One last ocean sunrise

Edisto Beach, South Carolina

Well, the day had to come, one last day to walk the beach at sunrise before turning west and heading toward the heartland. I shall miss arriving in the darkness, a faint glow on the horizon, and watching it grow to a rosy glow that gets brighter and brighter until that golden orb peaks over the horizon and quickly explodes into a streak of color and a million diamonds sparkling on the waves.

Here I share with you the best of the last great sunrise over the ocean, at least for this trip.

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Only at the beach do you have this kind of unobstructed view of the magic moment the day begins. Ah what a glorious sight!

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Lighthouses

Take a good look at these lighthouse photos. What do you notice?

Having visited many lighthouses in many locations, I have noticed that each is unique — each a different height, made of different materials, with different paint patterns — but not being a navigator, the real purpose of each light’s unique style and paint job never really crossed my mind.

Tybee Island Lighthouse station signWhen I visited the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum, near Savannah, Georgia, I learned the real and really quite obvious reason for those unique patterns — called a day mark, they are a way to identify which lighthouse is which when you see them by day.

Tybee Island offers a rare opportunity to view a working lighthouse and see how the keeper, his assistants, and their families lived from the late 1700s until the light was automated well into the 20th century.

Climb the 178 steps to the top and think about doing that several times a day to keep the oil lamp burning. Look into the 1st order Fresnel lens (large enough for 4 people to stand inside) which magnifies the light of a single 1000 watt bulb and focuses it into a beam that can be seen 18 miles out to sea.

From the outdoor observation deck at the top, you get a good view of the Fort Screven battery, below, built as a protection for nearby Savannah,as well as the beach, ocean, and nearby coastal cities.

Fort Screven battery from top of Tybee Island lighthouseDon’t leave without lunch at the North Beach Bar and Grill between the lighthouse and the beach. The smells emanating from the kitchen make your mouth water and the coastal Americana decor is a delightful beach break.

Memorial Day – an American Holiday

Today is Memorial Day in the US. A day set aside to honor those who have sacrificed their lives protecting the “land of the free” in battles around the globe. There will be speeches, cemetery visits, and memorial observances throughout the land.

Memorial Day is also the official start of the summer season —  tourist towns dust off the winter cobwebs, theme parks reopen their doors, children will soon be out of school, and a host of family activities are being planned. This long weekend affords families the opportunity to travel, get together for that first picnic of the season, and celebrate the summer to come.

Blue Bear hanging from a lantern

Let the camping and paddling season begin!

Jekyll but no Hyde

A few miles up the road from St. Augustine, the landscape changes from endless miles of sandy beaches to wilder salt marshes, estuaries, and individual barrier islands. No longer do beach cities and development extend to the waves lapping at the shore.

The Atlantic coast of Georgia (USA) is filled with inlets, outlets, and barrier islands. It is a magical place of winding estuaries and tall marsh grasses that glow in the sun lending the nickname, the Golden Isles. Due to bad weather and limited time to meander and explore, I had to make like a dragonfly and zip through this area, lightly touching down from time to time. Here are a few of the highlights.

img_8314-qprSt. George Island (can you see the English connection in that name?) is the site of the Kinglsey Plantation, a national historic site depicting life on a Southern plantation. Since the idea of Southern plantations has a negative connotation, due to the Civil War, I recommend visiting and learning more about this era of American history.

The part the history books don’t tell is that under Spanish rule, slavery was outlawed. (In fact, Ft. Mose, just north of St. Augustine, was a settlement of Africans – freemen and former slaves.) But, when the British and later the Americans took over, land owners were actively recruited but were not granted tracts of  land to work agriculturally unless they had a certain number of slaves for every acre. Yeah, I know, shocking isn’t it?

Jekyll Island, once the winter playground of the rich and famous, this island is home to “cottages” built by people with names like JP Morgan, Vanderbilt, Goodyear, and Pulitzer that are bigger than the houses, even McMansions, of most people today. A group of these millionaires, bought the island from the family of the original plantation owner and created an exclusive club for the rich and famous. Many historic moments occurred here such as the first meeting of the Federal Reserve and the first transcontinental telephone call.

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Today, anyone, for a small fee, can drive to the island, tour the historic district and get a sense of the opulence of the Victorian era. You can rent a cottage or a room in the turn of the 20th century inn, or if just a day tripper, wander through the public rooms viewing vintage photographs, grab a bite in the Bistro, or dine in luxury in the historic dining room. Rent a bicycle and pedal through the historic area; head to the beach and on your way you will discover ruins of the original plantation house, the old cemetery and enjoy scenic vistas and byways.

img_8345-qprBe sure to stop at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center where nestlings are monitored and injured sea turtles are rescued, rehabilitated, and if possible, released back into the wild. There is a nice interactive exhibit hall with live animals. Your admission fees support the work they do to preserve these magnificent creatures, some of whom are threatened and endangered.

Skidaway Island is the home of a large state park that provides access to the salt marshes and estuaries. The campground is located on a large hammock on the intercoastal waterway, a brackish water river system that extends most of the way down the eastern seaboard, separating the mainland from the barrier islands, offshore, which serve to protect the land mass from storm surges.

These barrier islands afford opportunities to enjoy unspoiled beaches, paddle quiet backwaters and estuaries, hike, bird watch, and get away from it all in many ways. I could spend months or years exploring them all, but alas I do not have the time. I look forward to another opportunity to travel this way, stay longer and explore deeper.

“Toto, we’re not at the beach anymore”

Blue Bear needs a directionI followed the signs toward Myrtle Beach but somewhere around Charleston have to take a left turn.

As I leave the ocean and  beach behind, I will miss the smell of the salt air, the cry of the sea birds, and most of all the beauty of the sunrise accompanied by the music of the waves, whether soothing or stormy.

The interior of our country is filled with beautiful, majestic, serene, and exciting places and I enjoy all the variety, yet being at the ocean shore at sunrise is pretty hard to beat (though the shores of  the Great Lakes come close.)

The salt marshes of Georgia, the antebellum vibe of Charleston, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Smokey Mountain National Park await. Adventure on.

 

 

Jumpin’ Jellies

Stormy here today.

When storms churn the surf, the beach is often nearly devoid of creatures of the human variety. Yet there is always wildlife aplenty — the usual assortment of shorebirds skittering along, pelicans swooping low over the waves, and the heron patiently plying the surf for a meal. The sand is dotted with holes, large and small, harboring clams and crabs. And after a big storm jellies (aka jelly fish – which they are not – fish that is) get washed ashore and litter the sand like transparent deflated balloons.

After a recent storm, Portuguese Man-o-War lay on the beach like clear snack bags filled with deep blue liquid. The Portuguese Man-o-War looks like a jelly, but according to National Geographic they are actually a colony of organisms that float on the currents and deliver a powerful sting that can paralyze and kill small fish.

img_7642-qprWatch out for their tentacles; even when lying dead on the beach they can still deliver a painful sting to the unwary beach walker. And sometimes, they may still be alive hoping to catch an errant wave back out to sea.