Ages ago, we planned to go camping the first weekend in December at Hunting Island, one of those End-of-Beyond places.
Hunting Island, Daufuskie Island, and Sea Pines Plantation on Hilton Head Island are all about the same size, 5,000 acres, give or take a slough or two, maritime forests on barrier islands both attacked and succored by the Atlantic Ocean, part of the estuarine wonder that exists between Charleston and Savannah.
Located some 15 miles east of Beaufort, Hunting Island tops South Carolina’s 47 state parks as the most popular, with more than 1.2 million visitors per year. It’s easy to see why.
I had a late start and was more than ready to find our campsite, park my car and settle in.
No worries about putting up a tent. My lovely Coleman pop-up was there, waiting for me. I had only to unload my “stuff.”
It was family time: Daughter Tamela, granddaughter Claire, her friend Nicole, great-grandchildren River, a handsome 12-year-old, and his sister, Theile Mae, an enigmatic 9, plus River’s friend Eli, his most agreeable contemporary.
They were sitting around the campfire, staring into the flames, the boys poking the fire with palmetto branch spears, happily tired after a busy day on the beach.
I sank gratefully into a chair. The air felt wet, that salt air wet no one in Las Vegas understands. I was glad to have on a hat and warm jacket.
Twilight time, chilly, but thankfully, no wind. We could hear the sea, only a soupçon away, a soft, soothing sound.
Not much conversation. That took effort.
Claire added more logs to the fire, and it sparked fitfully.
“Smoke follows beauty,” I said, as a gypsy gust of air pushed smoke across the way.
Too soon, the fire burned low, time to call it a day.
I set out a folding table and chair in my tent, hung a lantern, added a sleeping bag to my cot, flipped the switch on the heater, and I was all set.
I snuggled into the sleeping bag. The tent was on an incline, so was the cot, and I kept sliding down and scooting back up again.
There was a noise, which I later learned came from a compressor for the motorhome next to us, but at the time I wondered if my heater was going to blow up. At least I didn’t have any food in the tent, so the raccoons weren’t interested in visiting me.
Everyone left the next morning except for Tamela and me. It took two seconds to decide, forget cooking alfresco, we’d go out for breakfast.
And we found Beedos. Oh my. Just down the road, in a nondescript building. An assortment of pickup trucks lined up out front left no doubt of its popularity.
From fried shrimp to creamy grits to killer hamburgers to vegan bacon to homemade biscuits, they’ve got it.
We made our way back to camp well-fortified.
It was a cloudy day. The sun tried but didn’t make it through. People were out walking their dogs, spectacular dogs. There was Alma, a Vizsla, a breed that dates back over 1,000 years to the Magyar, and Bailey, a standard poodle, the color of Bailey’s Irish Cream. Sweet dogs, smart dogs, well cared for.
No hurry at a campsite. Sit back. Put your feet up. Breathe in. Breathe out. Snooze.
Supper back at Beedos completed our day.
I moved my cot. No more slip-sliding. Compressor noise gone, only the sound of the sea and an occasional plop of an acorn falling on the roof of the tent.
Robin helped us break camp the next morning. She and husband Horace, from Conestee, have visited every South Carolina state park camp, becoming “Ultimate Outsiders,” which is quite an achievement.
As I drove out, I looked over to where we had camped in the past, just this side of the dunes. All the lovely pines are gone, the grassy lawn, even the bathhouse, washed away in that devastating hurricane.
So much has been done to restore the campsites: roads repaved, land cleared, really can’t complain.
We’ll be back. In the spring. Before the bugs. Count on it.
Annelore Harrell lives in Bluffton and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.