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8/17/2000

My minivacation was as fantastic

Filed under:General — eric @ 5:23 am

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My minivacation was as fantastic as it could get. Two days of perfection. That’s not to say there weren’t adventures. For example, we knew that the gates to the park close at 10pm and if we didn’t make it by then, we would have to sleep in the car. We planned on getting there by 8pm and leisurely setting up the tent in the twilight, but as is to be expected, we left Athens two hours late. And took a few wrong turns. And got pulled over by a very nice South Carolina police officer (Going 46 in a 30. We were in a small town, and I had to swerve around a car that pulled right in front of me. Doing so sped me up some, and the policeman passed me right as the limit changed from 30 to 45. I was very polite and explained what had happened. He asked if we were going to the beach, and I told him how excited I was to be visiting Hunting Island. I gave him my papers, but not before noticing that my insurance card had expired several months ago. Not the policy — just the card. I must have been mailed a replacement but overlooked it. I pointed that out to him so that he wouldn’t discover this for himself. He took the papers and went back to his car. When he returned, he told me it was a serious offense in South Carolina to be driving without proof of insurance. And reminded me I was speeding. And gave me a verbal warning on both counts and wished us a safe journey. Thank you, Mr. Officer!). As the milage between us and the park diminished, the clock ticked nearer to 10pm. We pulled into the campground at exactly (by my car clock) 10:00. We saw no gate, nor did we see anyone at the ranger station. After nosing around for a few minutes, we spotted a park truck driving up. “How’d you get in here?” the ranger inside asked. He’d just returned from locking the gate — we’d in fact passed him on the way in. He pointed us to our pre-paid campsite and sent us on our way.

The site was feet away from the beach. We could look out of the tent and see the surf and the expanse of water. My virst visit to the beach was only a couple of months ago (well, there was nighttime christmas quick stop at Galveston many years ago courtesy of Marjorie, but that was quick, and at night, and at Galveston) so I couldn’t have been more tickled. With the moon full, we swam together under the clear night sky. The water was warm and salty and fairly calm. The ocean’s a big place, but to me it felt like it was just me and her.

We spent a good part of the next day biking up and down the beach. On the sand, in the water. I found it great fun to bike in the breakers — the crashing water pushed me to and fro as the tires kicked it up even more and doused me. At some points both tires were completely underwater and it took all my strength to keep going. We biked out across shallow water to a sand bar and explored. We got stung by jellyfish and ate peaches and climbed to the top of the lighthouse and got squirted by a conch.

That evening, after a fabulous low-country boil (lobster, crabs, shrimp, oysters, corn, and potatoes), we did the moonlight kayak expedition. Oh my goodness. There were ten of us, and we were led by a ranger that knew (I’m pretty sure) everything. He showed us jellyfish that glow in the dark. He showed us plankton that glow in the dark (they’d light up as our paddles hit the water, leaving twinkling wakes behind us). After she and I were both savagely stung by something very, very, very painful, he showed us the wasp jellyfish — “The Terminator” — a jellyfish that has a complete jet propulsion system and eyes. It’s the only jelly fish that actively hunts it prey. A variety in Australia is deadly, but the Carolina variety just hurts an awful lot. He showed us an electric fish. Modified optic nerves on the top of its head shoot bolts of electricity. We paddled around the salt marsh, and a lagoon, and a salty river, and along the shore. Why hadn’t I ever done this before?

The next day (after swimming for several hours), we leisurely made our way back home. But not before stopping at a local seafood company and filling our cooler full of food. Whole live crabs for a dollar a piece! We got a dozen. And shrimp. And oysters. And fish. We filled the cooler for $20. I still can’t believe it.

It was only four hours away. Hunting Island was the best state park I’ve ever been in. It was kept immaculately. They have a large variety of programs. The staff was more than helpful. The beach was incredible. If you’re ever in southern South Carolina, go. You owe it to yourself.