Savannah’s Low Country

Today was a traveling day for us, but we had time to visit the nearby Pin Point Heritage Museum. We’ve camping at Skidaway Island State Park, and Pin Point lies right across the Moon River, named after the song written by Savannah son, Johnny Mercer. The words to that song ring true for Russ and me – “Two drifters off to see the world.  There’s such a lot of world to see.”

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Moon River.jpg

In the early 1950s, nearby Hilton Head Island had a population of only 300, and the people who lived there were mostly descendants of freed slaves. Pin Point is one of the last Gullah/Geechee communities that hasn’t succumbed to developers. Here you can see restored buildings of the thriving oyster and blue crab business that sustained this area from 1926 to 1985, and hear the stories of those who live and worked in this close-knit community.

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OK folks, it’s time to test your oyster IQ! You can answer in the comments, or play along quietly. I’ll post the answers tomorrow.

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Savannah – Part 2

This morning we ventured to Wormsloe State Historic Site, a 1745 colonial estate on nearby Isle of Hope. (Love that name!) One of the first English settlers of Georgia, a carpenter named Noble Jones, built his fortified home of tabby (a mixture of sand, oyster shells, lime and water). It’s the oldest standing structure in the Savannah area, but only the ruins of the original house remain.

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In the early 1890’s, 400 live oak trees were planted by one of the descendants to commemorate the birth of his son, creating the longest alleé in the world (1.5 miles). Twenty years later a grand masonry archway was added in recognition of the son’s coming of age.

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This afternoon we paid our respects to Noble Jones and others who now lie in Bonaventure Cemetery. The beauty of this place is hard to capture, and we spent several hours wandering the pathways, taking in the historical significance of those who are buried here. Johnny Mercer and Conrad Aiken find themselves in very good company!Obelisk

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“Death is never an ending, death is a change; Death is beautiful, for death is strange; Death is one dream out of another flowing.”     Conrad Aiken, The House of Dust

You can count on blooms in Savannah year-round, but even the camellias have suffered because of this winter’s extreme cold. The good news is – things are warming up!

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Savannah GA

Ah, Savannah – a city of quiet southern charm laid out in a friendly grid, with beautiful squares providing bursts of natural beauty every few blocks. It’s great to stroll the streets, but not when the breeze is brisk and  temps are well below average (last night it was 24º). This sign is posted on all the water spigots in our campground.

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Girl scouting played a huge part of my life, and Savannah is the birthplace of its founder, Juliette Gordon Low. We headed for a nice warm tour of “Daisy’s” home, only to find that it’s closed during January for it’s annual cleaning.

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A quick stop for coffee (well, a chai latte and hot chocolate) and we came up with plan B: The Telfair Museums (art, history, and architecture). One of the exhibitions featured art and technology, which included a virtual reality experience – fabulous!

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Radiance by Max Almy and Teri Yarbrow
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It’s always interesting to see who shows up in art galleries. These were the folks on our tour.
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In Magnolia Gardens by Alfred Hober Hutty c. 1945

We topped off the day with a 3-mile walk along some of the beautiful trails in the park where we’re camping.

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Beaufort SC

Penn Center Barn.JPGWe’ve loved the live oaks draped with Spanish moss, the expansive saltwater marshlands,  the well-kept antebellum homes lining quiet streets in beautiful Beaufort, and collards growing in the fields.

Collards

In 1862 the US Navy declared victory in this area, and freed 32,530 slaves in the Beaufort district alone. An abolitionist relief committee sent two women, a Quaker and a Unitarian, to start a school to teach them to be self supportive and to “elevate their moral and social condition.” Now known as Penn Center, this is a place where history is both made and kept, while continuing to serve as a valuable resource to the people who live here.

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We were greeted with a cheerful “Grand rising” in the Visitor’s Center this morning.
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Robert Middleton, who volunteers in the museum, was a student at the school in the 1940’s.

We met up with Dianne and Tony for lunch, a couple from York, Maine that we met in Charleston.  Check out Dianne’s Travelitch blog!  After lunch we took a 9-mile spin on the Spanish Moss Trail. This lovely rails-to-trails ride is a work in progress, and a nice way to see the area.

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St. Helena Island

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Gullah Doll

We came to St. Helena Island to learn more about the Gullah/Geechee culture, and what better day to do that than Martin Luther King day?  We went to the Gullah/Geechee Visitor Center – CLOSED.  So we tried the Penn Central African American Cultural Center – CLOSED.  The art galleries in the beautiful little town of Beaufort were a nice consolation, and we decided to come back tomorrow when the temps are a bit warmer and we can ride our bikes on their 6 mile Spanish Moss Trail.

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The Beaufort Waterfront
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View of the bridge to St. Helena Island from Beaufort

We had wanted to camp at Hunting Island State Park, but back-to-back hurricanes (Matthew and Irma) were a 1-2 punch that has devastated much of the park and most of the campground, which is still closed for repairs.  They have wonderful trails all through the park, but the hurricanes have left their mark.

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The beach at Hunting Island State Park
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Still water meets ocean waves at Hunting Island State Park

There are miles and miles of salt marshes in this area that serve as the “nursery of the sea.”  Newborns that are hatched in off-shore waters are brought here by the tides where they can mature in a relatively safe environment before making their way to the ocean.

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Summerville SC

After a scrumptious brunch at the Old Village Post House with a friend who lives in this area, we opted to check out the nearby town of Summerville.  My brother-in-law, who hails from the UK, refers to sweet tea as the southerner’s table wine, so Barry, this one’s for you!

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Cotton and rice were the dominant crops around here, but there were also tea plantations that prided themselves in a distinctive product that southerners have embraced. Laced with plenty of sugar and lots of ice, just about every eating establishment in the south offers sweet tea as their drink of choice, with various iterations making their way onto merchants’ shelves.

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We couldn’t pass up a stop at Summerville’s oldest continuously operating business, Guerin’s Pharmacy, to take advantage of their sweet tea special.

As we were poking around town, we came across this beauty!  The first car I ever owned (circa 1967) was a ’56 Chevy like this one, but mine was chartreuse and black.

56 Chey

It’s been a wonderful visit in the Charleston area, enhanced by the loveliness of James Island County Park where we’ve been staying.  We’ll be back!

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Charleston SC

Have you ever wanted to stop and take a photo from one of those beautiful suspension bridges that you’re flying over at 60+ mph in 4 lanes of traffic?

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Charleston has made that possible with the construction of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge that spans the Cooper River. Pedestrian and bike lanes can be accessed from the Mt. Pleasant Visitor Center, and the 5-mile round trip has just enough inclines to make you feel like you’ve had a nice workout. (Thanks for the tip, Dianne and Tony!)

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 The USS Yorktown, the famous WWII aircraft carrier, makes it home here. The mists of time seem to be enveloping it on this foggy day.

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View from the other side

With weather looking iffy, we opted for a 90-minute guided bus tour of the city, followed by a look around the Charleston Museum.

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This Gullah woman’s mother and grandmother started teaching her how to make sweetgrass baskets when she was ten years old.
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32 years of experience yields these beautiful results.