Saturday, December 30, 2006

Crosby Arboretum & Birmingham Botanical Gardens

I spent around a week in my hometown of Picayune, MS visiting family and friends over the holidays. On my last day I visited the Crosby Arboretum, and on my way back to Columbia I stopped and visited the Birmingham (AL) Botanical Gardens. Crosby was a modest $4, and Birmingham was free! Neither was very colorful this time of year, but they were very nice nonetheless. Crosby was especially peaceful, as I pretty much had the place to myself. Birmingham has a lot of potential, and I bet it's amazing during the spring and summer; I'll definitely have to visit it during that time frame.

Photos from Crosby:

Photos from Birmingham:

Tree stump that looks like a leaf:

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Huntington Beach State Park

Donna and I traveled to the Myrtle Beach area for a couple of days to visit the nighttime candle display at Brookgreen Gardens and also Huntington Beach State Park. We arrived in the area around 3:00 on Friday and had lunch at a really great New York style deli in Pawleys Island; I had an incredible Reuben and fries, and Donna had a huge Greek salad and a "small" (which was still pretty big) ham and cheese sandwich. The proprietor was a riot, and he made sure we were happy and well fed.

We then headed to Brookgreen, where the evening festivities ran from 5:00-9:00. The candlelit gardens were incredibly beautiful. They call the event "Night of a Thousand Candles," but it was easy to tell there were way more than a thousand candles; I asked one of the barbecue lighter-wielding ladies if she had an idea of how many there were, and she just laughed and said, "Thousands!" There were luminary bags, mason jars containing tea lights hanging in trees, and lots of floating islands in the various pools and ponds. There were also several musicians, including a pianist, a harpist, a flute quintet, a saxophonist, and a multi-talented guy playing piano, Irish tin whistles, Uillean pipes, and violin. It was all an incredible environment; I felt as if I'd stepped back in time about a hundred years. It was really a breath of fresh air to see this side of Christmas, more of what it's really about, as opposed to the commercially-driven mass shopping at stores.

Saturday morning we headed into Huntington Beach State Park; this is where Anna Hyatt Huntington (the sculptress of much of the art at Brookgreen) and her husband lived. Their home is open; no furnishings remain, as Anna moved back to New York following her husband's death, and she naturally moved her possessions with her. But that means, unlike in many historic homes, the house is totally open for self-guided tours. It's pretty interesting architecturally speaking. It's built in a Spanish style, and there were no blueprints; the design evolved as it was built. I would be so incredibly happy living in a house like this, right on the ocean, surrounded by water, breeze, and wildlife. I can see where it'd really lend to artistic creativity and was surely very conducive to Anna's work. Donna had to be at work at 5:00, so following exploring the house we checked out the beach and salt marshes a bit before hitting the road back to Columbia.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve

Today I visited the Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve, just minutes from downtown Columbia. It is truly an amazing place, and it's pretty amazing that it is so close to downtown. It reminds me a fair amount of the Congaree Swamp National Park about 20 miles south of Columbia. It features a 2.5 mile trail that for the most part is pretty easily navigated, though it's wise to wear sturdy shoes. It took me about 1.25 hours to walk, stopping for a few photos. I didn't see too much wildlife - just a few birds and squirrels. I heard something that sounded an awful lot like a rattle, but I didn't hang around to investigate further. ;-)