Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much any more. Resist!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Day 3, Pt. 2 -- On the Ashepoo, Combahee, & the Edis-to

Wed., Aug. 17, continued....

After my lunch, Wesley called the boat tour guys to confirm that we were going. Then I made him call them back to see if there was a cover on the boat and to ask how crowded it was going to be. Fifteen people. A full boat. Dang it.

He and Woodrow commenced playing chess. I think this was the afternoon that we found a deck of cards, but we didn't start playing yet. Furthermore, at *some* point on this day, Wesley called the rental agent and confessed to creaming the screen door upstairs. They assured him that they would still send back whatever part of the damage deposit that wasn't used repairing the dead door. Wesley nearly cried. OK, I'm exaggerating. That's my job. I'm a writer. We lie a lot and call it "exaggeration" or "poetry." Snort.

I went outside again, but it was just miserably hot out there, so I went to bed instead and took a nap, which must not have been *too* lengthy, because I don't mention it in my trip notes. At 4:00, I got up and we all got dressed for our 5:00 ACE Basin boat tour. "ACE" stands for the rivers that converge around Edisto, the Ashepoo, the Combahee, and the Edisto. And to be perfectly honest, we didn't go on all of them. We would have had to go all the way around the island to do that, and as I've mentioned before, Edisto is the largest barrier island. I think that would be a six-hour tour.

At the Edisto Watersports and Tackle locale, we checked in and waited to climb aboard the boat. Our tour guide was the lady who was the lecturer at the Serpentarium in '04, and she recognized Emily immediately. It took us all a while to figure out why she remembered Emily.

The tour guide's specialty was biology, so the tour focused on ecology and conservation of the great salt marsh that comprises most of Edisto and which I love so much. We traveled down Big Bay Creek (tee hee, there are so many things named after me around there) and out into the ocean before moving up to the South Edisto River. The boat moved slowly on Big Bay Creek, so we were hot when we hit the ocean, whereupon the water, the wind, and the currents came together with the increased speed of the boat and created.... salt spray. It was actually very refreshing at that point, being about 5:00 in the afternoon on a very darned hot day. The tour guide commented, "It's gonna be a wet one."

Then she started telling us how important the salt marsh is, and how it is as large and important an ecosystem as the rain forests in South America, and how lucky we are that Edisto is largely undeveloped. She pointed out brown herons, back from the brink of extinction, and although we didn't see any alligators, they're back, too. We wandered up meandering marsh creeks and gazed at the tall salt marsh grass, which is the only grass in the world that wicks salt out of the water and crystallizes it on their crowns.

Let's take a moment for the bleeding heart liberals to sigh happily and hug a tree. I'll be right back.... OK! Done. I hugged my Prius while I was at it.

Most of the people in the boat, and indeed, probably most tourists in general, wanted to see dolphins, so every time the tour guide spied one, she would slow down. I am not that nutty about dolphins. Yes, they're cute and cuddly. But if you've seen one pod of dolphins, you've seen them all, and I would have been much happier to spend more time in those tiny creeks if it meant I could have seen a turtle in its natural habitat. I'm a complete sucker for turtles. And Edisto Island boasts diamond-back terrapins, about which I will write on the last day of this trip report. I would have *loved* to have seen one of those on this boat tour. But I didn't. Nope. I saw bunches of dolphins. Yawn.

The tour guide drove us past Middleton Plantation and Peter's Point, neither of which are visible from the roads. They're manor houses that are about 180 years old, dating back to the days when Edisto Island was one of the wealthiest spots in America thanks to Sea Island cotton and slavery. Peter's Point is falling apart, but it remains in the original family. Which is nearly impossible to conceive, considering that the War Between the States brought Sea Island cotton production to crashing halt. I hope the family gets its stuff in order and restores that place before it crumbles to pieces. If they cannot agree on who should pay for it, they should sell it to some wealthy history buff, dang it.

On the way back to the marina, the tour guide said that someone had requested seeing alligators, and since we didn't see any, she brought one. And she pulled a baby alligator out of a cooler. Now, dang it, if I knew they took requests, I would've mentioned... TURTLES!!!!!

I feel gypped.

Wesley was fixin' t'git ready to whomp some guy who was in the boat with us, who took every pause by the tour guide as an excuse to babble on and on about something. We knew not what. He just talked and talked and talked.

For myself, I was fixin' t'git ready to smack this woman who sat behind me taking picture after picture after picture with her digital camera, so it beeped nonstop. She actually had to replace the memory card halfway through the tour, and she begged the guide to stop the boat lest she miss anything. During the portions when we were supposed to be listening to the marsh? "Beep beep beep beep beep whirrrrrrr click beep-beep beep beep beep beep beep click click beep-beep beep beep beep whirrrrrrrrrrr beepbeepbeepBEEP!" If I weren't staying in a house ON the marsh, I would think that salt marshes sound remarkably like digital cameras.

Woodrow and Emily were in hog heaven for the entire trip, wiggling back and forth between seats in order to see as much as possible. For them, this boat tour was invaluable. They had a blast.

On the way back down the South Edisto River, the only other kid in our boat talked about seeing sea turtles hatch near his rental house on the beach the night before. Loggerhead turtles are now endangered, and there are many, many laws concerning what one can and cannot do in order to encourage the loggerheads to reproduce as fruitfully as possible. You can't leave your porch lights on if you're staying on the beach; you cannot touch loggerhead nests nor impede their progress if you see one on the sand. And when the baby turtles hatch, you have to alert the proper authorities, who come out and form human chains to ensure the babies are not touched on their march to the sea.

Of course, I had to tell the boy about the turtles that hatched under my Edisto Island beach house when I was 7, and the tragedy of the fact that in 1973, no one cared about the babies. They were being run over by cars and picked off by seagulls, so we all grabbed dishpans and started scooping up baby turtles, running to the surf, and releasing them directly into the ocean. My father never told me that they probably got eaten by big fish and pelicans even after we went to all that trouble.

But the thing is -- you never forget baby loggerheads, if you're lucky enough to see them hatch. Never. Even if you're not allowed to try to help them survive any more, you will always remember these credit-card sized babies scrabbling across the sand with only one purpose in mind: Survival.

No wonder I'm nuts about turtles, huh?

Before we left the river and re-entered the ocean, the tour guide warned us to protect our cameras. And that's when the Great Soaking occurred. We were all sodden after a minute on the open sea. This time it started off refreshing and moved straight into sticky and uncomfortable in the hot, setting sun. The trip up Big Bay Creek (tee hee again) seemed much shorter, and we were very soon back at the marina -- where I took the picture you see above.

Just as I put my camera away, we all heard a huge, rumbling crash of thunder. What the...? Thunder? Why? I looked all around the sky and saw no rainclouds. There was a slight haze on the north side of the marsh, but that was all. But man, it caused me to start praying for rain. Rain. Raaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiinnnnnnn. Rain would have been such a lovely way to cool off the evening!

We piled into the Prius and drove back to the house as quickly as possible, all of us complaining about how salty and sticky we were. At the house, we soaked up the air conditioning and took showers and changed to better clothing for dinner.

And then we headed off to the Ruby Seahorse for dinner as storm clouds finally moved in over the island.

Even though the restaurant had only a screened porch, it was perfectly situated to screen out most of the mist from the rain that finally did start just seconds after we arrived. The gorgeous teenaged waitresses were gone, and there were no other diners present when we seated ourselves at the most centrally located table. The guy at the half-door actually waited on us, because, he said, "There's no one else here."

As the evening turned comfortably cool, Emily had a grilled cheese with bacon; Woodrow indulged in a huge hamburger & fries; I had a burger and fries and *real* iced tea; and Wesley got himself the pimento cheese hamburger, which was a big mess and must have been very yummy, indeed. The food was *sublime*. No, it was not gourmet; no, the surroundings were not swanky; no, it didn't cost a fortune, and *man*, it was FABULOUS.

We read the antique tin advertisements on the wall (try explaining the old Coppertone ads to modern kids. Go 'head. Try, I dare ya) and enjoyed the classic rock radio station and the three powerful ceiling fans which stirred the night air around us. Truly satisfied in all the most important ways, we paid the bill ($33, including tip) and made our way back to the Pink Flamingo in the soft, cool rain.

Wesley and I lit the mosquito lamp and reposed on the screened porch for a while as the rain continued to fall. I was drinking White Russians by now, having slowly gathered the supplies necessary. I never had a White Russian before Club Scrap Retreat, so I drank toasts to Paula before I got too sleepy to toast anyone. In bed before 11:00, I slept soundly and dreamt of sea turtles in salt marshes -- which opened their big, beaky mouths and beeped at me like digital cameras.


At 27/8/05 12:13 PM, Blogger Paul Johnson said...

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