5 years ago today I was in coastal South Carolina, visiting my parents. Like thousands of other Canadian boomer expats, my parents had decided to go somewhere warm as winter got started up north – but neither of them enjoys super hot weather, so they decided on South Carolina as a temperate compromise.
Today for #throwbackthursday, I bring you a re-post of some of that trip’s highlights!
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My first morning in South Carolina we drove slightly inland from the coast to Bluffton,
a quaint southern town with a storied history and my first experience in “the South”.
An old Lowcountry town with a bit of elevation and a sea breeze,
Bluffton was settled in the early 19th century by plantation owners seeking refuge from insects and heat. This town has deep Confederate roots, literally – the “Secession Oak” was the site of an anti-federalist protest, 16 years before South Carolina became the first state to secede and during the Civil War, and 20 years before Union soldiers burnt the majority of the Confederate stronghold to the ground. Bluffton was slow to rebuild but with the growth of the fisheries along the coastline it became a commercial center by the 1880s with multiple oyster companies including Bluffton Oyster Co (founded in 1899 and still operational today). Today it is a tourism destination as it is a snapshot into the historical “southern” coastal town.
We had lunch at Pepper’s Porch a southern-style family restaurant in a 100 year old barn. I had my first taste of southern food and between everyone at the table we seemed to order a little bit of everything: BBQ pulled pork, fried chicken, oysters, hush puppies, grits, fried green tomatoes, collard greens and cornbread.
Contrasting the saturated meal was a fresh farmers market where we picked up local produce:
Georgia peaches, Carolina grapes, okra, squash, tomatoes, corn, eggplant, tomatoes, beans and rice.
We also got ravioli stuffed fresh on the spot with crab, corn and bacon! *mmm*
Then I explored the few remaining antebellum structures that survived the fire, now housing an outdoor art gallery, a general store and quaint shops including one selling only dresses! *twirl*
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My second day in South Carolina, was spent by the Atlantic ocean,
cycling the coastal pathways, white beaches and nature preserves of Hilton Head Island.
South Carolina is home to a large assemblage of wetland communities as well as a diverse mix of vegetation. As an avid plant lover, the Middle Atlantic Coastal Forest is home to an array of fascinating plants I’ve never seen before – like pines and palms growing together! I’ve never seen Spanish moss hanging from the branches of trees, but now I know why so much southern literature references this dramatic scene!
Hilton Head Island is 1/2 sea island and 1/2 barrier island with a tidal marsh in the middle – an essential part of the unique Carolina bays. The local climate is humid and subtropical, often subjected to hurricanes, floods and fires and the island is mostly dry sandy soil. As a result, the coastal areas I’ve been bicycling around are covered in temperate coniferous forest or coastal plains.
Coastal Carolina Vegetation:
Thriving Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) keep their leaves year round, draped in dramatic Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) an indicator species in this southern coastal forest. Mixed subtropical pines: Longleaf (P. palustris), Shortleaf (P. echinata) and Loblolly (P. taeda), interspersed with tropical palms: Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) and Sabal Palm (Sabal palmetto) are a dramatic background to a variety of Magnolias: Southern (M. grandiflora), Sweetbay (M. virginiana), Cucumbertree (M. acuminata) and an occasional dramatic character reference: the Sourgum Tupelo (Nyssa aquatica).