only saw lots and lots of lizards.

Walterboro is a great little town and well worth a visit. If you ever find yourself passing by on I-95 consider stopping for a couple hours or even a few days. Both the downtown and the wildlife sanctuary are a short drive from the highway and would make a nice break during a long drive. Or there is a good campground at exit 53 called New Green Acres that we stayed at several times before we were able to park on our property. They charge $28 for a full hookup site.

The Chatooga

Long Creek, SC – May, 2016 The Chatooga River is in the very northwest corner of South Carolina. In fact, the river is the state line between SC and Georgia for a good ways. It is in the foothills of the southern Appalachian Mountains and is considered South Carolina’s high country. The hilly landscape was a welcome change after a couple months circling the relatively flat areas around our property which they call the lowcountry.

This river drops dramatically and has many class 3 and 4 falls. We really wanted to kayak it but decided to wait until our next visit as the water could be better if it was a little higher. We also agreed we would probably do it in rented kayaks. The reason we came to this conclusion is twofold. Their inflatable kayaks are perfect for these falls and they are lighter to carry. Most of the put ins and take outs on this river are a quarter mile walk. There is no way we are hauling our heavy plastic kayaks a quarter mile.

Instead we visited all the access points we could reach. The river is most accessible where Highway 76 goes over it. Here the quarter mile path to the river is paved. There is a short spur where you can view a beautiful class 4 falls called Bull Sluice.

If we do float section 3 someday this will be the only class 4 we will face and it is right before the takeout. Apparently you can port around it on the other side of the river if you are not up to it. That’s probably what I would do, although if their boats handle the class 3’s upriver as well as they claim maybe I’ll have enough confidence to tackle this one when the time comes.

Our favorite spot on the river was Woodall Shoals. It was an easy drive on back roads from our campground. The path down to the river was not paved and in fact was a little confusing until you learned your way around. But the reward for the short walk was outstanding. When you reach the bottom you have to scramble over these cool rocks to get to an awesome swimming spot just above them.

Or you could hang out on the left end of them in the shallows and watch the entertainment.

We enjoyed Woodall Shoals so much we went there to swim and watch people run the rapid every afternoon of our stay.

This area is known for its many, many waterfalls. There are road signs everywhere that say such and such falls this way or that. The only problem is they don’t tell you how far you might be driving to reach them or what kind of trail you might have to navigate to see them. After some research we discovered quite a few require a strenuous hike of several miles. We visited Issaqueenna Falls because we read you can easily see it from an overlook after a short walk. We discovered that foliage has grown up there and completely blocks the view of the falls. The best view we managed was this behind the falls view of is first drop.

Its frustrating knowing there is a gorgeous 100 foot fall right in front of you and you can’t see it. At the same park though is a very cool tunnel that was well worth the visit. I love the tree roots in this pic.

Stumphouse Tunnel is 1600 feet deep. It was dug pre civil war as a train tunnel. The mountain proved too hard and when the railroad ran out of money they gave up on the project. You can apparently walk in about halfway before a gate stops further progress. But if you want to do that bring your rubber boots.

An easy waterfall to visit is Chau Ram.

It is the centerpiece of a county park.

One morning we headed over the state line to Georgia to explore the Tallulah Gorge State Park. It is a beautiful place that is worth a visit if you are in the area. We made about a two mile hike that included over 600 stairs. Here is the path down and the bridge that crossed the gorge.

When you get there the views aren’t really that spectacular. Here is the view straight down from the bridge.

We enjoyed the walk but the best views are from the easily accessible viewpoints near the visitor center. Like this one of L’Eau d’Or, French for “water of gold.”

It wasn’t easy finding a campground in this area. We finally found one that wasn’t on any of our camping apps. The Chatooga River Resort and Campground has some hotel rooms, a large tent camping area, and 8 RV sites with water and electric but no dump station for $38 per night.

We got site 5 which is the only one that was available all 4 nights we were there. It was extremely unlevel and we ended up using all our leveling blocks, a 6×6 we keep in the truck, and some landscaping blocks someone left in the site and we still weren’t as level as we would have liked. We would go back as long as we could get site 6 or 8 next time.

The campground was a short drive from a winery and a distillery. The Chatooga Belle Farm had a neat store and was a popular lunch spot by the looks of the crowd. They charge $5 for wine tastings so I didn’t bother since their price for bottled wine was twice what I would have considered paying.

The farm’s distillery had their grand opening while we were there. I don’t know if they will always be that generous with their free samples or if it was just a grand opening thing. But they gave you about 5 shots at the bar and then had little shots of mixed drinks made with their moonshine as well.

Jim owns a still with one of his buddies so he enjoyed getting to look at their equipment and talk to them about their process. They had a big deck off the back and a bluegrass band was playing both Friday and Saturday afternoon.

We really loved this area and only saw a small fraction of what we wanted to. We added it to the growing list of places we hope to spend a month or possibly a whole season in some day.

Charleston

Charleston, SC May, 2016 What a lovely city! We chose to visit for three days. I’m sure we could stay three months and not get bored.

We ventured out to North Charleston our first afternoon to search out a farmers market with live music. It turned out to be rather small but had everything we wanted and the performer was good. After checking out all the vendors and choosing some fresh vegetables, we still had plenty of time to spare so we set off to see what else the area had to offer.

We drove through their historic downtown, which looks like it is worth a stop on a future visit, and made our way to Riverfront Park. It’s a big, wonderful park with lots of beautiful art.

It also contains the Greater Charleston Naval Base Memorial. This is an excellent memorial that recounts the history of the Charleston Navy Yard that operated here from 1901 to 1996. They had several nice bronze statues. The one in the front is “The Lone Soldier”.

My father was stationed here aboard the USS Adams in the mid 1960’s and both my older brothers were born here. So I found it especially interesting.

The next morning we were raring to go visit downtown Charleston. I suspected parking downtown could be a nightmare in our monster truck, so the plan was to get there early on a weekday, scope it out, and hopefully snag some free on-street parking. The plan turned out to be a good one.

We were downtown about 8am. As suspected many streets were extremely tight. The parking garages we saw had clearances between 6 and 7 feet (our truck is exactly 7 foot tall and we wouldn’t chance a garage that didn’t have at least 7 ½ foot clearance). But we easily found street parking with a 2 hour limit at White Point Garden at that time of day.

This park was at the top of my must-see list. My family visited Charleston when I was a couple years old. Here’s me on my first visit to this park.

And me on our most recent visit.

I have a picture of myself, my brothers, and our cousins lined up on the larger cannon in the right of this photo. So even though I don’t remember that visit, the pictures are part of family lore, and it was a nice place to visit and get some perspective. We then set off to see as much of the downtown as we could in two hours.

We were blown away by all the beautiful homes.

And the amazing architectural details.

I loved peeking into the gardens.

But the churches were the most impressive.

The Circular Congregational Church on Meeting Street was my favorite.

It is also a cemetery and the graves are crowded into every available space, even right up against the building all the way around it.

Waterfront Park with its iconic pineapple fountain was a must stop.

Then we walked back to the truck along the waterfront. We didn’t manage to make it back downtown during this visit as we had planned but I know we’ll be back here again and again over the years. We will likely take a cab or public transit downtown if we ever visit on a busy weekend. They also have lots of metered street parking that didn’t appear to take a credit card. So if we came armed with enough quarters we might find a spot to park eventually.

We chose to go to Folly Beach on Saturday. I felt like we got a late start, arriving on the island about 11 am. All the parking lots downtown were pretty close to full. I was expecting to pay for parking but shocked that one lot was actually charging $20. The town also has small lots beside many of their beach accesses that charge $10 but we didn’t fit in their spaces. There is a lot of free on street parking as well but the only spaces we found would have required quite a walk to get to an access. We finally made our way to the county park at the south end of the island and if we go again we’d head straight there. It was $10 to enter put had spacious parking and good beach access.

We spent a pleasant couple of hours sunning and people watching. Even on 85 degree days those cool ocean breezes make it impossible for me to enjoy a dip. I’ve only immersed myself one time this spring, and that was after a morning jog. After a walk on the beach we headed back to camp.

Thank goodness we hadn’t gotten there any later. The line of traffic to get on to the island was now literally 5 miles long. Though traffic was heavy when we got there, it was never at a standstill.

We loved the campground we chose for our visit. Lake Aire RV Park was an easy 15 mile drive all the way to the downtown waterfront, but it felt very remote. It was $28 per night for full hookups with our Passport America discount. It had a large pond with a few of these adorable looking ducks. This mommy had 10 ducklings.

Edisto Beach State Park

Edisto Beach, SC – April, 2016 After our chilly weekend at Myrtle Beach a few weeks ago we were watching and waiting for some decent beach weather. Just as the weather was improving, we saw a 3 night opening at Edisto Beach State Park’s beach campground. When we stayed here last fall we had to stay in their Live Oak campground, a half mile up the highway from the beach. We really wanted to return but stay in one of the 75 beach side sites. Edisto Beach State Park is only 50 miles from our property so it was mucho convenient.

Our site, number 58, backed up to the marsh that fills up with water at high tide. The site was near the limit of what we are willing to pay for a campsite. It averaged $58 per night after all fees and had water and electric. But you cannot beat the convenience of walking past a couple rows of campers and over a dune and being on the beach. If one of you gets tired or bored they can just go back home without making the other one leave. If Jim wants to go fishing, there is nothing stopping him.

Last time we were on the east coast Jim saw a guy with a great beach cart that carried all his fishing gear and stuff. He has been looking for one with the right features and price ever since. He finally found exactly what he wanted for about a hundred dollars at Dick’s Sporting Goods near Brownsville, Texas. We have used it a couple times since, to carry our chairs and cooler to a nice riverside spot in Texas and to get our stuff to and from the camp’s laundry. But this was to be the cart’s true beach debut.

The big wheels were a must and worked great even in the loose sand. The cart folds down pretty well but those wheels still take up their fair share of the basement.

Totally worth it though when you can easily haul two chairs, fishing gear, and a cooler past the crowds on the beach and nab a secluded spot to spend the afternoon.

We spent our first full afternoon at the beach; sunning, fishing, generally being lazy. Here is a pic of one of the many beach accesses. We loved the dead tree and yellow flowers.

The next day we loaded up the kayaks and drove a couple miles to where the state park has a boat ramp on Big Bay Creek. From there you can paddle up the creek or out to the mouth of the South Edisto River and on into the ocean. The creek has more of a tide than a current. So our plan was to put in and float upstream with the tide, wait for the tide to turn, and float back with the tide.

It was a wide creek with grassy marsh on both sides. We floated up the creek and were passed by a group of dolphins.

There were at least four of them. We saw quite a bit of them for about a minute but they were fast so it was hard to get any picture at all especially since all I had was my iPhone.

After we floated past the state park’s property there were a dozen or so private docks crowded on one side of the creek, each with a long wooden sidewalk built between it and a big house back in the trees. Many of the docks had impressive boats. After them we had the creek to ourselves again.

We only went about a mile and a half and then tried to stay out of the current and wind that was pushing us upstream and wait for the tide to turn. There was such a strong wind coming up the creek that even when the tide turned and water started flowing toward the ocean the current wasn’t strong enough to counteract the wind. So we ended up having to paddle against it all the way back to the boat dock. We weren’t totally surprised by this outcome and were grateful we hadn’t gotten too far from the takeout. Next time we’d like to float toward the ocean just before low tide and hope the wind and the tide will carry us back to the dock with less effort.

Besides the dolphins we saw in the creek, we saw a lot more wildlife in general on this trip than we did during our last visit. We saw a huge turtle swimming in the ocean one day. The campground also has some very aggressive raccoons (the squirrels aren’t exactly shy either). This big fella had no problem walking into people’s camps in the middle of the day and rummaging through their things.

We were careful not to leave any trash out but Jim forgot to put his fishing gear away one day and they ate/stole/are wearing his plastic lure and they broke one of his poles, probably trying to get away after getting tangled up. Thankfully he was able to repair it.

When the tide went out the marsh behind our camp became a mud field. We were sitting there one afternoon and realized the whole thing was moving. There were a kazilion crabs about an inch wide, each waiving their little claw at us. How friendly!

The park’s learning center is located near the boat ramp. It’s definitely a must see if you visit. It’s much nicer than we expected. They have a beautiful building with a nice back porch full of rocking chairs.

They also have lots of live snakes, fish, and such in aquariums. Glad this fellow is no longer in that category.

The place has some beautiful murals and displays like this cool boat.

We had a wonderful three days in Edisto Beach and look forward to visiting again.

Making Ourselves at Home

South Carolina – April, 2016 We are enjoying our spring visit to South Carolina immensely. We have been here since mid-March and plan to continue to stay in the vicinity through much of May. We have chosen to idle here for good reason.

Thanks to the generosity of my father, we own a little piece of property just off I-95. He and my mother visited the area almost 30 years ago and liked it so much they bought a half acre thinking it would make a great jumping off point for visits to the east coast. When I told my father several years ago that Jim and I planned to retire soon and RV full time, he offered to give me the lot they had never gotten around to using.

It really is in an ideal location. It is about an hour from some great destinations; Charleston, Savannah, and several beaches. So we plan to make it a nice place to park for a few nights or a few months. We plan to stay 10 weeks this visit because there is so much we want to do but also because we are enjoying a brief rest after traveling 30,000 miles last year. We’ve been staying 4-5 days a week on the property and then going to places within a few hours’ drive for a couple days most weeks.

We visited the property for the first time in 2014 and found out that the state of SC would put us in a driveway approach for free. We took care of the paperwork during that brief visit and when we visited South Carolina last fall we finally got to see the approach for ourselves.

Since the approach allowed us to drive across the ditch on to our property we were able to boondock in front of the tree line (left in the above pic). During that visit we had the electric company supply power to the property and started clearing the drive back into the trees.

When we arrived here this spring we were anxious to continue clearing the drive so we could park in the shade and enjoy more privacy. Jim was very motivated to get this accomplished so he got the main drive cleared in just a couple days. He then ran the power underground to the site and set a new power post. As you can see, we are now parked comfortably under the pines.

We originally planned to build a deck but decided on a patio instead. The patio didn’t require a building permit from the county like the deck would have and it turned out to be a bit cheaper. It also is hardly even noticeable when we are not here, which we like. And if we change our mind about how we want camp set up the patio could be disassembled and reassembled in a different spot.

After clearing away some of the unattractive brush at the front of the property we wanted to plant something that would provide us privacy in a few years. The conditions here are ideal for growing azaleas so we planted 6 of them in varying colors across the front. They don’t lose their leaves here so they will provide privacy all year and hopefully we’ll have beautiful blooms each spring. These varieties should eventually get 5-8 feet in height. This cutie hasn’t stopped blooming since we planted her.

They will get morning sun and afternoon shade which should be ideal. I figure there is a 50/50 chance they can survive the summer under these conditions without watering. They were fairly inexpensive so we thought it was worth the gamble. I may offer the neighbor some money to water them if they have any periods of prolonged drought this summer. I also planted an azalea and some hostas near the patio.

Speaking of neighbors, we have some pretty good ones. The subdivision is a few miles from the interstate and town and it has about 10 homes in it. At least half are manufactured homes. A couple of bachelors live next door. Their drive is right on our property line so we can hear them come and go and they can hear us if we are outside. They have stopped by when we were working in the yard a couple times to ask if we need anything.

Across the road is a vacant, overgrown lot, which screens us from many of the neighbors. On the other side of us a couple owns several acres and they built their home way on the other end. We met them the first time we visited. The other neighbors waive if we walk around the block or they drive by but no one has bothered us or indicated we are bothering them.

Some day we may build a carport and/or put in a well and septic. For now we want to explore nearby a few days every week so we just dump and refill when we do. If we want to stay for longer than that we can take a quick trip to a campground just a few miles away. They want $26 to dump our tanks and refill our water which is a bit high (it’s the same price as one night’s camping fee) but you can’t beat the convenience so we will likely use it occasionally.

The money we are saving is helping offset the cost of the improvements we are making. Our electric bill has averaged less than $3 per day so far but as it gets hotter and we run the AC more I expect it will be closer to $5. We are still paying camping fees somewhere most weeks and most of those places cost well over the $20 per night we budget. On average we are spending about half our weekly campground budget on these trips. But we are also saving a lot in fuel while we are here so we will just wait and see how it all pans out.

I was concerned that moving in to the middle of a forest that has never been developed would result in a lot of meetings with creepy crawly things. So far nothing more than an occasional ant has invaded our home. We haven’t seen a single snake but have seen a cute little lizard or two. This guy was on our gas can.

We set up our screen room which has helped with the mosquitos in the early morning and late afternoon. The closest thing to an invasion we have encountered is a whole lot of caterpillars. Jim found this beauty on the screen room one day.

And this little fellow kept me company on my camp chair one afternoon.

So far South Carolina has lived up to its slogan; Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places. We love it here!

Wings-n-Wheels

Walterboro, SC – April, 2016 We were lucky enough to attend a great car and air show one beautiful Saturday afternoon. The Walterboro Wings-n-Wheels event benefits the Wounded Warrior Project. It took place at the Lowcountry Regional Airport on the outskirts of Walterboro.

The event was a great value at only $10 per carload. They had a bunch of food vendors. The food must have been good because the lines were very long. We were grateful we’d eaten before we came.

Pilots had flown in from all over to participate. There were as many as 50 airplanes parked there and more arrived while we were there. It was a lot of fun to walk around them and peek in their cockpits. Some of the pilots were around to answer questions.

The LifeNet helicopter was there for a while before he flew away.

You could get a ride in a vintage biplane for $115.

After looking over the planes for a while we wandered to the car show area. They had about as many cars as planes.

It was fun to look through them and see the restorations. Car shows are a great trip down memory lane, especially for Jim. He’s all ” this was the model of so and so’s first car” and “this was the type of car my best friend totaled in high school” and “remember the such and such car I told you I restored in my 20″s, this is pretty close except…” It’s fun for both of us. Here’s one that was popular in his teens.

I like when the owners have signs or albums showing the restoration or telling their car’s story. Not all the cars were completely restored though.

After another trip back through the planes it was time for the air show. They kicked it off with skydivers jumping over our heads. The skydivers trailed smoke and an airplane with a smoke tail flew loops around them during their decent.

A skydiver with an American flag was last to land. It was pretty spectacular.

Next, two biplanes took off and flew around the crowd several times making smoke rings. Here the biplanes are landing and two smaller, more maneuverable planes are taking off.

They were able to fly in a tighter formation.

They gave a great show flying straight up then spiraling down and leaving fantastic smoke trails.

They went on for quite a while. In fact, we got bored and wandered across the road to visit the Walterboro Army Airport Memorial Park. This airport was part of a major army air field during WW2. Pilots were trained here including the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black American military pilots in the US Armed Forces. The park contains a monument to these brave men.

We spoke to a local pilot when we first got to the air show and he mentioned that the Tuskegee Airmen were on the base during the same time as 250 German prisoners of war. He said that the locals treated the prisoners better than the black airmen. The park has several large informational boards with historical facts about the base, the pilots, and the POW’s. The signs seemed to support what he told us.

The sign about the German prisoners said that they were used as farm labor in the area and had a pretty decent camp. The highlight was a letter from a German sent after the war to the farm family he worked for expressing how fondly he remembered the time he spent in the US. Another sign talks about the Tuskegee airmen and mostly focuses on the resistance they met to Washington’s efforts to desegregate the officers on the base. When an order was sent to allow the black officers in to their clubs and to participate in their extracurricular activities, the white officers simply cancelled all their functions and moved their entertainment to the town’s private country club. Efforts to desegregate were unsuccessful and ended when the base closed later that year.

The park and memorial are only 5 miles off I95 at exit 57. The Tuskegee Airmen Memorial is correctly located on Google Maps and I believe there are directional signs from the interstate. It would make a nice pitstop for anyone passing through.

Myrtle Beach State Park

Myrtle Beach, SC – April, 2016 Myrtle Beach State Park is an island of calm smack dab in the middle of the Grand Strand, an almost uninterrupted stretch of developed beaches that run for 60 miles along the coast of South Carolina. The area attracts millions of visitors every year and has numerous attractions to keep families entertained. This was our first visit to the area so we had no idea what to expect.

We had wanted to get to a beach for a few weeks but couldn’t find any campgrounds that were available and affordable. Spring break was the primary reason. All the state parks were full and the private campgrounds were expensive and not honoring any discounts. I flat refuse to pay $70 for a campsite so we bided our time exploring inland.

With spring break over we looked again to the beach. We found a vacancy at Myrtle Beach State Park a few days out and made a reservation. After taxes and fees it cost around $37 per night for a site with electric and water. It was great to have a nice quiet place to escape to so close to all the things that make this area popular.

We arrived at the state park via a long winding drive full of blooming bushes.

The park has a couple miles of undeveloped beaches.

There are several piers in the area which always make great photo opportunities.

The campground is extremely nice and a short eighth mile walk to the beach. The only thing that broke the quiet was the occasional airplane from the airport next door. Some of them came very low over the beach. This was taken right on the state park border.

Beyond the park’s boundaries, the beaches are lined with one hotel after another.

I can understand why Myrtle Beach is such a popular destination, especially for families. It has practically every type of entertainment you can imagine. There are at least a dozen fantastically designed putt putt golf courses. There are amusement rides scattered all over the city. Ripley’s has 5 major attractions here. I’ve never heard of a Ripley’s Aquarium but we might have to check that out if we make it back here someday.

Broadway at the Beach was a fun place to get a nice walk. It is a large shopping area with lots of interesting stores like the Man Cave Store and Stupid Factory, not your typical mall stores. There are lots of dining and entertainment options as well. The shops, restaurants, and attractions are clustered around a small lake. Even though it was chilly while we were there they still had plenty of takers for the jet boat rides they offered on the lake. Here is one of the jet boats with the science museum in the background.

We were shocked by the number of seafood buffets in area. A little research revealed about a dozen buffets featuring seafood in Myrtle Beach alone. We love seafood and a good seafood buffet is hard to find so we decided to splurge. There were so many options, many with great reviews. Our first couple choices were not open until dinner and we wanted to go out to lunch.

We settled on Seafood World because it was one of the rare one’s that opened at noon and had lots of good reviews. The cost was about the same as other buffets in the area, around $30, but they advertised $5 off before 3pm. After tax and tip it was still over $60. We enjoyed it immensely. The selection was pretty good and most of the food they served was awesome.

All in all we enjoyed our visit to the Myrtle Beach area. We agreed that it’s not really our cup of tea. It’s a little too commercial for our tastes. The fact that the weather was not that great during our stay probably tainted our opinion of it somewhat. We will likely visit again someday but stay at Huntington Beach State Park a little south of Myrtle Beach but still on the Grand Strand. Then we can take a day trip into town if we need some excitement.

Edisto Beach

Edisto Island, South Carolina – August, 2015 We only had a few days before we planned to head west and wanted to spend them on a beach. So we chose the nearest one and headed that way. Edisto Island has a great state park. It occupies about a third of the island’s beachfront real estate and has an amazing beachside campground with 74 sites. Of course, some advance planning is required to get a beachside campsite and we all know that is not our strong point so lucky for us they have a second campground called Live Oak a half mile up the highway from the beach that had plenty of vacancies during our stay. We were impressed that this campground had wide roads and large, level sites. We were less than impressed with the $51 per night rate.

This island is not very commercialized. There were only a couple beach stores and only about a half dozen restaurants. There was a relatively well stocked little grocery store just outside the state park’s gate. The island is rather remote (25 miles to the next reasonably sized town) but in comparison to Hunting Island where the nearest grocery store was 20 miles away, this is a metropolis.

The Edisto Island travel brochure only listed 3 things on their local attractions page: the Edisto Island Museum, a serpentarium, and the state park’s environmental education center. The weather looked rather questionable for the weekend and I thought we might end up visiting some of these if we got rained out one day but when we did get rained out, on Sunday, they were all closed.

What this island primarily has going for it is several miles of uninterrupted beach front. You can walk and walk and walk without running out of beach and that is exactly what we did. The island’s beachfront is divided into the state park’s shoreline which is completely undeveloped and looks like this.

You can see a few of the campers in the campground. This was taken at high tide when the beach did get a bit narrow.

The state park’s boundary marks the beginning of development and the remainder of the island looks like this.

There is one house after another for the rest of the beach which wraps all the way around the end of the island. Edisto has no main beach parking lot besides the one in the state park. Instead they have over 30 beach accesses squeezed between the homes, most with several parking spaces each. I would guess that during their busy season a lot of people park on the street and the roads gets pretty crowded. We were there the weekend before Labor Day and showers were forecast so we had no trouble finding parking spots even for our monstrous truck. Since we had to drive to the beach from camp anyway we chose a different access point each time we wanted to take a walk and saw quite a lot of the beach and many, many beach houses.

Jim had been dying to fish in the ocean but was not looking forward to another expensive out of state fishing license so he was pleasantly surprised when he learned a 14 day non-resident fishing license for either fresh or salt water is only $11 in South Carolina. Since we had shrimp in the freezer he didn’t even have to buy bait. Between the rains and the tides he only fished for a couple hours but he had a good time and got some nibbles. We didn’t see any fisherman catch a single fish all weekend.

This island is a 2 hour drive from Hunting Beach where we recently visited but is only about 10 miles north by water. So the water was pretty much the same, warm with almost no visibility. Even so, we didn’t see any dolphins like we had at Hunting Beach but on the plus side I didn’t see a single mosquito either. We will certainly return to Edisto Beach for an extended visit some day but will plan it far enough in advance to get a beachside site. There is nothing better than walking out your front door and being a short walk from the beach

Beachin’

Hunting Island, South Carolina August, 2015 – I fell in love with the pictures I’d seen of Hunting Island, a South Carolina State Park. We were traveling on I-95 on a Monday morning when Jim pointed out we didn’t have to be at our next stop for another day and asked if there was any place else I would rather go. Just 5 miles before the exit I made a quick call and secured a site for one night and off we went.

What an amazing island! We loved this beach which was plenty long for walks and not terribly crowded. We saw lots of dolphins. One surfaced just 30 feet from where we were swimming. The water here didn’t have the visibility we prefer. In fact, you couldn’t see your feet standing in 1 foot of water. But it felt great to finally be back in salt water. It was surprisingly warm, but not too warm. I just expected colder water in the Atlantic.

There were a few fishermen on the beach. We spoke to one who said he had caught a 50 inch shark there a few days before. They have a free fishing pier at one end of the park where you don’t even need a license. It’s a shame we didn’t have time to even wet a line on this short visit but we’ll definitely stay longer next time.

There were a couple shrimp boats trawling off the island the afternoon we were there which were entertaining to watch. Before we left we visited a couple fish markets about 5 miles from the park on St. Helena Island. We found the best prices at Gay Fish Company and picked up 4 pounds of shrimp, fresh off the boat, for $7 per pound. We were told by one of the park employees that some of the Forrest Gump movie was shot in this area and they used this fish company’s boat.

The next morning I hopped out of bed, grabbed a cup of coffee and my camera, and we headed out to catch the sunrise. I was mesmerized by the reflection of the sunrise in the tidal pools.

But what I really wanted to capture were these dead trees and root wads that are at one end of the beach.

There are hundreds of them, mostly lying on the beach. But a few are still standing.

Just beyond these is a lighthouse. So we headed up to it to take a look and presumably get some good pictures. Just as we reached the lighthouse we were swarmed by hundreds of mosquitos. I fled back to the beach covered in bites that itched for days. This is the best picture I could get of the lighthouse from the beach and that is as close as I ever plan to get to it again.

This is a very popular state park and for good reason. When I looked at the park’s reservation system every site was booked on the weekends for several weeks in advance. So I knew if we were going to squeeze in a visit it would have to be midweek. We ended up with a very spacious water and electric site just 3 rows back from the beach for $37. You generally must reserve these sites at ReserveAmerica.com and they require a two night minimum stay at this park. Since they can’t do same day reservations you are able to call the park directly and just stay one night. I believe I saved a $5 reservation fee by going this route as well. Two points for poor planning!!

Here is the campground viewed from the beach.

The first two rigs you see are the only ones with direct beach access. They are in sites 47 and 48. Those sites are booked up through the end of the year and probably well in to next except for a day here and there. Every other camper has to walk to one of the breaks in the fence to get to the beach. All the sites in the beachside loops 1 & 2 were pretty nice and the roads were a little rough and tight but passable. There were some mosquitos in camp but as soon as you cleared the trees and got on the beach they were gone. We drove loops 3, 4, & 5 farther back from the beach and were less than impressed. I wouldn’t be very comfortable taking my rig back there and I’d bet the bugs are pretty bad there too.