Tommy Long Landing on Ebenezer Creek

  

Charleston, South Carolina & Savannah, Georgia


Last updated April 21, 2013

 

 

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Day One | Day Two | Day Three | Day Four | Day Five | Day Six | Day Seven


Norma and I enjoy spending time around Easter someplace a little warmer than Maryland. My favorite trip with her is the week we spent in Florida, April 2-8, 2010. A repeat trip would have been nice but there are a lot of unexplored places between Maryland and Florida just waiting for us to visit.

Opportunity arose when Dan H. gave me an open invitation to visit him in Charleston, South Carolina. After a few months, I decided it was time to take advantage of his generous offer.


Day One, Thursday, March 28, 2013
Norma and I packed up rather last minute. This has some advantages but what usually happens is I forget to pack things that are fairly important or I pack rather sloppily.

We picked up our good friend Carmen at the Greenbelt Metro around 2300 then took turns driving all night. At some point around 0300, we were all pretty tired so we pulled over for a nap somewhere just over the border in South Carolina before finishing our long drive. I could tell we were just over the border by all the stores which sell fireworks to tourists to take home. These fireworks are illegal in many states but there's apparently nothing illegal about vendors in South Carolina selling them to people that might take them out of state.


Day Two, Good Friday, March 29, 2013








Around 0940, we pulled into our destination...a beautiful house in Mount Pleasant (a suburb of Charleston) where Dan and his wife, Julie, reside. Their neighborhood has magnificent landscaping with lots of big live oak trees. They are called "live oaks" because they have green leaves all year long.

After unloading some of the car, Dan took us on a tour of Mount Pleasant. There is definitely something about this place that draws people. The population doubled between 1990 and 2000!

Our first stop was the Pickett Bridge Recreation Area which is the site of an old trolley bridge that once ran between Mount Pleasant and Sullivan's Island. Today it is a popular recreation area for joggers.

The first thing I noticed were all the palm trees which reminded me of Florida and California. See first photo. We walked out on the peninsula which was surrounded by marsh land. Off in the distance, I saw the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and the Ben Sawyer Bridge (second photo). The latter is a swing bridge that connects Mount Pleasant with Sullivan's Island, as the old trolley bridge once did.

We walked out on a wooden bridge (third photo) where we had some nice views of birds (fourth photo), including pelicans and American oystercatchers (fifth photo). The bridge ended while the original supports (sixth photo) continued on towards Sullivan's Island.

A couple of kayakers were out enjoying the day, as we would soon be too. See seventh photo.

Our next stop was the Hobcaw Yacht Club where we had a nice view of the Wando River. Here we saw some dolphin heading towards the Charleston Harbor.

We ate lunch at Page's Okra Grill. Dan told us that the locals eat fried okra like french fries so I tried some. Definitely good though I think I'll stick with fries.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.
















We met Julie, Dan's wife, back at the house. They loaded up their boats and then we all headed out to Melton Peter Demetre Park (aka Sunrise Park). We put on our paddling clothes then carried the boats out to the beach. As we prepared to launch, I realized that when packing Norma's paddle, I hastily brought two female ends (one from her Epic mid-wing paddle and another from my large Epic wing). I blame this partly on packing hurriedly at the last minute. I also failed to bring water bottles though Dan had some we could borrow.

Rather than drive back to Dan and Julie's house, Dan took me to Sea Kayak Carolina, a local kayak store not far away. He knew the owner and was able to get a loaner paddle at no charge.

With each of us now having functional paddles, we were ready to launch. Carrying the boats out to the water, I saw some cannonball jellyfish washed up on the shore. See first photo. I've only seen one of these before when I was kayaking near Chincoteague, Virginia in the Atlantic Ocean. Out there they are not so common but further south, they are abundant.

We got a late start but that is because it was pretty cool in the morning and Dan figured it would be best to wait until things warmed up a bit. I'm guessing that when we launched, the air temperature was in the mid-60s. It was also fairly windy, which Dan says is typical out there in the afternoon.

The tide was low which meant we had to carry the boats out quite a distance for a muddy launch. South Carolina tides are much more extreme than those in Maryland but not as extreme as Maine.

Norma and Carmen were in my Ocean Kayak Cabo which Dan refers to as a "walrus." See second photo. I've also heard it called a banana. I paddled Dan's plastic Wilderness Systems boat which fit me just fine.

We kayaked into the wind. We saw dolphins to our right and the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to our left (third photo).

To our south, we passed where Fort Johnson once stood.
From Fort Johnson came the shot that began the Civil War. If a Union soldier at Fort Sumter looked toward Fort Johnson at 4:30 a.m., April 12, 1861, he would have seen an ominous flash as a mortar fired. The shell arched high across the sky, and upon reaching Fort Sumter, burst almost directly overhead. That mortar shot from Fort Johnson was the signal for Confederate batteries around Charleston Harbor to open fire on Fort Sumter.
- from information sign at Fort Sumter

A big tour boat takes tourists out to Fort Sumter (fourth photo) for $18. While the boat ride costs money, just visiting the fort is free so we didn't pay anything. We landed on the island that the fort resides then carried our kayaks a good distance ashore to keep them from being washed away as the tide rose. Then we simply walked to the fort. See fifth photo.

Fort Sumter is best known as the site upon which the shots initiating the Civil War were fired.
Decades of growing strife between North and South erupted in civil war on April 12, 1861, when Confederate artillery opened fire on this Federal fort in Charleston Harbor. Fort Sumter surrendered 34 hours later. Union forces would try for nearly four years to take it back.
- from National Park Service - Fort Sumter

The soldiers that served at the fort during the Civil War had a job similar to the one I once had. I was in a mortar platoon and our mission was to shoot muzzle loaded, smooth bore, indirect fire weapons both quickly and accurately. Many of the guns at the fort were similar. See sixth and seventh photos.
A disciplined, well-trained crew of five men could fire an accurate shot in less than one minute. Teamwork and timing during battle were essential to the crew of this 42-pound smoothbore cannon, one of 27 guns that occupied these first-tier casemates.
- from information sign at Fort Sumter

Small holes in the wall of the fort served as portholes for observing and shooting small arms weapons. See eighth photo. It also gave us an idea of how thick the walls were.

We saw an 1819 ten inch mortar (ninth photo). I'm glad I didn't have to carry that thing around. The M252 81mm mortar was heavy enough.

Norma, Carmen, and I wore neoprene wetsuits which didn't do a very good job keeping us warm in windy conditions. A splash jacket and splash pants would have been better.

The mortar (not the gun, but the stuff used to hold bricks together) in the walls of the fort contained a good bit of oyster shells. This concoction is called tabby (tenth photo). It seemed to work pretty good as much of the fort was still in good condition though I don't know how much of that was due to reconditioning. Some parts that were not significantly altered included a section of wall where a projective was embedded. See eleventh photo. I'm sure that must have been quite the conversation piece for visitors back in the day.

We went into the museum which we much enjoyed, if for nothing else, to get into a warm place. In the museum, I learned a little about Gullah.
Historically, the Gullah region extended from the Cape Fear area on the coast of North Carolina south to the vicinity of Jacksonville on the coast of Florida; but today the Gullah area is confined to the South Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry.
The Gullah have preserved much of their African linguistic and cultural heritage. They speak an English-based creole language containing many African loanwords and significant influences from African languages in grammar and sentence structure. Properly referred to as "Sea Island Creole," the Gullah language is related to Jamaican Patois, Barbadian Dialect, Bahamian Dialect, Belizean Creole and the Krio language of Sierra Leone in West Africa. Gullah storytelling, cuisine, music, folk beliefs, crafts, farming and fishing traditions all exhibit strong influences from West and Central African cultures.

- from Wikipedia - Gullah

We walked back to the boats then paddled our way back to the cars the the wind now to our backs. See our fearless leader, Dan, in the twelfth photo. I could tell Carmen and Norma warmed up a bit as they started singing "The Gambler." See thirteenth photo. I, of course, was obligated to join in.

Landing was much easier than launching as the tide had come in quite a bit. We completed 4.8 miles of kayaking.

That night, Dan took us to a Thai restaurant called Basil. Very tasty.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.


Day Three, Saturday, March 30, 2013





















After driving all night on the way down, Carmen, Norma, and I got some good and much needed sleep.

The five of us ate breakfast at home then headed out with the bikes to downtown Charleston. It was windy, cool, and overcast though the wind was hardly noticeable once we got away from the water.

We parked in the waterfront area. Looking out onto the water, we saw more dolphin. We could also see Fort Sumter, where we paddled yesterday.

Biking through the downtown and historic areas, our first stop was Pineapple Fountain in Waterfront Park. See first and second photos.
The pineapple is recognized as a traditional expression of “welcome” throughout the South and in areas along the Eastern Seaboard. Appearing on all sorts of décor – from door knockers to quilts – the fruit symbolizes those intangible assets we appreciate in a home: warmth, welcome, friendship and hospitality.
- from The Welcoming Pineapple

Carmen, Norma, and I wore our colors. This is the t-shirt I had made last year that reads "Team SNaCk." See third photo. The SNC in SNaCk stand for Saki, Norma, and Carmen. Our team song is...yes, you guessed it, "The Gambler." And our team state is New Mexico...the land of enchantment (with flowery arm gesture). Carmen came up with the idea for our team name during our June 13-17, 2012 adventure out on the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail.

We were getting a little hungry so Dan led us to a parking lot filled with food trucks (fourth photo). There was also live music and craft vendors. I ordered from Little Star of the Carribean.

Near the food trucks there was a big great dane with a dairy cow pattern (fifth photo). It made me think of Janie and her big dog.

Carmen and Norma shared a gourmet donut. See sixth photo. This is one more reason for our team name...we easily consume our share of snacks.

By now the weather was sunny and comfortable. A perfect day to go exploring on bicycle.

Our next stop was the Charleston Museum which was America's first museum, founded in 1773. We didn't go in. But we did see a display in front of a replica of the Civil War submarine, H.L. Hunley. See seventh, eighth, and ninth photos.
Brought from Mobile, Alabama in August 1863 to help defeat the Union naval blockade of Charleston, H.L. Hunley became the first submarine in history to sink an enemy ship. Armed with a spar-mounted torpedo, it sank the Federal blockading vessel, Housatonic, the night of February 17, 1864. Although accomplishing its objective, H.L. Hunley never returned to port.
- from sign in front of Charleston Museum

The H.L. Hunley was a remarkable and ambitious feat of engineering. The propellers were turned manually by the crew and the explosive it carried on the front wasn't a self-propelled torpedo but rather was simply rammed into the ship that it set out to destroy. After that, the submarine left the area before the explosive it left behind detonated. It seems like something Leonardo DaVinci would have invented.

We passed through a graveyard (the first of many to come).

Then we stopped in front of the Dock Street Theatre. See tenth photo. From here we had a nice view of Saint Philip's Episcopal Church, founded in 1680. See eleventh photo.

We biked by the Old City Jail which is supposedly haunted. See twelfth photo.

Dan took us to the Unitarian Church in Charleston which was founded in 1787. We walked our bikes through the old graveyard (thirteenth photo) and garden (fourteenth photo).

Our next stop was the Circular Congregational Church which was established in 1681. See fifteenth photo. This church's
graveyard is the city's oldest burial grounds with monuments dating from 1695.
- from A Brief History of the Circular Church

Here we saw unusual tombstones depicting skulls with angel wings (sixteenth photo). I saw the tombstone of John Savage. My town is named after a John Savage but not this one, who lived about a century prior. There was also the tombsone of a Mr. Jesup, who shares his name of the town just to my north (but with a different spelling...Jessup).

The graveyard at the Circular Church is a peaceful place. See seventeenth photo. If you gotta go, this seems like a good place to spend the rest of eternity. See eighteenth and nineteenth photos.

We passed by the Miles Brewton House, an
outstanding example of Georgian architecture in America. Built between 1765 and 1769 by Miles Brewton, revolutionary patriot, with designs by Ezra White, architect.
- from sign at house

What stood out most about the Brewton house was the menacing iron fence which I was told was built after a slave uprising. See twentieth photo.

The Brewton house was one of several beautiful historic homes we saw that day. Another was the 1835 house that Julie grew up in on Legare Street. Some things that most of these homes had in common were their well manicured gardens, iron gates and fences, and generous use of brick. I also admired how so many made excellent use of vineage whose greenery contrasted nicely with the rest of the house. I would love to do something like that at our house to cover up the white painted cinderblocks below the brick line.

We made our way back to the cars, having biked 8.3 miles. Our biking tour was definitely the highlight of our visit to Charleston. Dan is an excellent guide.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.





After getting out of the city, Dan took us to see Angel Oak, on Johns Island.
The Angel Oak Tree is estimated to be in excess of 400-500 years old, stands 66.5 ft (20 m) tall, measures 28 ft (8.5 m) in circumference, and produces shade that covers 17,200 square feet (1,600 square meters). From tip to tip, its longest branch distance is 187 ft.
- from Angel Oak Tree

Photos of big trees like this don't do justice unless you have something smaller around it so you can judge proportion. So here are the smaller things: Carmen, Norma, me, Dan, and Julie (first photo) and Team SNaCk (second photo).

We also took a drive through the Citadel, a military college. But honestly, I can't remember if that was yesterday or today (they say memory is the second thing to go as one ages...I forget the first).

Back at the house, Dan told me about the whelk shells and other kayaking souvenirs that dotted his yard. I was most impressed to learn that a sponge could make holes in such a shell to get to the critter inside.

That night we went to Locklear's for dinner. I had their flounder which I didn't find very satisfying but Norma had their shrimp and grits. I tried that and liked it much more.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.





Norma and Carmen were wanting to walk on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge at night. Dan obliged us by driving us to the Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park. From here, we were able to access the bridge which is lit up at night.

This bridge was
named by an Act of the General Assembly in honor of State Senator Arthur Ravenel, Jr., who enthusiastically spearheaded a broad-based effort to secure the funds for its construction.
- from sign at bridge

The bridge is a most impressive structure and one that is pleasing to the eye. See first photo. Carmen found that it is also fun to try and climb (second photo).

We walked to about the midpoint before turning around. Off in the distance we could see the lights of the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.


Day Four, Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013
We were up bright and early at 0515. Dan and Julie had a big Easter Sunday planned, Carmen had to get to the airport for an early flight, and Norma and I were about to embark on the second half of our adventure.

Norma, Carmen, and I thanked Dan and Julie for their generous hospitality. They did an excellent job of showing us their fine city.

Norma and I dropped off Carmen at the Charleston International Airport then headed further south. We would have loved to keep Carmen with us for the remainder of our trip but she had other things to tend to.

It rained off and on though not as much as I expected.

We took a scenic drive, passing through various towns that Norma fancied.

Getting a little hungry, we stopped at a Waffle House. Waffle House is our official road trip restaurant.

We tried to get onto Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island for a visit but the jarhead manning the gate wouldn't let us in.























Near the town of Springfield, Georgia, there is a tiny town called Ebenezer. There is a creek here call Ebenezer Creek that flows into the Savannah River, which separates South Carolina from Georgia.

We took route 275 (Ebenezer Road) to a little launch site called Ebenezer Landing. See first photo. There was a boat ramp, parking, and a primitive restroom. We put our money in the collection box (honor system) then prepared to launch.

As I was unloading the gear, a couple of fishermen landed. Their rat terrier or jack russell dog jumped off their boat and came running over. He was clearly excited to see me. His owned called him back but he ignored. As he hopped in my car, the owned yelled out in a thick southern accent, "He'll pee in your car!" The dog jumped out and then the owner said, "Grab him by the handle." The dog was wearing a personal floatation device (PFD) with a handle. I picked up Fido by the handle and then carried him back to the fishing boat from which he came. I asked the fishermen about the tide. They didn't know the tide table but they also didn't think it would matter much going up the creek.

A million Cyprus trees reach up to meet the Spanish moss like stalactites and stalagmites in a watery cave. This blackwater river flows so slowly you can paddle it in either direction with ease. The single best word to describe this place? Enchanting.
Ebenezer Creek Swamp was designated as a National Landmark in 1976 after a nomination by the Smithsonian Institution. It is the best remaining cypress-gum swamp forest in the Savannah River Basin.
Ebenezer was actually the first capitol of Georgia under the State's first governor, John Adam Treutlen, who was reared at the orphanage at Ebenezer.

- from Kayak Guide - Ebenezer Creek

While beautiful, the creek also has its dark side. During the Civil War, thousands of slaves tried to cross the swamp during the night, following Union soldiers. With Confederate soldiers attacking, most drowned trying to get to the other side.
It is said that so many perished in the water that for some time after, their bodies piled high enough to create a macabre dam before finally washing away.
- from Ghosts of Ebenezer Creek

I originally found this place by searching the web for places that kayak outfitters take people. Savannah Canoe and Kayak describes it as
a black water swamp, lined with cypress and tupelo trees.

Norma and I love the black water swamps. In Maryland, we have the Pocomoke River which I totally love. In Florida, we paddled on the Suwannee River which was enchanting.

We paddled up the Savannah River (second photo) for maybe an eighth of a mile then turned left onto the creek. Ebenezer Creek felt a little like Florida. There were lots of cypress trees (third photo) with fresh needles (fourth photo) and Spanish moss hanging from branches. Trees were sprouting lots of new growth. See fifth and sixth photo.

The water was calm and mirror-like. It was at times disorienting because it sometimes felt like we were paddling on glass. See seventh photo.

I am glad I brought my GPS because it was easy to get lost. Dan described the Northern part of Lake Marion and the section on the lake to the east of Persanti Island as being a wooded swamp where you can paddle for quite awhile without seeing land. In some ways, Ebenezer Creek was like this. There were a lot of trees and bushes living in the water, blocking our view of solid land. Hence, it made it difficult at times to determine where the creek actually headed. But eventually, Norma determined that it was marked by pink (or orange?) ribbons. I don't see some colors very well so it was her job to keep me on the right path.

The creek was unusually deep. Reaching my paddle into the water, I wasn't able to touch bottom anywhere except along the edges.

We stopped for a break at the Tommy Long Boat Landing. See eighth photo.

We tried to make it to Long Bridge but were unable to find our way through the trees. It is 7 miles from the launch site to the bridge where there is supposedly a boat landing located at 980 Long Bridge Road, Rincon, Georgia.

We saw turtles, herons, skinks, four snakes, and interesting plants.
  • Ninth photo: A turtle that was actually willing to pose for the camera.
  • Tenth photo: Red maple samaras.
  • Eleventh photo: Some plants were a little more green than others.
  • Twelfth photo: Near the turn around point, we saw our first snake which I believe was a yellow rat snake.
  • Thirteenth photo: I'm betting this is a brown water snake though I'm not betting much. Whatever it is, it looks like it recently had a meal.
  • Fourteenth photo: A little blue heron. Not something we see in Maryland.
  • Fifteenth photo: This was the third snake we saw in a tree. They tend to like the horizontal areas that overhang the water..
  • Sixteenth photo: A close-up of the same snake.
  • Seventeenth photo: This is the only snake we saw floating on the water. It remained motionless for a very long time before finally deciding to flee. I think it was another yellow rat snake.
  • Eighteenth photo: Same snake, different angle.

  • In the shallow areas near the shore, our black water was looking a little brown. See nineteenth photo.

    It rained off and on during our return, sometimes heavily (twentieth photo).

    By the time we got back to the launch site, we had completed 12.5 miles.

    We finished not a moment too soon as it rained cats and dogs. But on the drive out, we were welcomed with a double rainbow.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    The rain stopped by the time we reached our campsite at Skidaway Island State Park.

    This is a pristine state park and campground set in an equally nice part of town.

    We set up our tent, washed up, then walked to dinner in the dark. Shrimp is pretty popular out here and often obtained locally so I had shrimp and sausage pasta.

    Back at the campground, I found a lizard on the bathhouse ceiling. It must have had some chameleon-like powers because it blended in with the paint.


    Day Five, Monday, April Fools Day, April 1, 2013























    It rained and thundered a lot during the night.

    Norma and I drove to the Savannah Visitor Center in the downtown historic part of Savannah. Just outside, we came across a redoubt (first photo) and learned about the Revolutionary War history of the town.
    For most of the Revolutionary War, Savannah was an armed camp. With the approach of an allied French and American army in the fall of 1779, the British defenders of Savannah began improving and constructing a series of fourteen redoubts outside the town and a similar number of cannon emplacements.
    This earth fortification, called a redoubt, was constructed in 2006 to remind us of the sacrifices made here during a bloody battle for possession of the British-controlled royal capital of Georgia.

    - from information sign

    We were pretty far down south so in some ways it was like being in Maryland but one month later. Vegetation was much further along. Plants like bottlebrush flowers (second photo) were in full bloom.

    Our original plan was to see the town via bicycle but we quickly learned that historic Savannah is not a bicycle friendly place. So instead we took a trolley tour. All the trolleys met at the visitor center. There were several different companies and they all took tourists on a designated route with several stops where folks could get off and explore on their own if they wanted. Then they could get back on at any stop and continue the tour. It wasn't easy deciding which trolley company to go with but after standing around for a few minutes, we noticed that it seemed Old Town Trolley was running more frequently than the others, and their orange vehicles were easy to spot from afar. So we went with them.

    Our trolley driver was a woman with a very thick southern accent. Norma was thinking she might have thrown on a little extra southern-ness than normal just for the tour. Her accent reminded me of the time I saw Loretta Lynn on Christmas 1988. Our driver did a pretty good job of telling us about the town and pointing out various points of interest.

    We got off in the downtown area which is called City Market. Even though it was a Monday, the place was packed. I'm guessing most were tourists like us from up north trying to get away from the still winter-ish weather up there. In addition to the trolleys, there were walking tours, horse and buggy rides, and Segway tours.

    As I mentioned at the start, I (and we) packed quickly so we failed to bring a few things along, like food. We had been eating out quite a bit which was fine but on days like today where we slept in and got a late start, that also meant skipping breakfast. So we ate an early lunch at Wet Willie's (third photo). I ate fried mahi, which I found mediocre.

    One thing I had noticed here and throughout our trip was how hard it was to find Pepsi. I know that most places sell Coca Cola but it seemed unusually difficult to find a Pepsi, even at some stores and vending machines. Perhaps that is because Coca Cola is based out of Atlanta, Georgia.

    We got back on the trolley with a different driver. He took us to see some of the old historic homes in the area. As with Charleston, there were plenty of big, old brick homes with wrought iron fences and trim. See fourth photo. One of these homes was the Mercer Williams House Museum which was built 1860-1868. See fifth photo.

    Our next stop took us to the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist which was built in 1873. It was everything I expected: high ceilings (sixth photo), stained glass windows (seventh photo), and lots or ornate expensive stuff.

    We walked to the Massie Heritage Center which first opened in 1856. Here we learned a little about how Georgia was colonized.
    Led by James Edward Oglethorpe, a group of 114 settlers arrived in Georgia on February 12, 1733 and were greeted by Tomochichi, mico [I guess this means "chief"] of the Yamacraw (Creek) people, and his interpreter, Mary Musgrove. Mary Musgrove was helpful along with Tomochichi in keeping the Creeks allied with the English.
    - from information sign

    At Massie, we got to see lots of beautiful wisteria flowers (eighth photo) and and the old school classroom (ninth photo). There was also a room displaying the various architectural styles of the area. Norma and I agreed that the bungalow style was our favorite. This style
    reflected an effort toward originality and informality, avoiding the use of Greek, Roman or Gothic design elements. The typical Bungalow Style house is a one-story structure with gently pitched broad gables and a lower gable covering an open or screened porch.
    - from information sign

    Norma and I took a walk through Colonial Park Cemetery, established 1750. There were plenty of old trees draped in Spanish moss. There was also an unusual tree with all sorts of knobby knots (tenth photo). Of those buried in the cemetery (eleventh photo), there were two groups that stood out; those that died from the epidemic and those killed from dueling.
    More than 700 victims of the 1820 Yellow Fever epidemic are buried in Colonial Park Cemetery. There are also many victims of Savannah's tragic dueling era. Savannah history records the first dueling death in 1740 and the final shot fired in 1877. Many of the duels left a number of men dead from what one source calls acts of "too much honor."
    - from Colonial Park Cemetery

    One thing interesting about Savannah are its city squares. These define the historic district.
    During most of the development of the city, the squares were used for communal activities, such as gathering water, baking bread, celebrating holidays and victories and many more activities. They were also used as stock yards and gathering places for those from outside the city for protection in time of attack.
    - from Savannah Squares

    Just outside of Columbia Square (built 1799) is the Davenport House Museum which we passed by. See twelfth photo. This house is
    one of the handsomest examples of Georgian architecture in the South. This finely proportioned dwelling, completed in 1820, was designed and built by its owner, Isaiah Davenport (1784-1827), one of Savannah's outstanding builder-architects.
    - from information sign

    We also saw the Owens-Thomas House. This house, like Fort Sumter, is largely made of tabby although the exterior is stucco.

    We decided to board the trolley again as did a lot of other people. It was a long wait and while we managed to board, others had to wait for the next. I believe they originally said that they run every 20 minutes but this was not the case now.

    Our third driver took us through the waterfront area then back to the visitor center.

    I learned that chiggers live in Spanish moss. European settlers learned the the hard way when they used the moss to fill their pillowcases. The Native Americans knew better.

    We still had some time and wanted to eat dinner in town so Norma and I set out on foot again, heading back to the water.

    Along the way, we stopped at the Savannah Candy Kitchen, looking to buy some locally grown pecans which we thought were overpriced.

    On Bay Street, we saw the backsides of the waterfront buildings (thirteenth photo). There were several foot bridges (fourteenth photo) over fake cobblestones. At first I couldn't tell if the cobblestones were real or not. They looked suspiciously uniform. It wasn't until I saw one that was cracked that I knew it was fake. The inside looked like concrete.

    Cotton sellers would bring their goods to Bay Street while the buyers would stand high up on the foot bridges studying what was for sale down below.

    We passed by City Hall. See fifteenth photo.

    There were quite a few Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) buidings in the area including one that was formerly a synagogue (sixteenth photo).

    We saw the Old Savannah Cotton Exchange. See seventeenth photo.
    The Savannah Cotton Exchange building was completed in 1887 during the era when Savannah ranked first as a cotton seaport on the Atlantic and second in the world. In its heyday as a cotton port over two million bales a year moved through Savannah.
    - from information sign

    From the waterfront, we could see Talmadge Memorial Bridge (eighteenth photo) which reminded me of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.

    There were plenty of old buildings that looked to be of an industrial nature. See nineteenth photo.

    There was also a modern Cracked Earth World War Two memorial (twentieth photo) which reminded me of Split Apple Rock in New Zealand...yes, I have seen it.

    For people wanting to see the place from the water, the Savannah River Queen was ready and waiting to help. See twenty-first photo.

    For dinner, we walked back to the City Market area and ate at a place called Belford's (twenty-second photo). I was curious to try it out being as that is the name of a good friend of mine. The place was expensive but of the places we dined during our trip, this was my favorite. We split the shrimp and grits. It was the best grits I've had yet.

    Savannah is quite the happening place. The 11th annual Savannah Music Festival was going on. If we had more time, we surely would have caught one of its many shows.

    We headed back to the campsite around 2000 then called it a night.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Day Six, Tuesday, April 2, 2013


    During the night we heard an owl asking who cooks for us.

    Norma and I drove out to Tybee Island, a little beach resort town. It wasn't exactly tourist season so it was hard finding a place for breakfast and the one we did find seemed to be the only restaurant open for breakfast so it was jam packed. I had a huge meatlovers omelet. Instead of hash browns, grits were standard.

    We stopped at the information/visitor center to get some ideas for kayaking. This led us to the Alley 3 kayak launch. This put us at the mouth of Tybee Creek where it drains into the Atlantic Ocean. We launched here along with several tourists in rental boats who were not appropriately dressed for the water conditions. But we were.

    It was very windy (16-20 mph) as we made our way southwest to Little Tybee Island. I learned about this place from the same place I found out about Ebenezer Creek...Savannah Canoe and Kayak.

    High tide was at 1340.

    This place was at the opposite end of the scenery spectrum from Ebenezer Creek. It was big open water with salt marshes. Not quite what we like but it was good to have a little kayaking diversity. But the big reason for wanting to paddle here was to see more dolphin. There were numerous tour boat companies here that took people out to see dolphin. Surely we would see at least a few. Sadly, we did not.

    We landed at Little Tybee Island. It is a big island and we just saw a small piece of it. There was lots of sand (first photo) and a few interesting shells. I found a dead horseshoe crab. After a short break, we commenced exploring the marshy creeks on the island.

    The marshy creeks all start looking the same after awhile. Just lots of grass and nothing more. It would be more more interesting on a stand up paddleboard (SUP) since one would then be able to see above the grasses. East Coast Paddleboarding does in fact rent and provide SUP instruction at Tybee Island. We saw a few paddleboarders out in the ocean too though I don't think I would have wanted to have been out there in such strong winds.

    We made our way back to Alley 3 where we stretched our legs a bit before heading upstream on Tybee Creek. While the name implies it is a creek, it is really a river, at least where we were. But there certainly are creek-sized creeks that flow into it. We explored one of them, Chimney Creek.

    We paddled up Chimney Creek, to the start, just on the other side of route 80. It was all salt marsh that started wide and gradually narrowed at it meandered back and forth. Nothing too terribly scenic. We saw an outfitter launching several tourists at the route 80 bridge.

    Off in the distance we saw the Tybee Lighthouse.

    We saw some brown pelicans which
    have a wing span close to seven feet and grow to 4.5 feet tall!
    Brown pelicans plunge into the water from great heights to dive for fish. Other pelicans use a scooping or dipping method.
    Their foot-long beak has an expandable throat pouch that can hold three gallons of water.
    Pelicans can consume four pounds of fish per day.

    - from informaton sign at Tybee Island Marine Science Center

    On the return trip down Chimney Creek, we did see something interesting. We weren't totally sure what it was and we didn't get a good look but it appeared to be about 28 inches long and 12 inches high. It didn't walk like other animals I've commonly seen around the water. After seeing photos and taxidermied animals, I am now convinced it was a wild pig. Other than birds, that was the old wildlife we saw.

    We paddled 10 miles.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.





    After stopping to buy groceries, we made our way to the Tybee Island Marine Science Center. It was small but a nice place to visit. They had a few live animals on display.
  • There was a small alligator, maybe 14 inches long.
    The largest alligator recorded in Georgia, caught September 2010 on the Chattahoochee River, was 13.5 feet long, weighted 900 pounds, and was an estimated 70 years old.
    On land, an alligator's top speed is about 11 mph, which an average human could easily outrun. In the water, however, alligators can swim up to 20 mph - four times faster than an Olympic gold medallist.

    - from information signs
  • First photo: Polka-dot batfish.
    The flexible pectoral fins of batfish are situated on arm-like stalks that allow the fish to "walk" on the bottom.
    - from information sign
  • Second photo: Me holding a whelk. Later, I saw a sign stating not to pick up the animals.

  • There was a big recreational beach area but this sort of thing doesn't interest us much. We'd much rather explore than lie out on the sand.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.







    After leaving the island, we pulled over just outside the entrance to Fort Pulaski (first photo) where
    in 1862 during the American Civil War, the Union Army successfully tested a rifled cannon, the success of which rendered brick fortifications obsolete. The fort was also used as a prisoner-of-war camp.
    - from Wikipedia - Fort Pulaski National Monument

    Off in the distance, we saw the Cockspur Island Lighthouse, used to mark an entrance to the Savannah River. See second photo.

    We unloaded the bikes then set out to ride on the McQueen's Island Historic Trail.
    Six miles of nature and beauty, the trail — a converted railroad track that parallels U.S. Highway 80 — once carried [Savannah] passengers to and from Tybee Island.
    - from The Lighthouse Inn: Biking, Hiking, Walking on McQueens Island Historic Trail Near Tybee Island GA

    This was a nice, easy trail. It wouldn't have been enough just to bike it but with the kayaking we did earlier, the two made for a nice balance. The eastern end (0.6 mile) was on soft dirt (third photo) while the majority (5.8 miles) was on hard packed gravel (fourth photo). We also crossed the bridge over the Savannah River that led to Fort Pulaski. There were a few people fishing from it. During our ride, I kept an eye out for dolphin but didn't see any. Our out and back trip took us 13.25 miles.

    Driving back, we stopped for dinner in the town of Sandfly. Though I didn't know it at the time, I later learned that the town was created for newly freed slaves.
    Ex-slaves from plantations settled together in areas such as Sandfly forming closely-knit, supportive networks of families. Plantation work experience formed the foundation of African-American trade skills, such as carpentry and masonry, so the settlement progressed without help from outside builders and planners.
    - from Sandfly link (broken as of 2014)

    We ate at a family-friendly restaurant called Your Pie where they make pizzas to order in a Quiznos or Subway-like fashion. Afterwards, we finished our meal with some salt caramel gelato which was much better than I expected.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Day Seven, Wednesday, April 3, 2013

    This was our third and final day at Skidaway Park and still we had yet to explore the trails. So that is what we did.

    We did a 3 mile loop that started on Big Ferry Trail. This was once
    the original road which led island residents to the ferry landing for their journey to Savannah.
    - from park sign

    There were lots of palm trees and Spanish Moss. See first and second photos. Some of the fallen palm fronds lost their leaves and dried up so that only a triangular shaped woody tube remained. I'm guessing that outside of its environment, most people would not have guessed what it was.

    The trail led us to an old liquor still. See third photo.
    Probably better known as a moonshine still, their operators found the seclusion of the islands an excellent area for making the illegal liquor.
    - from sign on trail

    At the far end of the trail there were some earthworks (a fortified military position). This particular location was used for mortars.

    As we got closer to Skidaway Narrows (fourth photo), we spotted a green-backed heron (fifth photo) on our the way to the observation tower (sixth photo).

    After completing our little hike, we stopped in at the park's Interpretive Center. They had a small alligator in a tank (seventh photo) along with a skeleton replica of a giant ground sloth (eighth photo).
    Measuring up to 20 feet tall and 25 feet long and weighing over 6000 pounds, the giant ground sloth was among the largest of land mammals ever to live. With its powerful claws and exceptionally large tongue, this gentle giant grazed on trees and shrubs, consuming 600-700 pounds of vegetation a day!
    In 1822, the bones of a giant ground sloth were unearthed by slaves on a Skidaway Island plantation.
    It is now believed that the giant ground sloth inhabited Savannah for two million years before it myseriously disappeared about 10,000 years ago.

    - from sign at Interpretive Center
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    After leaving the park, we stopped for an early lunch in Sandfly at a place called Ozzy's.

    Our next stop was a plantation called Wormsloe which was
    the home of Noble Jones, who arrived in Georgia with James Oglethorpe and the first English colonists in 1733.
    From his earliest days in the young colony, Jones was a respected leader among his fellow settlers. In addition to his role as a militia officer, he served the young colony as a tithingman [one elected to preside over the tithing], constable, Indian agent, surveyor, treasurer of the colony, and a member of the governor's council. Among the last survivors of the original Georgia settlers, Jones died in 1775, as the American Revolution was just beginning.

    - from information handout received at Wormsloe

    I learned a great deal about Georgia's history during our visit to Savannah and here at Wormsloe. Both Jones and Oglethorpe were interesting and admirable men with good intentions.

    Oglethorpe tried to create a utopia after receiving a charter for Georgia by King George. In this new land, he passed laws that prohibited rum, brandy, and slavery.
    Oglethorpe believed slavery would create an idle upper class, “destroy all industry among the White inhabitants” and would create a potential for violent uprisings. Many of the colonists believe that slaves were necessary for the cultivation of Georgia and the work too difficult. Still the ban was upheld until 1750.
    - from Savannah History

    Oglethorpe also prohibited lawyers.
    Lawyers were also banned from 1733 to 1755. Georgia was to be “free from that pest and scourge of mankind called lawyers.” Oglethorpe and the Trustees detested them, believing each colonist was capable of pleading his own case.
    - from Savannah History

    Oglethorpe is credited with designing "America's first planned city." Georgia was also accepting of debtors from England and Jewish refugees from Portugal, the latter arriving in 1733.

    But unfortunately, Oglethorpe's vision for a utopian society turned out to be a failure.
    The alcohol ban was openly flouted. Cries to permit slavery followed as the Georgians envied the success of their neighbors. Eventually many simply fled the colony for the Carolinas. King George revoked the charter in 1752 and Georgia became a royal colony. One of the world's best organized utopian experiments came to an abrupt end.
    - from The Southern Colonies - Debtors in Georgia

    The driveway to Wormsloe (first photo) was most impressive because of the large oak trees and Spanish moss.
    A member of the bromeliad, or pineapple family, Spanish moss is an epiphyte, or air plant. It uses trees only for support, but gets its nourishment from air, sun, and rain.
    - from sign at Wormsloe

    The grounds at Wormsloe are inviting and interesting. Unfortunately, we had limited time so we only saw a sliver of the property.
  • Second photo: Entrance to Wormsloe.
  • Third photo: Tabby house ruins.

  • Norma and I said good-bye to Georgia and made our way back to South Carolina.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Norma and I stopped at the South Carolina Artisan's Center. There was some nice stuff but well out of our price range and/or taste in practicality.

    We stopped at Santee State Park, a place Dan had told us about. Our plan was to launch the kayak and paddle two miles across Lake Marion to the opposite side of Persanti Island to see a deep water swamp that I imagined might be like Ebenezer Creek. But it was 1600, cool, and windy. Four miles of open water paddling so late in the day didn't much appeal to us considering it wasn't so warm and likely to get colder. So we scrapped the idea and decided to explore the trails at the park instead.

    We checked out the 0.75 mile Sinkhole Pond Nature Trail. Not surprisingly, sinkholes (first and second photos) dotted the entrance.

    Norma and I came to the pond where we saw about 5 people looking at something. I looked in the direction they were looking and saw an alligator at the edge of the water. Because they often don't move, they can be hard to pick out from a distance. But the zoom power of Norma's camera made it easy to verify once I spotted it. See third photo.

    Our final stop was the 0.75 mile Limestone Nature Trail. On this, we saw some turtles (fourth and fifth photos) and another alligator on the other side of the water sixth photo.
  • Seventh photo: Me looking for more gators.
  • Eighth photo: Norma looking pretty on the trail.
  • Ninth photo: Trail footbridge.
  • Tenth photo: A little stowaway tick that tried to hitch a ride on my trousers.

  • We left the park then made our way back home, arriving in Savage at about 0330.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Norma and I had another good trip and got to spend it with some good friends. We also managed to get in some of our favorite activities: kayaking, hiking, bicycling, eating good food, and seeing historic areas.

    Our 2012-2013 winter was a cold one so it was nice to get a jump on spring by heading down south. Even though some of our days in the south were cool, they were certainly warmer than they would have been had we stayed home.

    There are lots of places we would like to see someday. Some of them are within road trip distance which is great because we can bring the kayak and the bikes. Other places we want to see are further away. There's no rush to see everything right away but still, we should make plans before our active outdoorsy lifestyle and endurance slows down significantly due to age. So we set a goal...to visit New Zealand to celebrate our 5 year wedding anniversary.