Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Huntington Beach State Park. Part III

Click here for the first post in this series.

Right after arrival, it’s a good idea to tour an unfamiliar RV campground to locate facilities and any potential difficulties, Then make an overall tour of the whole Park. Spending only enough time at each feature to take a couple of photos.

I usually follow the hand-out maps that come with campsite tags at check-in. And ask the attendant for additional suggestions. South Carolina’s State parks, especially those as large as Huntington Beach, all are well known for one or two special attractions. But they always have much more to offer. Features the casual visitor may overlook.

Board Walk trail head I set aside time this morning for the tour. Though in the event it went on through the afternoon. There’s a lot to experience here. Beginning with one of several board walks out to the beach. This one begins just behind my campsite. It’s handicapped-accessible all the way to the end.

Board Walk Veg The view of the beach at the end is only part of what this boardwalk has to offer. The vegetation along way on each side is interesting. Quite different than that along the boardwalk at Henderson State Park on the Gulf Coast. Quite different, even, than that along the paths of Hunting Island. Just a few miles, by water, down the coast.

Slow down as you walk the path and look carefully at the different plants on both sides. This is an ideal time of the year for enjoying this part of the Park, since the mosquitoes and other carnivorous beasties have yet to arrive.

Beach North Now, the beauty of the plants along the path shouldn’t distract you from the ultimate destination. The beach here is beautiful. Day in; day out. A little chilly for sunbathing this time of year for all but the most hardy of our Northern neighbors. But ideal for a brisk walk in either direction.

Bird sign Birdlife in this part of the Park too is amazing. They’re not all on the salt marsh. I awoke this morning to the sound of the surf, muffled by passage through the dense vegetation between the Mobile Studio and the beach, and the songs of several different species of birds. None of them familiar. Species quite different from those seen from the causeway. I mean! What a treat. i tried to record the sound, but don’t have the proper equipment.

Well over 250 species of birds visit this Park. Which explains all the folks walking about with binoculars, cameras, and Life Lists. A birder’s paradise. Even non-birders like me can enjoy all the different birds and sounds.

Beach House Next stop was the huge parking lot between the Ranger Station and the beach. Nowhere near full today. But its size gives some indication of the popularity of this Park for daytime visits to the beach. Folks said it’s important to come early to get a parking spot once the weather warms up.

Quinones Memorial Bench The structure pictured above was built in the same style as the Ranger Station. Lower level ready for water inundation; facilities on the top floor. In this case, restrooms and changing rooms. With both ramps and stairs leading up. Here’s a bench dedicated to Patricia (Ms. Baby) Quinones. I’ll have to find out more about her. There must be a story in that name.

Tree Near Beach Last post I mentioned the care taken to maintain old trees here at Huntington Beach State Park. It’s a never-ending task. And one that requires a high level of skill to do properly.

Well, here’s an example. The photo above, as usual, doesn’t do justice to this tree. Wind-blasted from the ocean side. But still surviving. Flourishing, in fact! Managing in the face of adversity to offer folks returning from the beach along this path yet another beautiful sight. A lesson in perseverance.

Atalaya 1 Look south from the main parking lot to see the two-hundred-foot long northern wall of Atalaya. A one-story two-hundred-foot square residence built during the 1930s in the Spanish Mediterranean style by Archer and Anna Huntington. More on Atalaya in another post. It certainly is one of the most unusual houses I’ve ever seen.

Interpretive Center Front Next stop was the long board walk that begins near the Park’s Education Center, extending west out over the marsh. More on the Education Center in another post. Here too it’s near-impossible to just pop in, take a couple of snapshots, and go on to the next site.

Board Walk 2 The boardwalk here is a nature lover’s dream. I forgot to ask just how long it is. But it’s a good hike clear to the end. At least two-thirds of the way across this remarkable marsh.

Animal Tracks Birds abound, of course. But also look closely for signs of other animals here. These tracks were made, I think, by a foraging raccoon. Though it might well be another animal altogether.

Driving slowly across the causeway earlier in the day, I noticed an animal scurry across the road in front of the car. It was way to large for a squirrel. Long, with short legs. I thought it might have been a weasel of some kind. Grown huge here with the easy living. I stopped and saw it briefly again peering over its shoulder at me from the rocks before it scurried on its way. Too quick for a photo, unfortunately.

Mink I asked several passers-by about the animal. None of them knew what it was. The riddle was solved by Interpretive Ranger Mike at the Education Center. He pointed me to the sign above. I’d seen one of the mink recently reintroduced to the area by South Carolina’s DNR. So maybe those tracks were made by a mink and not a raccoon!

Board Walk 1 Designers of this board walk have built a few of these covered rest/observation structures along the way. Very convenient for those of us with limited mobility. They must get crowded when it rains! Can you imagine maintaining and repairing a facility like this board walk? In this environment! Must cost a fortune in materials alone. Let alone the time spent. And there are several such boardwalks throughout the Park.

Oysters Look here at the oysters crowding around the base of this structure. There are oysters all through this marsh. And the surrounding salt water. Enough to discourage me from launching the inflatable kayak near here. Oyster beds with their razor-like protrusions don’t mix well with the hulls of inflatable kayaks!

Three Birds Here’s a final photo from this quick tour of the Park. Taken from the very end of the boardwalk. Three birds, undisturbed by their human observers. There were four or five of us watching from the end of the boardwalk. And one dog! The bird on the left, according to one of the birders, was drying its wings in the breeze. What a sight!

That’s all for now. There’s much more to see here. We haven’t even stepped inside the Education Center, or visited Atalaya. Next post, though, I’m hoping to record an interview with Park Manager, Brenda Magers. So stay tuned.

Click here for the next post in this series.

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