Lowcountry Small Town Tour – The Return Trip

Downtown Cope
Downtown Cope

On my way down to Bluffton I passed through twenty-six small towns. In addition to that I’ve visited two ghost towns, and some of those other towns were about to cross the line into the “ghost” category. For the return trip I had a couple of options for avoiding the Interstate. I decided to retrace my way partially on 321, then branch off on 601 northbound to Orangeburg. That would take me through more small towns.

I was leaving Hilton Head fairly early, and even had time for a good breakfast leaving the island. That would give me plenty of time for exploration. That turned out to be a good thing because of some very unexpected delays, but more on that later.

So, on the way back I hit the following towns that I had visited before.

  • Hilton Head
  • Bluffton
  • Okatie
  • Hardeeville
  • Tillman
  • Tarboro

I didn’t linger too long in these, but continued on until I reached the turnoff for Highway 601.

The towns of Stokes and De Loach were little more than wide spots in the road. In Google Earth Stokes is shown off the main highway down a dirt road. It is a possible ghost town. I didn’t have that information at the time, so I didn’t venture to check it out. Next up was Furman, which I had visited via detour yesterday.

The next town on the list was Hampton, and here is where I ran into the surprising delay. I could see the main road through town was blocked with a police car with flashing lights. I saw pavilions and food vendors set up, and realized I had stumbled onto the Hampton County Watermelon Festival. It looked like there was no way through the town, so I decided to park and explore. Continue reading “Lowcountry Small Town Tour – The Return Trip”

Lowcountry Small Town Tour

SC Small Towns-028
Downtown Bamberg

I’m still playing catch-up with my blogging. I’m about a week behind, but maybe over the next couple of days I can get caught up.

When Glynda first got married she lived in Savannah and our family would make the occasional trip down there for a visit. This was 40+ years ago, so I-95 was non-existent. The only way to get there was a series of two-lane roads that went through lots of tiny towns in South Carolina.

Now for the present – last weekend my paddling buddy, Matt Richardson, turned 40, and his wife, Cris, planned a surprise party for him. Since I’m now retired with nothing better to do, I decided to drive down and join in the surprise. I had the time, so I decided to replicate the trips from long ago, avoiding the interstates, and driving through all of the little towns, taking photos along the way. I also planned to hit a couple of ghost towns. Continue reading “Lowcountry Small Town Tour”

Charleston to McClellanville and Beyond

Sewee Shell Ring Boardwalk HDR

So far we had already had a great trip to the South Carolina Low Country. Yesterday we explored Beidler Forest and the ACE Basin, and the weather looked great for more exploration today.  The day was already hot and humid, so we decided it would be more of a driving trek than hiking.  The trek took us through a large swath of the Francis Marion National Forest.

We started the day by driving onto the Charleston peninsula and touring the area South of Broad. There was the obligatory drive along the battery, but what we enjoyed most was driving through the residential areas and looking at the stately homes with their enclosed gardens.  For some reason, I wasn’t in much of a photography mood, so I don’t have any photos of that part of the trip.

From Charleston we crossed the new Cooper River Bridge into Mount Pleasant, then headed north on Highway 17.    Eventually we came to the Cape Romaine National Wildlife Refuge.  I had already checked online, and the ferry out to Bull’s Island doesn’t run on Sundays, so we walked out to the pier and watch birds and boat traffic out on the ICW. Continue reading “Charleston to McClellanville and Beyond”

ACE Basin

Donelley House

Our visit to Beidler Forest only took up half of the day, and we were ready to see more wildlife. Therefore, we cut across the country down toward the ACE Basin and the Donnelley Wildlife Management Area. Donnelley is only one small section of the ACE Basin. To the east is the Ernest Hollings National Wildlife Refuge. However, we prefer Donnelly because it’s a bit easier access, and it tends to be a bit quieter.

We entered from Bennett’s Point Road and immediately got turned around. We were taking a different direction, but eventually wound up where we wanted – at the old farm house that serves as a landmark for the rice field hiking trails.

Continue reading “ACE Basin”

Francis Beidler Forest

Beidler Forest Boardwalk

I had been sneaking off on paddling trips for the past several weekends, so Laura decided it was time for both of us to get away. We headed down toward the coast, and one of our favorite locations, Francis Beidler Forest.

Beidler Forest is located in the Four Holes Swamp area, and is maintained by the Audobon Society. It features a mile-long loop trail on a raised boardwalk that winds through the cypress swamp. In addition to huge ancient trees, the swamp is home to many species of birds and other wildlife. This time of year is when the prothonotary warblers are in town, and we were hoping to spot a few. Continue reading “Francis Beidler Forest”

Chapels of Ease

St. Helena Chapel of Ease

On my way back from my paddling trip to Beaufort I decided to take a brief detour and visit a couple of places I had wanted to photograph. These were the St. Helena Chapel of Ease and the Pon Pon Chapel of Ease. There are only ruins left of both chapels, but both places are filled with history and photographic opportunities.

According to Wikipedia, a “chapel of ease” is “a church building other than the parish church, built within the bounds of a parish for the attendance of those who cannot reach the parish church conveniently.” In colonial South Carolina the large plantations of the sea islands were remote. It was often hard for parishioners to get to the larger towns, so the local Anglican congregations built these chapels to accommodate the parishioners.

Sheldon Church 1

Probably the most famous of the Lowcountry church ruins is the Old Sheldon Church, which was once known as the Prince William Parish Church, located on Sheldon Road northwest of Beaufort. Even though Sheldon Church is often grouped with St. Helena and Pon Pon, this is not technically a chapel of ease, as it was a parish church in its own right. The brick columns and walls are much larger than the typical chapel of ease. I had visited Sheldon on several occasions, and wanted to focus on the other two smaller churches for this trip. Continue reading “Chapels of Ease”