What a pleasure to visit to these two scenic antebellum (pre-Civil War) cities – Savanah and Charleston. Nothing in my experience compares to these graceful places, full of beauty, and dark history. We loved the lessons here.
Our headquarters for Savannah was Skidaway Island State Park, a gorgeous campground that just whispers Old South. Heavy tree limbs drip with moss and a mixture of pines and live oaks add a sense of mystery. Super camping. A bonus was meeting another T@DA camper for the first time in five years. We loved meeting Laurie with her socutecamper.com To explore Savannah, we opted to drive a few miles from the campground through narrow causeways and lowland highways to a spot where we could comfortably cycle into the City. It was a perfect combination of low-stress touring for us. Old historic Savannah is crammed with (other) camera-toting tourists, horse drawn carriages, pedicabs, and open-air trolleys – each vying for the best view of the myriad city squares and historic sites. There are so many beautiful sights.At Skidaway, we also enjoyed a hike through the steamy low country. The Park trail took us past the remains of an old still (with axe marks where the US Agents chopped it up!) and some beautiful coastal views.
We also saw trenches, hand-dug by slaves, which were built to shelter the Confederate troops who were guarding the coastal waterways. What a difficult life this must have been – even the task of supplying fresh water to these areas must have been monumental, not to mention food and shelter.
Tybee Island was a nearby beach-y town recommended by a few friends. Beautiful beach and lighthouse, but the heat and humidity were still killing us. It’s HARD to enjoy a calm ocean when there’s no breeze, and the sweat is ruining your eyesight. It was still nearly 90 degrees and a dew point in the mid-70s. Plus, the beach just isn’t my idea of fun. But, still a pretty wonderful view, isn’t it? (Temps finally returned to a more normal mid-70s on our last night in Savannah, and have been perfect since. Whew!)
We decided to visit Fort Pulaski National Monument on the way back to camp, not knowing what to expect. Named after Revolutionary War hero Casmir Pulaski, the moated Civil War-era fort is a thoughtful history lesson. Over 20 years in construction, it surrendered in its first fight with Union forces in 1962, and then became a prison for Confederate soldiers. Its demise? It was armored with cannons which had a 1/2 mile range. But, by the time the War began, the Union forces had rifled cannons which could reach 1-1/2 miles. After just two hours, the fort’s interior walls were breached with cannonfire, and the Fort surrendered. It was converted into a prison for the remainder of the War.
On to Charleston, where we scored a site at the very busy county park at James Island where we met up with a bunch of T@B campers, at the beginning of their 12-day Coastal Caravan Tour. We didn’t spend a lot of time together, having our own plans set to explore this new (to us) city, but we did have a very memorable dinner together at Home Team BBQ. We actually had rolled in for lunch there one day, and went back for dinner with the group the next. You know it was GOOD! Great food, Motown, Aretha, and other awesome R & B. And a fabulous selection of whiskey (of which we did NOT partake).
Charleston blew me away. The Battery section of the city along the waterfront is an amazing collection of gigantic, gracious antebellum homes. There are beautiful architectural details everywhere. I’ve got dozens of photos I’d like to share, but am limited by bandwidth restrictions to upload. As in Savannah, we drove into a City park, then unloaded our bikes and pedaled from there on. The very first unexpected sight we stumbled on was The Citadel. This gorgeous military academy campus was curiously quiet. We cycled around the perimeter, but most of the buildings were off-limits (including this one).We had earmarked a possible tour of Fort Sumter, which we ultimately decided not to take. It involved a boat ride across some fairly choppy waters (I’m not a fan). The Fort Sumter Visitor Center was informative, and clinched our decision not to visit the actual Fort.
The Charleston Slave Mart was another site we earmarked for a visit. We were surprised to find it on an historic cobblestone street, which was tortuous to ride on our bikes (so happy we had our mountain bikes, not our skinny-tire road bikes!!). The surface of this street, probably restored many times, is likely 200 years old. The Slave Mart operated as an actual auction house for slaves. South Carolina had a big stake in slavery – it was the first State to secede from the US. Of the 15 plantations in the US with more than 500 slaves, 7 were in South Carolina. No photos are allowed inside the site, but there are so many shameful artifacts of slavery, I was glad not to take any photos.
Churches, homes, parks – there are plenty of amazing sights to feast upon in this beautiful, graceful old city.Two other brief Charleston expeditions – by bike to the Angel Oak Tree, which is probably the largest living organism east of the Mississippi. This enormous live oak tree has a branch which extends 187 feet from the center. It’s amazing to see, on a par with the giant Sequoias and Redwoods of California. With a lifespan of 900 years, the Angel Oak is in mid-life. Heavily damaged in the 1990s by Hurricane Hugo(?), it still thrives, although most of the limbs on one side are missing.
Our other outing in Charleston was another beach visit to Folly Beach. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset and a stroll through the beach town. It was the perfect way to end our stay in Charleston.
Now it’s Friday night (10/19). We had reservations at nearby Givhans Ferry State Park, a short drive from Charleston. We arrived, set up, and proceeded to enjoy a beautiful afternoon in a quiet park. Around 5pm, a Ranger drove up and said we were occupying a site reserved by another camper. What??!! I had the site reserved (or so I thought). Apparently, my reservation was not confirmed. My first Reservation Screwup in five years! No other sites were available at this small park, nor at any of the other parks within 30 miles of here. We finally secured a site for one night (the last one of 150 campsites) at Santee State Park. What a circus this campground is! We checked in and set up in the dark. (First time for that, and I hope it’s the last!). Tomorrow we will be homeless (no sites available) and will have to search out a new spot. Oh well, lots of time to work that out.