Touring South Carolina’s Coast Pt. 1

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South Carolina

Outside of Florida, I spent more time in this state than any other while on my trip. I love this state despite its warmer weather and general mugginess but I lucked out and most of the time it was pretty nice. The palmetto state is a treasure trove of natural beauty and historical sites and the 3 days I spent there (1 day then 2 more on the way back) was not nearly enough time.  This is part 1 of 2 of my blog about my visit to South Carolina also known as the Palmetto State.

The people in this state are amazingly friendly, more so than many other places I have I visited; even the cops were nice. The total lack of pretension with nearly everyone I met (in the whole south) made me feel extremely welcome.   After my first time eating at a Waffle House with my dear  friend Sarah who met me for lunch I struck out on my own. Complete strangers were more than willing to answer questions, talk my ear off and tell me why South Carolina is the best place to live.

The 3-hour delay on leaving Michigan, which plagued my whole trip down, cut my time short in South Carolina so I tried to cram as much as I could in that first day. I noticed something else while down south. Either I am taller than normal or people down south are much smaller since I felt like a giant a lot of the time while in the Carolinas and Georgia…it freaked me out.

Magnolia Gardens and Plantation.

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Maybe it was just because I was new to the area but even the drive down a country road to get here was peaceful and nice. Magnolia Gardens is a plantation off the beaten path and is a throwback to the South’s history and culture. Two things hindered my trip here, one being the weather and the other my damn phone dying…again. I chose to forego the usual tour options such as the nature tram (costs), boat tour and wander the place alone. My ticket included admission to the grounds itself and then I paid extra so I could walk thru the Audubon Preserve at the front of the plantation. it only cost me 23 bucks and was good for a week. That incentive was something I found again later in Georgia (see my fort Pulaski blog). I really wish I had been able to go back since I do not think I saw half of the wonderful things at this plantation. This Plantation was founded in 1679 as a rice farm by the Thomas Dreyton whose family still owns it 300 years later.

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The ticket being good for a week was one of the more customer friendly travel options I have found and more places should offer options like this. It really gives the traveler the option to relax and enjoy a place instead of feeling rushed through because an admission ticket is only good for 1 day. I think down south they understand that they have many things for people to see and enjoy and many of those travelers are passing thru such as me.

Since spring was a bit late this year for America, the flowers were blooming a little late but there was enough to send my senses into an enjoyable frenzy. Walking in you come to a wide-open expanse of lawn where a giant live oak tree, bigger than many I have ever seen with large curvy branches shooting into the air. To the left is petting zoo and to the right is the main house, which also served as the plantation home when it was still active. This plantation is one of the most famous ones in the south. Tours are available to see the old slave quarters and outbuildings but I did not take those options because of time, it is on my list for the next trip there.IMG_20130430_141855_514-001

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The grounds were immaculate and beautiful as well as 50 other adjectives I could use, but will not since we all know I am wordy enough. As I meandered around, I was  sucked back to another time and place where the days were long and less hectic. I found myself looking out over a large pond near the main house, at the far of which sat a long white bridge, it just felt uniquely southern. The reflection of this timeless southern beauty was clear in the calm water and blended with the reflections of oaks covered in Spanish Moss and surrounded by bright flowers all which surrounded this pond. It looked like a painting, something you could get lost in just looking at. It felt like a place where love happens. I wanted to reach for my non-existent mint julep (which I never got).

I continued walking and became trapped in a maze made of hedges, in the center of which sat a large statue of a woman who I felt was watching me. Feeling slightly panicked after being turned around and having no string I eventually threw the bulk of my mass through a hole so I could escape….a small southern squirrel sat looking at me and judging. The plantation is filled with live oak trees many of which are covered in Spanish moss and became on of my favorites parts of the south.

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After walking down random paths, having no idea where the hell I was going I came to yet another pond shaded in trees on all sides. This one had a nice path going all the way around it near the edge of the water. This was in many ways one of the most serene places at the plantation despite the mosquitoes, but it is a swamp kind of and comes with the turf. This pond felt like something from a Grimm fairy tale with its eerie but beautiful quality and feel. In and around this shaded pond sat a few mini white bridges covered in plants and bright flowers. Giant bamboo stalks grew wild all around and I walked across one bridge, with a tree growing thru the middle, which had bamboo growing up the side and over it creating a sort of canopy.

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 I was the only one in the area at the time and the romantic quality of this little pond it me hard. I read before I came that Magnolia Gardens and Plantation was one the 5 most romantic places in the Charleston area for couples and finally being there I could see why. Being alone was peaceful and gave me time to think and write as I wandered the property, but I imagine being there with someone…special… would have added a different kind of enjoyment; maybe someday right? Ok maybe not, I scream forever single it seems.  I have my misgivings on marriage, but this would be a great place to do it for people looking to enter wedded bliss. Guys keep this place in mind as a place to propose.

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Spring in the south along the ocean means the area is prone to occasionally heavy but brief showers, not unlike the gulf coast of Florida where my mom lives. While I was walking, I found myself standing under another large oak tree with the weird curvy branches with an older couple from Montana as we waited for a deluge to simmer down a bit. We talked about places we knew out in Montana and Idaho and how different the south was as we watched people run for cover because of the rain. I will never understand what peoples deal is with rain and why they run like hell because of it, it is just water it…won’t kill you. I mean is getting a little wet really that big of deal. I assume it was because of my time living in the Pacific Northwest where it rains often but it never really bothered me even before that. I always rather enjoyed it. As drops of rain snuck through the branches and occasionally hit our faces, we had a good chat. They were a nice older couple and was happy to run into them.

rain tree
rain tree

Getting impatient as I usually do, I said goodbye, shook their hands, and headed off in the rain toward the gift shop in the main house about 150 yards away or so. My only real concern was my laptop in my backpack as I made my way across the grass. The other tourists looked at me with shock at they saw this giant guy wearing a black hat, black shirt and black sunglass trudging through the rain and wet grass towards them, old ladies whispered. I smiled as got closer and said, “It’s really not that bad, live a little,” then went into the gift shop. The older women working were pleasant but looked at me as if I was going to steal something or wondering why I was there (doing it with a smile) but did not follow me around as if I was in a 7-11 at 1 am. Apparently, a male with my build and rugged good looks who is traveling alone is an oddity at places like this and I suppose I get that. I mean how often does a single guy go to a southern plantation alone? Probably not often. The shop had some fantastic stuff all of which was themed around southern life, food , stories and art. They had some great handmade gifts from local artists. I picked up some post cards and uniquely southern jam for me and for other people as gifts and headed toward the exit.

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I will not go much into but I did stop in the petting zoo since I loved these when I was a kid and the place was empty. My camera was dead and that made me sad a little since I hand fed several deer and would have liked getting pics of this. I found myself in a room with 7 different kinds of poisonous snakes (in glass cages) and almost had a nervous breakdown over it. I also saw an albino raccoon something I didn’t even know existed.  Kids would love this and many parents will hate it with the paranoid way they can be about “nature” and germs.

me feeding a mule
me feeding a mule

When traveling we all learn when the good and bad times to travel to places are and this trip was no different for me. I made my visit to Magnolia Plantation on April 30th 2013 which was a Tuesday. The place didn’t seem busy at all judging by the lack of cars or tour buses; I was expecting more. Two things made this visit great. One was the fact it was a Tuesday and 1pm so many people were at work and kids in school still. The second was something I did not realize until I got to Florida and stopped at several other places on the coast on the way down. This was that it was technically the off-season, or rather in between seasons. When I was planning the trip and once on the trip I did not realize how big of an effect this would have on things. Having never traveled alone in this part of the country, I had no idea how things worked we learn as we go right?. Kids are still in school, summer has not started and it was in between the spring break time and the summer tourist season. This made my visit here and other places very low key and relaxing since I am not a fan of crowded places, crowds and often people.  Part of this trip was for writing. Finding inspiration and having peaceful and quiet places to write on a trip were truly great finds.

Audubon Nature Preserve

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As I said this was something I paid extra for because I had a good feeling about it. It was located in the front of the preserve and seemed to be overlooked by most people who were there. Essentially this is just a massive path that once entering a code in a security gate takes you through a large area of preserved swamp. On some of it, you are walking on a boardwalk and on other parts just a simple but well-kept dirt path. This again gave me the feeling of being back in South Carolina during the colonial days when nature was still pristine and great. Fortunately, the wind picked up a bit and kept the bugs at bay, which made for a pleasant walk. I have never been in an actual swamp before and this as I came to expect here was very peaceful and relaxing. I only saw 2 other small groups of people while going through here where I spent about an hour and half.

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One cool thing I found which my sound odd was a cemetery. I always have enjoyed cemeteries and their connections to the past. This one however was an old African American cemetery, which I was told later, held more graves than what there were markers for. I was also told it was rumored to be haunted…I saw nothing to prove that. It was the final resting place for many slaves and ex slaves, all of which called the plantation home. Some of the gravestones dated back to the early to mid-1900’s and some from the civil war era. One was even newer and placed in the 80’s. Many of the stones lettering have been eroded away by time, weather and water and were hard to read. Some had bushes growing around them and one even had a tree grow into it. There were a few, which looked like large stones since they were so old.  It was somber experience but well worth a walk thru.

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Walking through the preserve I saw some interesting plant life weird trees and flowers, a crap ton of birds including a very curious cardinal. I think the swamps that have that layer of green stuff floating on the water are cool and this place was loaded with it. I saw several alligators and turtles some laying in the sun and others swimming around. In most places there is nothing separating them and the swamp water from someone walking so it is smart to be very observant and if you have kids and visit don’t let them run around on their own. It is a very real swamp, its nature, alive and no one is working in here so keep that in mind if you venture in and be careful, I think anyone who likes nature and beautiful things would enjoy this. If anything, it makes for some easy exercise. If you like nearly pristine nature it’s very much worth it….unless you are lazy and against walking In nature and there are some people who complain about doing that….I do not. Give me an empty beach, mountains or woods before city streets any day. Not that city streets are bad at all which you will see from my next South Carolina blog where I talk about my visit to Charleston.

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I really loved my time at Magnolia and really cannot wait to go back. Its one of those places where 1 time just isn’t enough.

http://www.magnoliaplantation.com/

Edisto Beach

I found this one whim while trying out the site Roadtrippers.com. The site was amazing and helps you find some really cool things to see and do when you are on the road traveling. They are still improving as they go but I’d use them again. I had never heard of Edisto Beach…ever…but after seeing some pictures on the site, I really wanted to go there. I headed that way after having two drinks at the Icehouse after my time at Magnolia Plantation and said goodbye to Sarah and meeting her charming co-workers. After Edisto, I headed to Savannah then Florida.

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The drive to get there was kind of a pain. It was all back roads some of which were tore up and crappy and the speed limits jumped from 55 to 45-35-45-25-55 more often than what was necessary (can you so speed traps). I also was followed by 4 cops just on the way there. It took me about an hour to get there from Summerville.  I don’t know that the drive was worth it at this point other than the scenery being pretty cool.

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Edisto Beach is small beach side town, out the way from most things in the Charleston area and sits on the Atlantic Ocean. My time there was short lived since I pulled into the State Park which sat on the beach just as the sun was about to go below the horizon. It gave me a little bit of time to get out, take my boots off and walk on the sand. It was my first time walking in the Atlantic Ocean since I was in Florida in 1992 and my first time at the ocean since leaving Michigan. Since it was cool and nearing dark the beach was empty save for 1 lady picking up shells. I walked around for a little, kicking through piles of shells and watching the ocean waves come at me. I hate shorts and of course, I was wearing jeans and walking in the ocean not giving a care about getting wet. I was traveling alone after all, who the hell did I need to impress right?  I walked over to the boardwalk and under it just so I could sing “under the board walk” to myself.

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The park closed at dark so I hustled back to the care after about 20 minutes and then drove thru the town itself. It reminded me of a mix between Cannon Beach and Anna Marie Island in Florida and as I would see later, Tybee Island Georgia. Most of the houses were raised up off the ground and were very….expensive looking, very high born. I assume many of them were rentals since I saw a lot of vacancy signs. It was a sharp contrast to the houses I passed on the way to Edisto which were well…not…expensive looking. The restaurants and gift shops were already closed and again I saw the effects of traveling between seasons.

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Edisto was a nice looking town from what I saw but seemed more seasonal and I saw no reason to stick around. I thought about camping for the night at the State Park but changed my mind. I would like to go back at some point spend a day there and maybe get a better sense of the town, I feel like I might enjoy it. I cannot really give it a yes or no vote at this time. The beach was very very nice though.

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Under the boardwalk
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Edisto Beach just after sunset

13 thoughts on “Touring South Carolina’s Coast Pt. 1

  1. We travel to Edisto a couple times a year, most years. We love that it’s laid back. Since you were there around sundown, it’s a shame you didn’t know about Dolphin Lookout at the other end of the island. You can usually catch a beautiful sunset, and you guessed it, some dolphins playing around.
    Great article.

    1. Thanks so much, I write these and one never knows what people think since comments are rare. I’m glad you liked it and appreciate the feedback. Yea I really didn’t know much about Edisto at all so I’m really looking forward to going back and exploring the island more. Its such a beautiful area. I just found out part of one of my favorite movies was filmed there which makes me regret not spending more time there.

  2. As always, I really enjoyed your blog. You are right, time seems to stand still on the plantations, it is a slower paced lifestyle. People have time and if you have ever met a Southerner, you know they love to visit. I enjoyed your photos. They are beautifully done. Magnolia Plantation is amazing. I can’t wait until your next blog.

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