Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dreaming Of Sea Pines Forest Preserve On Hilton Head Island

I had a vivid dream last night, about one of my favorite places:  Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.

It has been a few years since we've had time to get down there for a vacation.  Too many losses over too little time in our family of late, and not nearly enough space on the ends of everything for actual vacating in the truest sense of the word.

Our last trip there, Mr. ReddHedd had the flu and Mother Nature conspired to keep us indoors for a lot of the trip by stirring up serious windstorms that made the beach miserable with blowing sand being thrown in your face constantly, and cold, driving rain pelting you otherwise.

But The Peanut and I managed to find some lovely shells and take a few walks anyway, and even fit in some dolphin watching.  And I have a beautiful lettered olive shell, that we found at low tide the morning we were leaving from our trip, on my computer desk as a reminder of our fun.

For some reason, the marshes and beaches of Hilton Head Island call to some internal voice in me -- the confluence of water, waves and wildlife, I suppose, which the island has in abundance.

When we have visited in the past, we've gone during the "off" season, in winter or very early spring usually when the summer crowds have long disappeared and the beaches are quiet because it is well into sweatshirts and gloves weather.  Perfect for a woman who turns into a lobster instantaneously even with a heavy dip into the sunscreen, and also perfect for someone who loves quiet and solitude.

Which is why I've been dreaming of the island, I think.  Some internal drive for a wee bit of peace and quiet.

My favorite spot, aside from a walk on the beach at sunrise when no one else is around for miles, is the Sea Pines Forest Preserve.  There is a parking spot near a picnic area just behind the Public Service District buildings off Lawton Canal Road.  You can drive up past this area into the preserve itself and park at the picnic tables beside Fish Island, and from there take a hike on one of the various nature trails that wind their way around the forest preserve.

We've been able to see roosting and nesting great blue herons, their enormous nests up in live oaks and other trees, in branches that hang out over the waters of a small, freshwater lake...filled with alligators just hoping that one of the birds or their chicks will flop into the water.  The day we discovered that area, called "Rookery Point," we were the only people around and it was heaven because there is an observation seating area where you can sit and just soak in the quiet along with the rest of the wildlife.

Until, that is, a juvenile osprey swooped in to pull a fish from the lake right in front of us.  It was a magical moment, and one we could only have experienced because someone had thoughtfully built in a half-blind roof to the sitting area so that we were mostly invisible from above if we stayed still.  

Another trail area takes you through the old rice fields that were planted out on the Lawton Plantation before the Civil War, which have now been reclaimed by the swampy marsh that was native to the island before the slave-owning plantation farmers moved there.  We managed to spot a pair of pileated woodpeckers far out along the trail into the marsh, which was very exciting as we got to watch one dig around on an old, dead tree for quite a while before they finally got suspicious of us and flew off whooshing into the treeline on the other side of the water from us.

It is a fantastic way to spend an entire day when the weather is mild.  Just bring along the sunscreen and the bug spray -- I can say with a lot of personal authority that mosquitoes love people who hike near marshy areas.

Mr. ReddHedd and I experienced a lot of this before we had The Peanut.  We've held off on doing this sort of longer trail hike with her when she was tiny, but I think we are reaching the age where this sort of thing would be fascinating.  Next time we go to Hilton Head, I know one thing that we'll definitely be doing.  And I hope I've introduced you to something new and fun as well.

(Photo of a gorgeous snowy egret standing on a shoreline via Bob Dees.  Beautiful shot!)

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