Wednesday, October 27

Dataw Island Treasures

An unimposing sign read "Dataw Island" with an arrow pointing right. Linda and I looked at each other and said, "I'm game!" so down the road we turned not knowing we'd stumble upon a treasure trove, one discovered by Spanish explorers in 1514.

Here, you see one of the many winged inhabitants, a Great Egret. Sir Bird was wading casually through the marsh grass shopping for a snack. He turned his magnificent head my direction as I craned my body out the car window to get a good shot.

Linda drove slowly keeping pace with Sir Bird, who did not take kindly to our attention. He unfolded those massive wings and swooped over the top of the marsh grass. I swear he looked back at me with a "get thee far, far away" look in his eye.

Much of Dataw Island is now a posh, gated golf community complete with a manned guard house at the entrance. I've never been deterred by gates or no-trespassing signs, especially if something on the other side has caught my eye. Linda brought the car to a stop and the guard eyed us warily, asking the nature of our business. Before I could open my mouth, Linda told her we were considering having dinner in their upscale restaurant at the Club House and would like to take a look before we made up our mind. Ha, 'atta girl!

The development is pretty much what you'd expect, clean streets, manicured lawns, cookie cutter architecture and shiny cars. Except, as we passed the golf course, the ruin of a building caught my eye. "Turn in here!" I exclaimed.

We couldn't believe our luck, the ruins of Williams Sams' 1786 cotton plantation, constructed of tabby, a unique material made by burning oyster shells to extract lime, then mixed with sand and shells and shaped into wooden molds to form walls and columns. The enormous fireplace casts a long shadow on the leaves which litter the floor of the cook house.

The remains of the Sams family rest under the far-reaching, Spanish-Moss-draped arms of a live oak tree. Seems a fitting and peaceful place to spend eternity.

Friday, October 22

La La Knee and 167 Steps!

The lighthouse on Hunting Island State Park stands 132 feet above ground. Originally built in 1859, the Confederate Army destroyed it to prevent the Union Army from navigating by its beacon in the night. Luckily, the lighthouse was rebuilt in 1879 and has witnessed a much greater enemy, erosion.

A modified spiral staircase of 167 steps is the only means to get to the top and experience a 360 view of the horizon. Although briefly hesitant to take that first step, the Lovely Linda, me and LaLa Knee started the climb and holy cow was it worth it!

From the observation platform looking north, we towered over the tops of the maritime forest and the Atlantic Ocean. Although a windy day, the ocean was serene, not the cacophonous and moody Atlantic I know from New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts.

The Lovely Linda looks a little nervous, wouldn't you say? After we made it safely back to Terra firma, someone stopped us to ask if it was a difficult climb to the top. I assured him that if I, a middle-aged and rotund wielder of one artificial knee could do it, he certainly could too!
Tomorrow: Faking your way through security and stumbling upon the ruins of an old plantation!

Thursday, October 21

In Need of the Horizon

For weeks, the muscles across my chest and shoulders have been tight and I've not been able to breathe deeply. I've come to understand that this tightness is not an illness (of the medical variety) but of the spirit. A physical prompt to let me know it's time to seek the landscape which feeds my soul, clears my mind, loosens muscles and lets me breathe deeply. That landscape is the horizon. To be surrounded by uninterrupted sky meeting land without a single object stopping the eye is for me, soul food.

Lucky for me, the Lovely Linda planned a belated birthday trip to the South Carolina Low Country. For the uninitiated, like me, the "Low Country" is a string of barrier and sea islands from Charleston to Savannah. Topographically, what this area offers are wide and uninterrupted views of golden marshes that march right down to the Atlantic Ocean. The perfect setup for horizon-gazing. In other words, heaven.

At the end of a boardwalk stretching deep into the marshes on Hunting Island is this view. The marsh grass (Spartina alterniflora) reminds me of mature fields of rice ready for harvest. And look at that horizon! I said out loud, "Who could not love this view?" to which Linda replied, "When you look at the horizon, you see endless possibilities, but someone else may look at it and see emptiness." As I stood there transfixed, the muscles across my chest and shoulders began to loosen. I took in a deep breath and let out a long sigh and again stood in the presence of a vast horizon.

As the sun rose higher in the sky an interesting thing occurred. Looking out over the marsh, the air just above the tops of the grass appeared blurry and the color of the light was golden, almost mirage-like. I was lucky enough to get this picture, which saw what my eyes saw.

The backdrop in this photo is the edge of a maritime forest that grows all the way to the ocean. Semi-tropical in nature, the predominant trees are pine and palmetto.

alterniflora up close. When first taking this picture, I thought those were seeds, but now I'm not so sure. One of the naturalists we met along the way told us that as the tide rises, snails and other creatures climb the stalk until the tide ebbs, and then feeds again in the nutrient-rich pluff mud.

Tomorrow...Day Two...We climb a lighthouse!