Friday, June 3, 2011

Pawley's Island, 2011, part one

Oaks at Brookgreen Gardens

We recently spent 8 days in coastal South Carolina, visiting Gaye and Mike, very dear friends in Pawley's Island. They live on the inland side of town, amid beautiful pines, and seem to enjoy having us bunk in with them. Their beautiful home is the perfect vacation B&B, they are the perfect hosts, and the four of us are very compatible in our ideas of fun. So it was really the most relaxing vacation I've had in ages.

We loved sitting in the back yard, watching the birds (and mosquitoes). Papa and Mama Bluebird kept busy feeding their chicks, and were an endless source of amusement. The chicks flew the nest a few days into our visit, and we missed them.

The cardinals didn't disappoint either; they had a nest in one of the trees, and put on quite a show. The third component of the backyard show was this lizard. He showed up every day and was endlessly entertaining. Stuart got so many great photos of him, but this is one of my favorites. Our first excursion was to Brookgreen Gardens. We loved it last time, and were looking forward to a return visit. Brookgreen was formed from four old rice plantations in 1931 by Archer and Anna Huntington, and is a combination of nature, art and history. Like most of this area, Brookgreen is full of trees and water.
We made good use of the tram this year, and saved our legs.

A highlight of the visit was the new Butterfly House. A "viewing facility" in place for the summer season, it featured hundreds of butterflies in a fairly small space.

They were everywhere: on the gravel paths, on the bushes, on the netting, on the signs, on us. It was amazing.

Stuart was enthralled: he has always loved butterflies and had the opportunity to photograph types he had only seen in books.

The beauty below was most illusive -- we spent a good part of our allotted 30 minutes trying to find him still. Stuart finally got the shot.

We took the last Creek Cruise of the day on a 48-foot pontoon boat. It was a restful and beautiful trip, through a few of the small creeks that feed into the Waccamaw River and provided transportation through the plantations.

We saw a couple of good-sized alligators along the creek banks, including this guy who quickly slid into the creek as we passed.

Much of the Creek Cruise was a narrative of how the rice plantations were run. The crop was completely dependent on slave labor, so disappeared after the Civil War. Brookgreen keeps one of the old rice fields as a nesting place for migratory birds.
Although we really enjoyed the boat ride, the best extra at Brookgreen, in my opinion anyway, are the Treks. We missed them this time, but loved the bumpy ride into the old plantations through forests, old cemetaries and rice fields on our last visit. The Lowcountry Trail is a nice walk through a historical area of the property, with some archeological sites and interpretive listening stations. It's one of my favorite parts of the Gardens.
We didn't tour the Sculpture Garden this year - not enough time - but it is amazing, and I still enjoy the photos we took two years ago. There's so much more at Brookgreen that we still haven't seen, but that just means we'll have to return on our next trip to SC.

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