We’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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?
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!)
With weather looking iffy, we opted for a 90-minute guided bus tour of the city, followed by a look around the Charleston Museum.
I don’t usually feature the campgrounds where we stay, but James Island County Park is something to write home about! Miles of hiking/biking trails, lakes and grasslands make this a beautiful place to be, even without the added attraction of downtown Charleston just a few miles away.
We’ve been hesitant to visit plantations in our travels – the whole concept is just too depressing. But we saw a flyer for McLeod Plantation Historic Site, a place that tells the story of the Gullah/Geechee people as they made the transition from slavery to freedom. Since we’ll be visiting several Gullah/Geechee sites along the corridor that runs along the coast of South Carolina and Georgia, we thought this would be a good place to start. We were not disappointed!
Countless weather consultations didn’t provide a definitive choice for eclipse viewing, so we finally chose Charleston. Our consolation prize, should the weather not cooperate, would be getting to spend time with three good friends who now call Charleston home.
Russ joined us Sunday evening, after a weekend of kayaking in western Pennsylvania. We had decided to view the eclipse at Old Santee Canal Park where the local astronomy club had telescopes set up for public viewing. There was quite a buzz in the air as the sun flirted with us in the morning sky.
The first 45 minutes of the eclipse were thrilling as the moon slipped over the sun on the upper right hand side. But clouds started rolling in fast, and one of the predicted scattered thunderstorms stole the moon’s thunder as it eclipsed the whole show. Still, we were happy to be together as darkness filled the air. And as we drove back to our campsite – rain. Not the day that we had hoped for, but one we will remember. April 8, 2024 is already on my calendar