Friday, February 20, 2009

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina Interpretive Center

Click here for the first post in this series.

Well! Even Edisto Beach, South Carolina, was chilly this morning. Outside temperature dropped to the mid-30s by 4:00 a.m. or so. Though, fortunately, without yesterday's strong wind. This cooler weather sure inspires gratitude for the strong electric heaters in the Park's bath houses. And for the generous hot water in the showers!

It soon warmed up enough for a walk on the beach. Sun shining, porpoises fishing near the shore, and this pile of rocks that caught the eye.

[Click each photo for a larger view]

The first Mobile Studio Travels blog entries are up and running today. As you can see, it's definitely a work in progress. I've been posting blog entries now for a while. For the weekly Japan Considered Podcast. But I hope to make the Mobile Studio Travels blog somewhat different. More frequent entries that include photos, and maybe even links to short audio files. Though the photos alone provide enough of a challenge now. Google's "Blogger" makes it simple, they tell me. But "simple" for the modal computer user, and "simple" for the aspiring ElderGeek, are two quite different degrees of complexity.

Ms. Karen Carter, proprietor of The Edisto Bookstore, kindly provides a reliable WiFi cloud that's accessible from the parking lot in front of her store. Drop in the store and have a look around if you connect here, though. You'll be amazed by the layout, and by the skill with which the books she offers for sale have been selected. The store is right on Route 174, just a mile-and-a-half from the State Park's main gate. Can't miss it. A few purchases here are sure to enrich your Edisto experience.

After a couple hours of learning, and another ten minutes or so of actual posting, I finally got the first three or four MST blog entries up and running. Is really is simple, once you get the hang of it, as we'd say OverHome. Getting said "hang of it," however, takes time.

The Edisto Bookstore, now, is right down Route 174 from Main's Market. You remember Main's Market. With Larry Main's daily grilled and barbequed meats, and Ms. Etta's everything else you could imagine. Well, considering how long it would take to drive from Columbia -- let alone Atlanta or Washington, D.C.! -- to have lunch at Main's Market, it made excellent sense today to drive the short distance necessary to enjoy lunch there. Even economical sense. Considering the price of gasoline these days!

Anyway, that's where I ended up for lunch. And what a lunch it was. Perfectly prepared Boston butt, with sides of tomato pie, collards, and red rice. Washed down with iced tea, of course. I won't try to describe any of it. How Ms. Etta manages to prepare dishes that at once are so tasty and so healthy is beyond comprehension. But she does. Ms. Etta is as serious about healthy eating as she is about flavor. Just ask her! And she manages to combine both in the dishes she offers at Main's.

Now, lunch at Main's Market is no "fast-food" experience. It takes a while. Not to get served. But to eat! Food this good simply mustn't be gulped down. Also, any visiting outsider interested in Edisto Island can learn a lot just listening to the animated conversations of the locals sitting at other tables. It's quite a place. But be sure to arrive hungry!

Back out on Route 174, today's destination was the Edisto Interpretive Center. Driving toward the beach, turn right on Palmetto Road. Then, after a mile or so, bear left onto Oyster Row Lane. It's a hard-packed dirt road but well maintained. You're sure to see the Interpretive Center signs on the right. As noted there, the Center's open Tuesday through Saturday, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., year-round.

This Center is one of several within the ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge. Situated on State Park land, it opened in 2004 with the support of South Carolina's Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Center programs rely heavily on a small paid staff, and a team of dedicated volunteers. They do everything, from answering telephones, to maintaining walking trails, to guiding evening turtle walks on the beach. They're personable. They're dedicated. They know their stuff. And they're eager to help visitors learn about the natural environment of Edisto.

Speaking of visitors, the Interpretive Center's program is designed to inform all ages of visitor. It's neither a children's museum nor an adults' museum. Its exhibits explain the environment of the Edisto area in ways that appeal to learners young and old. Now, that's not easy! But somehow they manage.

Every Saturday, even during the off-season, Interpretive Center Manager, Andrea Grabman, and other members of the staff, offer hour-long programs that introduce visitors of all ages to the wildlife of the region. Programs such as shark dissection, and opportunities to handle -- under strict supervision intended as much to protect the creatures as the human handlers -- fierce-looking crabs and other creatures in the Center's "touch-tanks." The Center also sponsors an evening lecture series designed for adults.

Click on this link to view some more photos of the Edisto Interpretive Center and its surrounding grounds. Better yet, come by and see the place for yourself!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina

Click here for the first post in this series.

The limited access road to the vacation cabins begins just after that parking area.

[Click all photos for larger version]

These cabins are nothing fancy. But they're well maintained, and include all you'll need to spend a few days right beside the salt marsh, with your own dock on Scott Creek. I prefer our Little Tin House. But tastes vary.

Speaking of Scott Creek, drive back out to Route 174, turn left, and then left again in less than a mile into Palmetto Road. Keep left onto Oyster Row Lane, past the Interpretive Center mentioned above,

And you'll reach the Park's boat ramp on Scott Creek.

As the sign warns, the ramp is pretty steep at low tide. But it and the adjoining dock are well maintained, like the rest of the Park. A great place to launch a fishing boat or kayak.

Click here for the next post in this series.

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina

Click here for the first post in this series.

Quite a storm last night. Warnings throughout the afternoon on the NOAA weather radio. Rain by the bucket and lots of wind. The Aliner Mobile Studio barely shuddered throughout, however. Held solid by the wind straps you see in the photo below. One on each side. Better safe than sorry. Opinion within the Aliner owner community varies on the best way to wind-proof an Aliner. This is one simple, inexpensive method I've found effective. Even in very strong cross winds.

[Click all photos for larger version]

This morning, however, the sun is out, already pushing temperatures into the 60s. Only a few puddles here and there on the campground gravel roadway remain as reminders of the storm. One advantage of a sandy soil!

Edisto Island's remarkable restaurants don't have a monopoly on good eating. There are a number of places to buy fresh vegetables and other groceries. Everyone passing on Route 174 notices the sign for George and Pink's. If only for the name! Driving out from the campground, it's on the right just after Main's Market. Make the turn, and drive half a mile or so down a dirt road that's single-lane most of the way. The scenery along the road alone makes the detour worth the effort. Drive slowly or you may miss it, on the right.

Ms. Pink explained that she and her Father, George, started the business some thirty years ago. Raising much of the produce offered here in their nearby fields. Local folks buy their vegetables here, as well as customers from around the United States. Many of them come back year after year. It's a well-known enterprise.

Back down Route 174 toward Edisto Beach, past the Palmetto Road turn-off for the Interpretive Center [more on that later on], a small sign announces the "Live Oak Camping Area." Be sure to turn in and have a look around. Even if you're set up in the main camping area near the beach. This section of the park offers the opportunity to experience quite a different Edisto Island environment. Live oaks hung with "Spanish moss" surrounded by palmetto trees and other vegetation give this area of the Park an entirely different feel. There are fifty campsites in this dense tropical woods, each with water and an electric hook-ups.

Park personnel maintain at least six walking/hiking trails throughout the Park. None are difficult. All are interesting. Unusual plants; wildlife and birds; and even an early Indian shell mound. All available for the walking. Or riding, if you have a bicycle with you. Incredible! The Live Oaks Camping Area is a good place to park and begin exploring the trails.

Click here for the next post in this series.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina

Click here for the first post in this series.

Up early this morning, well before daylight. Well, that's not much of a challenge at this time of year. And over for a quick shower in the nearby bath house. It's a little chilly. Maybe even down to the low 50s! So, the automatic electric heaters near the showers are welcome. As is a respectable gush of hot water. These are good showers, clean, and well maintained. Then back to the Mobile Studio for a good breakfast and some writing.

[Click all photos for larger version]

Today's sunrise wasn't all that impressive, truth be told. But here's a photo taken from this very spot last month that illustrates what it usually -- or at least, often -- looks like out across the Atlantic.

Now, for a country boy raised in the Northern Appalachian Mountains, who never saw the sea until he was 17 years old, that's some sight! And it's not at all unusual. Just one of the perks of parking the Mobile Studio here. And you were wondering why an otherwise normal person would visit the beach in the winter!

One problem with camping at Edisto Beach State Park is culinary. No matter how much food we bring, and how tasty that food is, there's a terrible temptation to jump in the car of a morning and drive out to one of the local restaurants for a diet-buster breakfast. Now, Edisto folks can cook! Breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It doesn't matter.

So, with family warnings of the dangers of over-eating ringing in my ears, off I drive to a nearby breakfast heaven for a great meal. The road out of the beachside campground parallels a marshy creek.

It's hard not to stop and admire the wildlife. Even with that great breakfast waiting. I never thought much of "marshes" before coming here. Thought they were just fancy swamps. Which we drained and tilled as soon as we could OverHome. Well, these salt marshes are much more than that.

A wild-life photographer could easily spend a day right in this one spot and not be disappointed.

This is Main's Market, right on Route 174, just a couple of miles from the campsite. The signs don't do justice to the food offered by proprietor Mr. Larry Main, and chef, Ms. Etta. Mr. Main cooks the meat and Ms. Etta does the rest. The combination is incredible. If, like me, you love collards, but don't order them in restaurants because they're always too salty, give Ms. Etta's collards a try. They are perfectly seasoned, and not too salty! Ms. Etta is very health-conscious, and all of her dishes reflect that concern.

Click here for the next post in this series.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina

Table of Contents for This Series

  1. Arrival
  2. Morning View
  3. Pink & George’s Vegetables
  4. Cabins, Interpretive Center, Boat Ramp
  5. Interpretive Center, Bookstore

Off again to Edisto Beach State Park, one of South Carolina's most attractive camping spots. It is far from the newest Park in the system. And some of its equipment is ready for replacement. But everything is well maintained and made the most of by a dedicated and skilled staff.

All of the campsites I've seen there are attractive. But during the winter months I especially enjoy those right on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. Good thing I prefer them in the winter, since they're near-impossible to reserve during any other season. It's a popular place.

The trip from Columbia to Edisto Island takes about three hours, driving sensibly. And when towing a travel trailer it's sensible to drive sensibly. Down I-77 to I-26, avoiding I-95, and straight through to Route 17 South. I-26 is pretty standard-issue four-lane highway. But I-17 in this part of the country has lots of character. Small stands beside the road selling vegetables, regional crafts and art, truck parts and tires, and, of course, some of the most diet-busting cuisine one could imagine. Take plenty of time to make the drive, because you're sure to stop at least once or twice. To eat, an/or to marvel.

Too soon, really, given the attractions of Route 17, the road to Edisto Island requires a sharp left, up over a railroad crossing, and then you're on Route 174. Well, it's a fair exchange, since Route 174 is a social and natural scenery aficionado's delight. Beautiful old live oaks planted close enough to the roadway to make you watch your mirrors, sweep across the road, forming a green tunnel in places. Shops along the road are less frequent here, naturally, since there's less traffic. But it seems as though in recognition of that, the shopkeepers have joined in a commitment to make up for their small number with more interesting presentations and products for sale. Even the signs have character!

As the third hour of driving rolls up on the clock or GPS, you're on Edisto Island, and approaching the community of Edisto Beach. More on this stretch of road later on. Make a sharp left at the Park Entrance pictured here, and you're home.

[Click all photos for larger version]

Here's the Mobile Studio parked on Site # 18. All set up. Including the grill and a most useful carpet. These campsites are quite level. But they're sandy as the dickens. No way to avoid it. We're right on the edge of the beach, and that's what happens in places like this! Even without the outside carpet, it's worth the inconvenience of the sand. But the carpet eliminates nearly all of even that minor problem. Now, that grill you see beside the mobile studio is just about ready to broil a small steak for dinner, and maybe some fresh string beans. Hard to beat.

Click here for the next post in this series.