Leaving Beidler Forest, we had a decision to make. Should we join the madness at Magnolia Garden, or should we seek out more wildlife? Earlier in the day we had driven through a historic residential section of Summerville and were able to enjoy the beauty of azaleas in that area. We decided that was enough, and we could skip the madness.
The ranger at Beidler had pointed us toward two areas in the ACE Basin. Skipping the interstates, we headed on country roads towards the coast. In St. George, we drove through the "National Grits Festival." The town of Walterboro was also a thriving community, and both had historic homes. From Walterboro we continued southward through pine forests and Spanish moss.
We came to Highway 17 and immediately saw a sign for the Donnelly Wildlife Management Area, part of the ACE Basin. A dirt road was labeled "Main Rd", and we were able to pick up a map at the entrance display. We were all alone on the road, so we drove slowly, stopping anywhere we wished to watched wildlife from the car. At one point a raccoon tried to cross in front of us, and moments later a turkey followed. The road travelled mostly straight with rice impoundments off to the side. Herons, ibis, and other wading birds wandered along the old rice paddies.
Several roads and trails branched off to the sides. Eventually we did see parking for a nature trail and pulled off. The trail begain at an old abandoned farmhouse with Gothic woodwork. I hated to see it in such a state. The trail itself got us closer to the rice impoundments – close enough to see a large number of alligators. We saw more birds, but Laura started to get freaked by the gators.
Back in the car, we continued south, stopping briefly at another impoundment. We hit pavement right outside the WMA proper, but the pavement rand out after a couple of miles, and we hit more dirt. Our car was getting filthy. We kept heading south and finally reached lands end at a boat ramp on the Salkahatchie River.
After a wonderful day in the wild, we fought traffic back through and around Charleston to our hotel.