After leaving the beautiful surroundings of Huntington Beach State Park in Murrell’s Inlet, SC we went Easin’ Along to the south to our next destination, the Marine Training Center at Parris Island, SC. We were looking forward to exploring the installation as well as nearby Beaufort, SC.
We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and although we made it shortly before the check-in time of 2:00 pm, the office closed at noon. We were assigned to campsite nine when we made reservations several months earlier and found it with no problem. To our delight, the campsite was adjacent to the shower and bathroom facility and we had it pretty much to ourselves. The other eight RV’s in the camp were either unoccupied or so large that the occupants showered in their RV. Bertha’s shower is a little tight for someone 6’4” and I use campsite showers whenever possible.
After a run to the commissary and Exchange for a few essentials, we set out to explore the Marine Base a bit. My first impression of Parris Island is that for a military installation, it certainly is a scenic one. There are vast stretches of the marsh with birds soaring overhead, much like Huntington Beach. It was near the end of the day and the setting sun over the marsh offered a lovely view. Back at campsite nine, I prepared a simple dinner of hot dogs and grilled onions and Helen (adorable wife) set up her puzzle table and went to work. I settled into Bertha and watched my Tennessee Volunteers squeak out an overtime win over Georgia Tech.
On Sunday morning we decided to do some exploring away from the Marine base. Helen had written postcards to the grandchildren so our first mission was to locate a post office as we drove off the base. We didn’t find the post office but we did encounter hundreds of Marines assembling for a day of training. I grabbed my camera and jumped out into the street to take pictures of these dedicated young people. My eyes were drawn to a platoon of female trainees marching to class. They were erect, in step, with eyes forward, and filled with purpose. No could watch them without feeling a sense of pride and deep gratitude for their service.
Helen had done her usual research and determined that our destination for the day would be Hunting Island State Park Beach, about 45 minutes away. Our route would also take us through the town of Beaufort where we planned to catch a meal on our return to Parris Island. I was ready for some shrimp and grits.
The campground at Hunting Island was located right on the beach. Since this was Labor Day weekend, the campground was full, but we made a mental note that this would be a good place to camp on a future visit. An overnight storm was creating some water problems in the area so we quickly passed through the campground office for some brochures and drove on toward the beach.
Hunting Island Beach was as busy as the campground, and we were fortunate to find a place to park. After purchasing a pass we took the camera and made the short walk through the woods to the beach. The day was a bit muggy and buggy, but the scenic walk made everything bearable. Huge live oak trees covered with resurrection ferns filled the forest as did low-lying palm fronds. I’m glad I had a camera.
When we reached the beach I was struck by the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew the year before. There were uprooted trees scattered all over the sand as if they had been plucked up and discarded by a giant hand. Even more interesting was how beach visitors were using the trees. One family found the root ball useful for a canopy, while another visitor used a tree as a balance beam. Helen and I walked the beach for a while looking for shells, but soon succumbed to the heat and the bugs and decided that it might be best if we found a cool place for lunch. The road back led us to the Foolish Frog in Beaufort.
This charming restaurant was recommended by our friend Mary, a Beaufort native, as her favorite place. The parking lot was full (always a good sign) so I found a place across the street and we settled in. The host led us to our seats beside the Bloody Mary buffet and pointed out that the days special was Oysters, Crawfish, Shrimp, and grits. It didn’t take long for me to decide. Helen had a meal of Crab Cake Eggs Benedict. Both selections were delicious. The grits concoction was full of flavor and the crawfish were cooked to perfection. This was a lot of food, but I had little trouble finishing it off.
On Monday we were off to meet our friend Mary for a day of learning the history of Beaufort. Mary’s knowledge of the history of Beaufort is unequaled and made for a fascinating tour of South Carolina’s second oldest city, founded in 1711. We met her at her charming home on the marsh to begin our tour.
Beaufort has done much to preserve its history and historical structures and we began our tour along some of the older streets and homes as Mary gave us a detailed of many of them including the home of Robert Smalls, civil war hero and first black congressman from South Carolina. Our tour took us by a home named the Castle, a large beautiful antebellum that was used as a hospital during the civil war. Helen and I stayed in this home with a group of friends about five years ago. At that time it was owned by the brother of someone in our group. Supposedly the house is haunted by ghosts of the hospital’s deceased, but we never met any of them.
We passed the home where Pat Conroy wrote some of his novels as well as the locations where movies such as The Big Chill, Forest Gump, The Prince of Tides, and The Great Santini were filmed. The old homes are stunningly well preserved and the Spanish Moss that surrounds them adds a touch of the low country to each. We ended our day confident that we were now better educated than before we arrived. Our day also ended with another visit to the Foolish Frog followed by a trip to Beaufort’s famous Chocolate Tree for some awesome dark chocolate.
We gave Mary a big hug for being so incredibly generous with her time and her incredible history tour then waved goodbye. Unfortunately, our time in Beaufort and Parris Island was nearing an end. The next day we would drive south toward Savannah and Tybee Island, GA. Once again, we’re Easin’ Along.