On this cool and sunny South Carolina Thanksgiving morning, I am grateful for all of the remarkable beauty that surrounds us. Never take it for granted, and always do what you can to preserve it. The beauty of places like Bulls Island still take my breath away - no matter how many times I visit them.
"Built in 1827,
the conical lighthouse stands at 65 feet. Its light, powered by a whale
oil wick lamp, was visible from a distance of 14 miles under the most
favorable circumstances. In 1857, a 150-foot octagonal lighthouse was
built. Installed on the 150-foot tower was a prismatic lens that was
visible for approximately 19 miles and dramatically reduced the number
of shipwrecks off the Cape. The 1857 light was taken out of service in
1947 when coastal navigation techniques made it obsolete."
If you are fascinated by Lighthouses, and don't mind getting off a boat in a few inches of water and walking in a bit of pluff mud - then this is a must-do, breathtakingly beautiful detour off of Highway 17. Check out Coastal Expeditions for announcements about their special Lighthouse Island tours - you'll love the trip.
And yes... the 1857 Lighthouse (the taller one) isn't straight, it's several degrees off-center.
~the 1857 Lighthouse~
This Lighthouse was first lit in 1858 - it is octagonal and constructed of brick, and is 154 feet high. It was decommissioned in 1947. The Lighthouse used an oil lamp - but it had a new type of prismatic lens that focused the amount of light that went out to sea.
~the 1827 Lighthouse~
The 1827 conical lighthouse is 65 feet high - and it had a stationary red light powered by a whale
oil wick lamp. The light was visible from a distance of 14 miles under the most
Last spring, in late April, I found myself on a little pilgrimage to Winchester, Virginia - to find where Highway 17 South begins... and Highway 17 North ends. It was one of those days where shades of green filled the landscape - young leaves were everywhere.
As I was driving from the DC area to Winchester, I took Interstate 66 to the Highway 17 exit near Delaplane. I'd driven the stretch of Highway 17 from Delaplane to Paris before - but hadn't traveled the stretch from Paris to Winchester (where it merges with US 50). About 15 miles south of Winchester I saw the sign for the State Arboretum of Virginia, and I couldn't resist stopping on such a beautiful day. I walked around for almost two hours - two wonderful hours in a beautiful setting.
So, some advice: if you're traveling on Highway 17 in Virginia, and you need to stretch your legs (or even if you don't) - do stop at the Arboretum. I'd like to go back in the fall - I'm guessing the fall colors are spectacular. It's definitely a 'must see' spot along Highway 17.
~Entrance to the Arboretum off of Highway 17 South~
The State Arboretum of Virginia consists of the central 172 acres of the Blandy Experimental Farm. The Arboretum was started in the 1930s, it contains over 5000 woody trees and shrubs. Notable in it's collection is a large Gingko grove, a boxwood collection featuring 162 different kinds, and a large Cedar of Lebanon allée.
A historic landmark, this building contains administrative offices, a gift shop, and other facilities available for public use. These facilities are used by students, staff, and researchers who are visiting or in residence at Blandy Experimental Farm.
Last Sunday we departed at 9 am from Garris Landing in Awendaw, South Carolina (in Charleston County) - and enjoyed a 50 minute boat ride to the north end of Bulls Island. Our guide, Capt. Will Christenson was both entertaining and knowledgeable - most of the folks on our boat were first time visitors to Bulls Island, and they couldn't have asked for a nicer day. While it was warm 'back on land' - along the beach it was quite comfortable, and there was a wonderful breeze that kept all of the insects away (you might not believe me it when I say that for the entire five hours I didn't swat a single insect... which might be an exception, but it was sure nice). We walked from the drop off location along the north side of the island along an incredible stretch of sand and water until we reached Boneyard Beach where we sat and ate our picnic lunch.
Cape Romain, home of Bulls Island, is one of only two Class One Wilderness Areas on the eastern seaboard and is home to a large population of nesting loggerhead sea turtles, bald eagles, bottlenose dolphins and a staggering 293 species of birds, including rare red knots, several species of terns, ospreys, and a plethora of other shore birds. Seven miles of Bulls Island’s beach are part of the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline on the east coast and allow for unparalleled shelling, beach combing and exploring.
So if you're planning a trip down Highway 17 through South Carolina and you are looking for something a bit out of the ordinary and quite spectacular to do (especially if you are a birder!) - you might want to check out the Coastal Expedition website and see if you can fit something in. It truly is a stunningly beautiful spot along the coast of South Carolina. Garris Landing (where the boat departs for Bulls Island) is only a few miles off Highway 17 in Awendaw, South Carolina (see Map).
I'll let my images from last Sunday speak for themselves.
(You can click on an image to see a larger view).
~beach along the north end of Bulls Island~
~pop-up thunderstorm offshore~
~views of dunes on the north side of Bulls Island~
~views of clouds over the marsh on the boat ride back to Garris Landing~
~view of the marshes during the boat ride back to Garris Landing~
I've been quite busy for the past few weeks, and have neglected Highway 17 - hopefully that will change now! I did find myself yesterday driving south on Highway 17 in Awendaw, South Carolina - and couldn't resist stopping to photograph this Century Plant (Agave americana).
Fun, isn't it?
It's name is a bit misleading, since the plant generally lives only 10 to 30 years. It does die off after it blooms, but produces side shoots so new Agaves are often left behind.
So if you find yourself on Highway 17 in Awendaw, keep an eye out for this fascinating bloom!