Following our two week trip in October and with the upcoming holidays, we decided it would be wise to not travel extensively in November. Without the bonus check from Auburn University to pay for Christmas, the budget was not going to allow much in the way of travel for the next couple of months. Therefore, we decided to limit ourselves to a single week in November and again in December. It was a good opportunity to take advantage of the time share we had purchased a few years ago. The time share provides us a week stay every two years and we needed to use it this year or lose it. Therefore, we looked for a time share that we could exchange our week and settled on the Marriott Surf Watch time share in Hilton Head. While November may not be the best time to visit the beach, as it is certainly “off season” for Hilton Head, the weather will be a lot cooler than the summer. For December, we decided to visit Jenny down in Orlando for her birthday and made reservations for a few days at the Wilderness Campground on Disney property. With our plans all set we took it easy around the house and enjoyed a relaxing day with the family in Birmingham on Thanksgiving.
On Friday following Thanksgiving, we were off to spend a week at Hilton Head. The Marriott Surf Watch is a lovely resort within easy walking distance of the beach, yet far enough from the hustle of Hilton Head to be a quiet location. Having a two bedroom apartment to enjoy for a week is a real step up from a small popup camper and gave us a glimpse of how the “other half” vacations. Having a fully equipped kitchen meant that we could eat most of our meals in the room, which saved a lot on the expenses. Our first day, Saturday, was really only a half day to be a tourist as we had to be in the room by 2:00 to watch the Iron Bowl on TV. Therefore, we stayed on the island and visited the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Head. This is an old plantation that the city of Hilton Head has restored and turned into a museum. The visitor center is rather modest using the down stairs of the plantation home, but the grounds are well worth visiting. They have a couple of boardwalks that extent into the salt marshes and interesting modern statue scattered throughout the property. There a lot of very large live oak and red cedar trees and an extensive camellia garden. After lunch we took a walk on the beach and even though it was too cold for us to go into the ocean (we had our coats on), the wading children were having a great time. The rest of the afternoon was spent watching the Iron Bowl. Anyone interested in Auburn football, will likely remember that game for the rest of their lives. I know I will never forget that we left Auburn the Friday before the “big game”. With the students gone for Thanksgiving, the campus had been full of RVs since the previous weekend and the town was overflowing with football fans. I was impressed with Auburn’s composure during the game, especially as Alabama played like they were afraid they could lose. As well they should since they were unable to consistently stop Auburn’s running game. After missing two field goals and having a third one blocked, Alabama found themselves in a 28 point tie at the end of the game. They lobbied for and were correctly granted one second on the clock to try a 50 yard field goal. I just knew that after missing three field goals that put them in this position, their field goal kicker would now redeem himself and become the hero of the game. Not wanting to watch this and expecting at the best we would be going to overtime, I stepped out for a smoke. Upon returning to the TV I saw Auburn running the ball out of the end zone, which no sense at all since Alabama would have won the game with the field goal and would not be kicking off the ball. As I soon learned, Auburn returned the missed field goal for 108 yards to win the Iron Bowl!! The second week in a row with a miraculous finish. Now we have beaten Missouri for the SEC Championship in impressive fashion (no miracles needed), Ohio State has lost to Michigan State, and somehow Auburn will be playing for the National Championship. Like 2010, this is a season to remember!! WAR EAGLE!!
Enough football. We still had the South Carolina and Georgia Atlantic coast to explore. On Sunday, we went for an extended hike in the Pinkney National Wildlife Refuge. While I suppose there is nothing special about the refuge for a casual visitor, the walk through the salt marshes and wooded areas of the island was very pleasant. The weather was too cool for much wildlife, but it also eliminated the mosquitoes and other insects that I would imagine are a challenge during the summer.
On Monday, we headed towards Savannah, Georgia with the idea of visiting the Fort Pulaski National Monument and seeing some of the historic district of Savannah. Once we discovered that Fort Pulaski is a well preserved Civil War era brick fort that is in the best condition of any forts I have seen from that era, it was obvious that we would not have time to visit Savannah. The accompanying pages give more details about our visit to the fort, but this fort is must see for one reason. From the front the fort is in amazing condition and the inside of the fort has been wonderfully restored. However, be sure to walk around to the back side of the fort. Of all a sudden you see the effect of the rifled cannon fire from Tybee Island that led to the surrender of the fort to the Union in 1861. All along the back side are cannon holes in the bricks and the area that was repaired after the surrender is also obvious for it’s lack of holes. You can even see the cannonballs lodged in a few of the holes. To round out the afternoon, we also visited Old Fort Jackson which is a War of 1812 era fort that also saw service during the Civil War as part of the defense of Savannah countering the impact of the Union forces at Fort Pulaski and the naval blockade of the Savannah river.
We returned to Savannah on Tuesday to spend the day in the historic district of the city. We purchased trolley tickets for the day, which is a great way to see the historic district for the first time. Not only are their trolley stops throughout the district that come by about every 15 minutes, but the drivers provide a running commentary of the historic houses and squares of which there are a lot. This two and a half square miles that make up the historic district is so full of history, we will have to return many times to see it all. Although I would prefer walking in the future as the time lost waiting on a trolley could be better spent. Just seeing the 22 squares and statues makes a worthwhile trip by themselves and nearly every building has an historic sign and many have tours or are themselves museums. To get a full sense of the history and planned layout of the city designed by Ogelthorpe, I would recommend the Massie Heritage Museum, which also gives a good understanding of grade schools during the time of the Civil War.
After spending a day in the city, Wednesday was spent back in nature. We began with a round of disc golf in Sergeant Jasper Park where I discovered that tight fairways through the pine trees means there is a lot of opportunities to hit trees with a disc! If the discs were made of metal I would have swore the trees had magnets installed. For lunch we headed over to the Savannah Wildlife Refuge’s visitor center where we learned the history of the refuge and its importance to wildlife. Their biggest challenge is that most of the land around the Savannah river had been in rice plantations for over a hundred years prior to the Civil War. You can still easily see the dikes and rice fields on the landscape extending for many miles. The refuge has taken advantage of these dikes to create a variety of wetland habitats that can be actively managed by flooding or draining the fields. We had a very enjoyable afternoon hiking some of the dikes through the wetland areas along the four mile driving tour they have set up for visitors. We finally saw some alligators, which Kal was enjoying until we came around a curve in the dike and found a large alligator sunning itself. Kal immediately jumped back and turned around without getting a photograph as the alligator took off into the water along the dike. My recollection is that the alligator was over 6 feet long, but I can’t be sure as I only got a glimpse before it disappeared.
Being our last day at Hilton Head, we decided to check out Parris Island, which is only about 6 miles from Hilton Head if you are a seagull. After driving for over 50 miles we finally got to the entrance gate of the Parris Island Marine Recruitment Depot. We were not sure whether we would be allowed on the base, but found that all we had to do was show our driver’s license and be ready for a car search if required. Come to find out, Thursday is Family Day at the base for graduating marines and there were quite a few civilians greeting theirs sons, daughters, or boy/girlfriends so we were not out of place on the base. I expected the museum at Parris Island to be all about the marines, which it was for more than half of the museum. However, the museum also has great exhibits that give the history of Parris Islands and the Low Country of South Carolina from pre-history through the Spanish and French colonization periods of the 1600 and up through the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War. This part of South Carolina had a part to play in all of these periods and this museum did a great job of putting it all into perspective. There is also a 15 stop driving tour of the base that has stops for the historic structures on the base, including the old dry dock that was the only wooden dry dock on the east coast until ships became too big for the structure. The most interesting part of the island was the sites of Charlesfort and St. Elena, which is a national historical landmark. These sites commemorate the struggles between the Spanish and French colonists where the Port Royal sound marked the northern most extent of the Spanish colonies and was contested over with France multiple times during the 1600s.