Thursday, June 28, 2012

Swan Lake April 2012

A few photos from an April visit to Swan Lake and Iris Gardens in Sumter, SC. If you haven't been, I highly recommend it! It's a beautiful place not too far away to spend a couple of afternoon hours. And, it's free!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

VA Camping Trip

Last week I camped for four nights in the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia a bit south of Wytheville. It's an annual camping trip that my friend Daryl in Cincinnati does every year, and this was the sixth one that I've done with him. This year it was him and his wife Sheila, their grandson Wyatt, their dogs Lexie and T.T., and me. We arrived on Saturday afternoon and stayed through Wednesday morning and had a great time! The weather was perfect this year; no rain, daytime highs were in the low 80's, and overnight lows were around 60.

One of the most enjoyable parts of camping is cooking outdoors, and we cooked up some good vittles this year! We had breakfasts made up of scrambled eggs, bacon, goetta, sausage patties, sausage gravy, pan fried potatoes, toast, and English muffins. Dinners were brats on buns with some really good homemade sauerkraut and baked beans; steak, baked potatoes, and corn on the cob; and beef and gravy over egg noodles. Yum!

Chef Daryl at work!

That's some crazy good sausage gravy made by Daryl on the toast.

A couple of photos I took in nearby Elk Creek.

On Monday we walked the trail to the top of Comers Rock for an incredible view.

On Tuesday we visited nearby Hale Lake, a good place for trout fishing.

On Wednesday I took the long way home, including about 100 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Along the way I visited three waterfalls, the first one being Cascade Falls, accessible via a parking area around milepost 272. I bumped into a nice couple and their granddaughter from New Orleans and had an enjoyable visit with them.

I next visited Linville Falls, accessible via a parking area around milepost 316. It is actually comprised of three separate waterfalls; there are first two smaller falls side-by-side, and then a bit downstream is the big one. A one-mile trail that starts easy and becomes moderately difficult offers first a good view of the twin falls and then 2 views of the main waterfall and the gorge.

If you look closely between the falls in the above photo, you'll spot this heron.

Those two falls empty into a pool that then shoots down a chasm to create the big waterfall. Below is a photo of the chasm; study the big rock on the right and see if you see the face.

And here is the main waterfall.

Also accessible from the Linville Falls parking area down a different trail is a small waterfall named Duggers Creek Falls. It's a tiny one, but the trail to it is very short, so since you're there, it's worth visiting.

And, a couple more shots of flora in the area.

Also along the way, I visited 19 new post offices, bringing the total in my collection to 694.

It was a great trip, summed up nicely by this quote by Edwin Way Teale that I read along the way: "Our minds, as well as our bodies, have need of the out-of-doors. Our spirits, too, need simple things, elemental things, the sun and the wind and the rain, moonlight and starlight, sunrise and mist and mossy forest trails, the perfumes of dawn and the smell of free-turned earth and the ancient music of wind among the trees."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Beaufort, SC

This past weekend Donna and I visited lovely Beaufort, SC on the coast between Charleston and Savannah. En route we stopped and visited an old favorite, the ruins of Sheldon Church. It was built between 1745 and 1755, burned by the British in 1779, rebuilt in 1826, and burned by the Union in 1865.

We then headed to Hunting Island State Park, where we were greeted by an alligator in their pond.

In the park is a lighthouse that was built in 1873 (a previous one was destroyed during the Civil War); it was closed for repair work when we visited the park several years back, but it is now open (it's actually the only one is SC that is open to the public) and we were able to climb to the top. Fortunately we didn't have to lug a 50-pound container of fuel oil to the top like the lighthouse keeper once had to do on a daily basis!

There was a large number of pelicans flying around and diving into the ocean grabbing fish. Groups were constantly flying overhead.

After visiting the lighthouse we went out onto the beach and walked along the water for a while. It's a nice stretch of secluded beach with not too many people on it.

There is a great deal of driftwood along the beach that, along with the pristine sand, makes for a winter-like scene.

We concluded the day with a good seafood meal at Steamer Oyster and Steakhouse and a lazy evening at the hotel. The next day after filling up our tanks at Waffle House we headed out to the ruins of the Chapel of Ease to St. Helena's Church, built in 1740 and burned in 1886.

The church was built using tabby, a combination of oyster shells, lime, and sand; it's amazing how durable it is and how well it has held up for 270 years!

Next we visited the remains of Fort Fremont, built in 1899 to protect Port Royal Sound. The round structure shown here was home to one of three disappearing canons that was raised to fire and lowered to protect it.

We then headed back into Beaufort and explored the waterfront shopping area for a couple of hours. We visited several interesting small shops, a great used book store, and Southern Sweets, a really good ice cream and sandwich shop where we grabbed a snack.

Then, it was time to get headed homeward, but there were 2 more sites to visit along the way. The first was the Pon Pon Chapel of Ease (Pon Pon is an Indian term meaning "settlement"), built in 1753, burned in 1801, rebuilt in 1821, and burned again in 1832. It was actually a bit of an adventure finding this one, as it is on Parkers Ferry Road, and we found that there are actually two separate roadways with that name. We first took the 4 mile dirt road loop that is not the correct one. The correct one is a bit further south, though, with it also being dirt, and since we've just had a good amount of rain, it looked pretty messy, so we instead went via Jacksonboro Road, which is paved and not any longer of a route. Here's a map of the area.

And then one final stop in Bowman to see the UFO Welcome Center, a quirky homemade UFO some guy has built in his front yard (he's obviously not part of a homeowners association) using all sorts of random articles. You can supposedly knock on his door and get a tour, but we weren't feeling quite that adventurous.

And then we were back home! Was great to see some great sites again and several new ones, eat some good food, meet some good folks, and just plain get out and go somewhere. :-)