SOGGY SOUTH CAROLINA: SUN AT LAST!

After getting rained out at the Beaufort Shrimp Festival on Friday evening and hunkering down indoors throughout the (incredibly!) rainy weekend, we were ready to get OUTDOORS!

Before the rain chased us inside for a marathon book-reading session, we enjoyed speaking with a few of the artists and viewing their art works during the First Friday After Five Art Walk in downtown Beaufort. The Shrimp Festival began an hour later, so Bruce and I wandered into the waterfront park and shared a few samples of very tasty shrimp dishes. Although we had planned to make a dinner of additional shrimp offerings, the drizzles of rain were increasing as we listened to the very cool R&B band perform for the crowd. (Man, that lead singer sounded like a cross between Lou Rawls and Barry White!)

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Gazing off into the distance, Bruce noticed the extremely dark cloud wall and interrupted me as I was thoroughly groovin’ to Mr. Rawls-White. “Uhhh, those clouds are getting closer. Unless you want to get soaked, we better get a MOVE ON!” Up went the umbrella, and off we went. By the time we made the two mile drive back to the house, the rain was coming down in sheets!

Our hearts went out to Mr. Rawls-White, his two jivin’ sax players, the rest of his band, and all of the vendors who weren’t so lucky.

The festival was canceled the following day as Beaufort endured 3 inches of rain in 48 hours. Combined with a huge high tide that pushed water up over the seawall and into the park, it was a total wash in more ways than one. Thankfully, though, Beaufort came out of the storm with just spotty flooding and none of the tragedies that Charleston or Columbia experienced.

Today, the sun finally came out in all its glory while we explored Hunting Island State Park, the most visited state park in South Carolina. The following are scenes from today.

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Meet “Buddy” the terrapin.  You can find him at the Huntington State Park Nature Center.

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While strolling along the Hunting Island Fishing Pier, we watched this red getting hooked.  He was too large to keep (according to state law), so he was tossed back.  Hopefully, he will breed again, so many more little reds grow up to be just like him!

SOAKING IN SOUTH CAROLINA

Before heading to the coast for our stay in Beaufort, SC, several people commented to us that we had chosen a “great time of year to visit the coast”. Bruce and I both thought the same thing given the typically comfortable temperatures and good fishing conditions this time of year. We were willing to take the risk during hurricane season figuring the odds were in our favor.

Sure enough, Hurricane Joaquin is making its march north. Fortunately, the storm tracker shows it curving away from South Carolina, so we feel quite confident we’ll be ok. The weather otherwise, however, hasn’t exactly been stellar (aside from a couple of beautiful days), as we have had a lot of rain and gloomy skies since our arrival on September 22.

Yesterday, we took our chances and decided to see how much of Hiltonhead and Bluffton we could enjoy before the rains hit. Seeing (very) dark clouds off in the distance as we were wrapping up our look around Hiltonhead, we made our way to Bluffton in hopes of seeing the historic district before needing an umbrella. Our original plan was to also visit the Farmer’s Market, but once we saw the weather forecast for the day, we knew it would get canceled.

As we rolled into town, it looked as if someone had flipped the switch on the car wash, and we were in the middle of it! Except, the car wash Bruce and I took Scarlett through during our summer road trip wasn’t nearly as bad as this! We had never seen so much rain come down as hard or fast as this! It was like driving through Niagara Falls, or so I imagined.

I pulled over into a parking lot at Bruce’s suggestion to ride out the storm. Although, once the car was parked, I remembered the forecast calling for the rain to worsen throughout the afternoon and night. What were we going to do? Sleep in the car?

This area is called the “Lowcountry”, because it is located in the southernmost region of South Carolina; however, I decided it was also a fitting name, because it is absolutely flat. Flat means flooding. Uh-oh!

I made an executive decision, being the one behind the wheel, and decided that getting the heck out of there was a far wiser decision than getting stuck in a flood. Besides, Scarlett would have never forgiven me if I had gotten her stuck and had to call AAA to fish her out!

Off we went through the streets of Bluffton, relying on Trudy to navigate us back to the highway home. In the short time we had contemplated our stategy, the streets had already flooded to the point where our only option was driving smack-dab down the middle of the road. Only a couple of feet of asphalt remained visible, but it was good enough! Neither of us could see a darn thing ahead, but we somehow managed to make it out safely. Whewww!

It rained through the night, and we now have a reprieve until the next front arrives. Unfortunately, this is Beaufort Shrimp Festival weekend, and the rains are supposed to hit with a vengeance later tonight. The festival is scheduled tonight and tomorrow; however, the forecast calls for extremely heavy rain and thunderstorms late tonight and throughout tomorrow. Some areas of South Carolina are forecasted to get pummeled with up to two feet of rain! Charleston and other areas already had horrible flooding, and now they’re going to get hit again.

Thankfully (and, yes, I did check with the manager on this), the house where we are staying sits on land that isn’t prone to flooding. Our apartment is located upstairs, too, so we feel safe.

After a downtown visit for the First Friday Art Walk and dinner at the Shrimp Festival, it looks like we’ll be hunkering down and catching up on our reading over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the following are some miscellaneous pictures shot over the past few days. Cheers!

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This map of Hilton Head looks like a profile of my New Balance running shoe!

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What’s wrong with this picture?  Note the sign BEHIND the starting block.  This is posted at the pool where I have been swimming here in Beaufort.

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Check out the dorsal fin and goggles on the ferocious pooch!

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Our home away from home is located upstairs behind the screened-in porch.

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Beyond the Spanish mos-covered oaks is the dock and marsh.  This is the view from upstairs.

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During the high tide and full moon, the dock flooded.

BEAUTIFUL BEAUFORT

Since moving to the East Coast in 2009, Bruce and I have taken our kayaks with us to explore the waters around Sanibel Island (twice), St. Augustine, and Laguna Beach– all in Florida. This time, we opted for a Lowcountry adventure and chose to visit Beaufort, South Carolina.

Located between Charleston and Savannah, Georgia, Beaufort is situated along the Intracoastal Waterway. It is a kayaker’s paradise with more than 200 marsh islands to paddle around, 175 species of wetland birds to observe and photograph, great fishing (Bruce is going for redfish), and plenty of bottlenose dolphins to watch while Bruce is busy catching those reds.

South Carolina’s second oldest city and The Sea Islands surrounding Beaufort were first discovered by French explorer Jean Ribaut more than 450 years ago. The city of Beaufort wasn’t founded, though, until 1711 by the English.

This quaint and historic city is known for its ongoing revival and celebration of Gullah culture including its cuisine which blends flavors from Africa and the West Indies. Frogmore stew (also known as Lowcountry Boil) is a Gullah dish that dates back hundreds of years and originated in the Frogmore area of St. Helena Island near Beaufort. A combination of shrimp, sausage, corn, onions and potatoes; it’s the most famous dish of the region. We plan on enjoying some of it during the Shrimp Festival next weekend.

Our home-away-from-home during our visit is a wonderful rental we found through VRBO. This is the owner’s second home; his main residence being in another beautiful city, Ithaca, New York.

This place felt like home the moment we stepped inside. Built in 2012, it’s still very modern and new, but casual and comfortable. The kitchen is awesome; one of the main draws for Bruce who loves cooking up the local shrimp and fish. Another selling point was the view of the marsh from the house, including the screened-in porch. (Stay tuned for photos in another post.) The Spanish moss-covered huge oak trees on the property surrounding the house were a bonus. The best feature, though, is the long private dock over the marsh, and the boat landing just down the street where dolphins can be viewed feeding just 50 yards from the boat ramp. This morning, I paddled out to watch them.

We couldn’t beat the house’s location, especially with it being so close to the historic downtown area full of antebellum homes featured in movies such as The Big Chill, The Prince of Tides, Forrest Gump, and more.

Our first several days here just zipped by. We arrived last Tuesday, and mid-week was spent settling in and exploring the area. It was love at first sight!

We had hoped to take three different kayak trips with Kim and David of Beaufort Kayak Tours; however, the weather didn’t cooperate, and we ended up having to settle for just one before they left for vacation. That tour was on Friday, and it was a gorgeous, calm evening on the water following a day of rain and thunderstorms that kept us holed-up indoors.

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Our guides, Kim and David

The group (joining the kayak club for the tour, and using our own kayaks saved us $40 each!) launched off Fripp Island Inlet and headed out to the marsh across the way. After stopping to see a huge bald eagle nest, we paddled back out to the open water to see the dolphins. There is a particular spot where they are known to feed, and when I say “they”, I mean that literally. There were pods of dolphins all over! In just about any direction I pointed my kayak, I would eventually see dorsal fins pop out of the water without waiting too long. On three different occasions, we saw a dolphin jump high out of the water! Unfortunately, I missed the shot each time. After all, this isn’t Sea World where the Dolphin Show hostess instructs you to “have your camera ready, because Flipper is going to jump through that hoop high in the air when I blow the whistle!” Rather, photographing dolphins in the wild is more like herding cats.

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Just as I was aiming to get a nice shot of Kim, she pointed to a dolphin jumping out of the water.  He was long gone before I got a shot.

Having said that, I did manage to get these two photos. The second was shot– no joke– no more than six feet from my boat:

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