Huntington Beach Lighthouse Window

Only 2 1/2 weeks later we were off on another week long excursion from April 27-May 3, 2011. The initial reason was to attend the Carolinas Nature Photographers Mid-Year Meeting. If you remember it was held in Asheville, NC last year. I’ve been to historic Charleston three times but it’s a place I never tire of seeing. Steve had never been there. Knowing there is so much to see in this area we extended for a few days beyond the meeting. Turned out that we never made it down to tour the city’s historical area.  All week we found ourselves saying “next time we come back…” I’m beginning to think this will be on my grave marker!

Our selection of campgrounds was much better this time. We stayed just outside of Charleston proper in an area called Hollywood, SC at a Good Sam park called Lake Aire. This was a large and beautifully maintained park with a small lake and Muscovie ducks to greet you. The park stayed quite busy so I think it must have a good reputation. We’d certainly stay there again. Our site was level and out in the open but with the awning it gave us a shaded place to sit. There were plenty of places to walk Opal. She was really curious about the ducks. They were much less interested in her.

Our first day for CNPA was Thursday the 28th. Beaufort was about an hour drive south of where we were staying. For those not from the Carolinas there are towns spelled the same in both states. The name is pronounced Bo-fort in NC and Bu-fort in SC. The weather was dreary and skies were washed out and cloudy. Not a photographer’s idea of a good day. So we joined the group in Beaufort and made the best of things. Our first stop was Huntington Beach State Park which is known for its lighthouse. Against the gray sky none of the pictures were anything to rave about but I’m putting in our best attempts. There is an entrance fee which when you are spending all day isn’t an issue. We were there only an hour. We wondered why they even bothered to go. It was very windy as well as cloudy on the beach as you can see in the picture below. I was worried about sand getting into my camera so kept it tucked under my jacket when not shooting. Steve just plunged right into the water. He found some jellyfish that were stranded on the beach as the tide moved out. His picture called Starship Jellyfish made it to our calendar for 2012. If you look closely you can see his reflection in the jellyfish. Just as we were being told to meet up back at the parking lot, I passed a child’s ballet slipper in the sand. I desperately wanted to stop and take a picture. The story it told of a girl who just “had” to bring her ballet shoes to the beach and then to loose one! I wondered how far they might have gone before she realized it was missing. How hard was she crying and did Dad give in and turn around to go look for it? But my camera was all packed up and I couldn’t hold everyone else up. Another picture never taken except in my mind!

Sandstorm on the Beach


Huntington Beach Light Above the Treetops


Starship Jellyfish

 From there we carpooled to the docks where some shrimp boats were docked. Normally these are wonderful places to shoot but again the weather wasn’t with us. It even began to drizzle. However, we did get to see the boat that is said to be the “Jenny” from the Bubba Gump shrimp scenes in Forest Gump. Steve and I just rented the movie a day before I started writing this blog. We enjoyed it as much the second time. Tom Hanks is still one of my favorite actors. Now the boat is called the Tidewater and is marooned on shore.


Right Out of Forest Gump


Photo Op at the Shrimp Dock

 At last a bit of clearing as we made our way to St. Helena Island and the Chapel of Ease. Built between 1742 and 1747, this small chapel was used as a place of worship by the rice and cotton plantation owners on the island. In those days a trip to Beaufort was considered a very long trip. The chapel burned in 1886 during a forest fire leaving only walls and a cemetery. I loved the old arched doorways and windows. Just as we arrived, another tour showed up so getting pictures without people was a challenge. More like a grown up game of hide and seek.

Arches at the Chapel of Ease

Front of the Chapel of Ease

Following lunch the group did a walking tour in the historical section of Beaufort. By then the sun was out and it turned into a beautiful Spring afternoon. Like Charleston, it’s a city to be visited often. While at an old church graveyard, Steve found the graves of 2 British soldiers killed during the Revolutionary War and I took a picture of a broken headstone with a vine growing nearby.

Shattered Memory

Revolutionary war British Grave


A Walk Thru Beaufort

 The homes are so lovingly preserved that it’s evident there is a lot of community pride in the history that’s taken place here. One home had a huge live oak with moss dripping from the limbs. Another had a large southern magnolia in early bloom. Still a third had a white fence with roses blooming. Steve went inside an old church while I did closeups of the magnolia. We both enjoyed the humor of the “historic marker” proclaiming that “nothing happened here”.  Be sure to put Beaufort on your list if visiting the low country. The last stop was to see the Old Sheldon Church which is another ruin in the Beaufort area and one of the most often photographed. Originally built between 1745-1755 the church was burned by the British in 1779. Rebuilt in 1826 it was burned again by the Union Army in 1865. Once a year on the second Sunday after Easter services are held here.

Giant Live Oak

Early Magnolia Blossom



Beaufort Yard in Bloom

Old Sheldon Church

2012 Calendar Shot

On Friday the weather was everything the previous day lacked with temperatures in the 70s, a light breeze and lots of sunshine. Originally we’d planned to paddle to Bull Island which is a wildlife preserve. There is a public ferry to the island for those who don’t paddle or wish to take bikes. I’d been out to the island a few years ago with my local paddling friends. That time we put in at Awendaw and paddled through marshes in a protected area. When I learned that the route for this trip was roughly the same as the ferry which meant crossing open ocean where the waves can change from calm to treacherous in short order, Steve and I reconsidered. We decided to join a group on an easy paddle to an island at the mouth of the harbor known as Bird Island. This is a brown pelican rookery and is known for a variety of shore birds who feed there. The route to the island took us past a lovely view of the Cooper River Bridge. This bridge was designed around Charleston’s history as a major seaport. The towers look like sails of a Tall ship. It’s one of my favorite bridges. I’m not very good at getting pictures from a rocking kayak but between Steve and I we had a few good ones. On the way back we spotted two dolphins but they weren’t close enough for pictures.

Brown pelican with Nesting Material

Brown Pelican Rookery


Steve Paddles by Working Shrimp Boat


Chari with Cooper River Bridge View

 (Just a note here… the site is driving me crazy by changing font size. I don’t know why and can’t find a font size anywhere to correct it. So bear with me and this site. One of those you get what you pay for times and this, at least so far is free!)
We spent a leisurely afternoon walking Opal in a county park near the campground and checking out several other kayak put-ins for future paddles. After dinner we decided to drive south to an area known as Botany Bay. I’ve seen many photos of this area but this was my first visit. It’s well known to landscape photographers for the dead trees still standing in the water, driftwood and shells. Much to my dismay, the best light for the classic tree in the water shot is at sunrise but we found so many other things to photograph it was still lots of fun. OK now, all together “when I come back…”
Everything from the road leading to the beach with its allee of trees to the shells and sunset shots were dazzling. Now, don’t even think of coming here to collect shells. It’s a stiff fine of almost $400 if caught and they do patrol. Besides if everyone collected shells soon there’d soon be just an everyday beach. The park closes at sundown which was 8:15 for us. We had to high tail it out and made it to the exit with 5 minutes to spare.

Steve at Botany bay


So many Shells

  Now I’m back to the original font… hooray! Well I was and now after saving the entry a few times it changed! Go figure?

Allee to Botany Bay


Spiral shell


Shell with "Toenails"

 Saturday we were originally scheduled to hike into a wildlife refuge that has a wood stork rookerie. However, for the first time the SC DNR decided to close the refuge during nesting season. So the outing was rescheduled to Beidler Forest which is an Audubon owned sanctuary just north and west of Charleston. You can reach it easily off I 20. In many ways it is similar to the Congaree NP with swamp and huge cypress trees. It’s the type of place you can return to many times and see different things. There is a boardwalk through the swamp. The area is known for seeing prothombatory warblers and barred owls. We weren’t lucky today but as they say in the south, “y’all come back, you hear?”  Sometimes the volunteers will conduct kayak trips into the swamp but they weren’t going out on this day. At one point, Steve took the opportunity pointed out by our guide, to crawl into a still living cypress tree that is hollow all the way to the top. Not me though… too many snakes around!

Swamp daisies


Palmetto Palm


Looking Up a Hollow Tree


Ghostly Knees


Reflections at Beidler Forest

Saturday evening we wanted to get some night time pictures of the Cooper River Bridge as they light it up so beautifully. We didn’t get there until past 9:00pm. After taking some distance shots, we started walking up the ramp to take some from the top. About halfway up we noticed it had become suddenly much darker. They’d turned the lights out on the bridge! We didn’t have flashlights with us so we slowly made our way back to the car.

Cooper River Bridge at Night

Sunday continued with glorious Spring weather. Officially the CNPA mid-year outing was over after the morning meeting and photo contest. There were still places we wanted to visit so we were glad we’d planned to stay a few more days. We decided to go to Magnolia Plantation which is the ancestral home of the Drayton family built in 1676. It is still family owned and the oldest home continuously held by one family. Being a Sunday it was rather crowded and we opted not to tour the plantation home. There is plenty to do just on the grounds. We started at the children’s zoo where I snapped several photos of a peacock struting his stuff. One turned out to be what I think is my best peacock shot to date. I also snapped one from the rear and turned it to black and white in Photoshp. It wasn’t lined up just right but I like the effect. So I’ll keep this in mind for future attempts. Then on to the extensive gardens. We hit a period between Spring bloom and early Summer so many flowers weren’t at their peak. We did find enough to occupy an hour or so. We met another couple from CNPA and had lunch with them. The afternoon was spent at the swamp which is a wildlife sanctuary and well known egret rookery. Without a doubt, this was my favorite place for this trip. I could visit here repeatedly and not get bored. Several of the following pictures were used in our 2012 calendar.
Chari’s Best Peacock

Peacock Rear View in Black and White


Lacecap Hydrangea

Yellow Crowned Night Heron


Japanese Iris

Swamp Gator


Cormorant Drying His Wings


Egret Nesting


Egrets Preening


White Ibis

On Monday we decided to explore an area recommended by a local CNPA member known as Magnolia Cemetery. This has no relation to Magnolia Plantation we visited yesterday. There are a lot of magnolia this and thats down here. It is one of the best kept secrets for places to visit in North Charleston. The cemetery was established on a former rice plantation in 1849. The most famous site visited here is the graves of the three crews of the Confederate submarine Hunley. It was named after it’s designer whose grave is here as well. On a previous visit, I had seen the Hunley after it was raised from Charleston Harbor. Each of the three attempts to sail this ship ended in sinking and loss of all on board. I can’t imagine what was going on in the minds of that third crew as they boarded the craft.

Hunley Grave


Example of Ironwork at Magnolia Cemetery


Hunley Crew Graves

We’d hoped to do both the South Carolina Aquarium and Fort Sumter National memorial in the afternoon. As so often happens with us, we spend too much time one place and then have to alter our plans. This time we decided to forego the aquarium. We had to wait for the ferry out to the fort which is in Charleston harbor. This gave us time to read all of the exhibit material and naturally go buy a hat pin! There are things you just grew up hearing about and to have the chance to visit there is, for me at least, like having history come alive. Fort Sumter and the beginning of the Civil War is certainly one of those places. Our visit took about an hour and was determined by the ferry schedule. Like most old forts it was pock marked with canon fire and the walls were crumbling. When  building began in 1829 the five sided fort was intended to have 135 canons and 650 men. It was to have been a new “Gibraltar” in the harbor. The fort was named for General Thomas Sumter, a Revolutionary War hero nicknamed “the Gamecock” for his fierce fighting. Today the University of South Carolina teams are called the Gamecocks. By 1860 the fort was almost completed. On April 12, 1861 when the Civil War began with the attack on ft. Sumter, there were 60 canon and 85 men there to defend it. One of the things that most impressed me during the tour was a quote from Jefferson Davis’ wife, Varina, who said when her husband received the telegram on Feb. 10, 1861 confirming his election as President of the Confederacy, he read her the news as if speaking about a death. 

Approaching Ft. Sumter


Shattered Walls of Ft. Sumter


Steve Photographs a Canon at Ft. Sumter

   What a wonderful time we’ve had in Charleston and Beaufort. Now it’s time to pick up and pack up as we head for home tommorrow. But wait … we have one more activity on our agenda. Just before we hit the road for home on Tuesday, Steve and I decided to kayak through the marshes at Rantowles Creek. This gave us an opportunity to load the kayaks with the trailer attached. We usually put them on from the rear. With the trailer attached we have to load from the front. I’m too short to help. Now we know we can stop when on the road, kayak and stay overnight without having to unhitch the trailer. Tuesday’s weather was perfect and we had the area to ourselves. You guessed it, we started planning again for “when we come back”.

Steve Kayaking Rantowles Creek


About vagabondpress

Recently retired and "hitting the road". Hobbies include travel, nature photography, kayaking, hiking, good food and good friends.
This entry was posted in History, kayaking, Narrative, nature, photography, South Carolina, Travel USA. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Cheryl Niedermaier says:

    Always enjoy your travel blog~
    Lot’s of great photo’s !
    Love Stevie’s sock tan in the pic of him in the water !
    Still think the gator head is my fav~

  2. Cheryl Niedermaier says:

    The egret pics are great too !

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