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Appalachia Redeux

Updated: Dec 19, 2020

So after the pups and I had to call the last Appalachian trip short due to the crazy heatwave we headed home in a single push. We arrived back in Pensacola just in time to get run over by Hurricane Sally. Ugh. Thankfully my annual leave wasn't cancelled, for whatever reason, and for the second time in 28 years working in 911 I was home during a hurricane.

Thankfully only two trees hit the house with no major damage done save for some shingle damage, fence, and a bloody mess. Spent over a week without power, but living in Florida we were prepared with generators and fans. Lots of work and sweat for a few days before I had to return to the firehouse where the work and sweat obviously continued for many days. Seems now that there are two more storms headed our way over the next week. Ugh. Living with tropical weather is a bear sometimes, but I'd rather have hurricanes than tornados I believe. Every slice of paradise has its issues.

So I'm not really sure how this happened, but the Universe has lined up and somehow I find myself in a relationship. Perhaps I will expound on this later, but it plays a role in this story so I needed to bring you along. Several months ago, when this relationship thing looked like it might be lurking in the water, I made reservations to spend several days in New Orleans over Halloween. My absolute favorite holiday and my favorite to city to spend it in. Politics and paranoia absolutely ruined my NOLA plans as the hotel decided to stay closed until December 31st due to Covid! Most of the city was restricted or closed and I have absolutely no desire to spend time in a throttled down New Orleans. Now what? I have asked myself that question occasionally and it often ends up leading me on something much different from what I originally dreamed of.

I started looking at my work schedule and the desire to not be at work is still very palpable and the desire to travel is always omnipresent, so I took three more shifts of leave and am off for another 18 days. All of this was to get to this point and be able to say that cooler weather has indeed settled in Appalachia and we are headed back north during peak "leafer" weather! As my travel partner for this adventure has had to suppress her wanderlust for several years there are some cool detours along the way that I have planned. In some ways I find it weird that she reads this blog and I have to keep those plans secret from you in order to keep them secret from her. She does know we are headed back to Shenandoah National Park and that we are waterfall hoping in North Carolina though. Turns out we will be getting back to the North Carolina and Appalachian adventure a whole lot sooner than I expected us too.

We leave in 13 days, stay tuned.

So the day finally arrived and we were off. Once again I had taken some time to pack a variety of stuff for various adventures into crates so the morning I get home form the firehouse we are able to throw them in the truck and be in the wind. Thankfully a friend and coworker agreed to do a last minute swap for most of the second-half of the shift as we needed to leave earlier than 0800 in the morning now due a cool idea I had stumbled across.

I roam Google Maps a lot scouting out places I might like to visit and found a drive-in movie theater just outside of Beaufort, SC. I remember going with mom as a kid and having to lay down in the back seat for the second feature as its as usually R rate, but didn't realize these things still existed. We were headed for Hunting Island State Park in SC to spend the first few days anyway and have to drive right though Beaufort, so first night plans were set. Took a wee longer than I thought to get to Hunting Island and damn if it wasn't packed! Ugh. Glad I went outside my norm and had made reservations. We made camp just over the sand dune from the Atlantic Ocean. My girlfriend had never seen the Atlantic and I figured what better way to see it than to spend a few nights on its shores. Lined with palm trees and a near constant coastal breeze the park was nice, even if crowded. Turns out it is SC most visited state park.

We made our way to the Hwy 21 Drive-In to see Hocus Pocus on a cool October evening for a surprise date night. Goofy movie from the 90s, but truthfully how much of the 90s could actually be taken seriously, that made for a perfect October drive-in adventure. Even picked up some drive-in quality food to turn it into dinner and movie 😉

I am a huge fan of sunrises as I often find them the most, and sometimes the only, peaceful part of my day. I woke up the first morning and just watched from the tent as it didn't look all that impressive. The second night we slept in our hammocks suspended between two palm trees looking at their silhouettes against the night sky and balanced perfectly in the middle, the Milky Way. Sadly that image has to live only in my brain as I didn't even try to capture it, though it was perfect. That morning I woke up early and made my way down to the shore to enjoy the moment with the pups and to be happy with whatever I got to see. Mother Nature didn't disappoint.

The original destination for this leg of the trip was Savanah GA. I absolutely love Savanah and can't recommend it enough for a place to spend some time, just not in the summer. We spent the first day exploring a bit of Savanah but to be honest the bloody "maskaphobia" running rampant through our Country ruined the city. Without question we will return to the city during cooler months and when calmer heads have prevailed.

I am a huge fan of history and of cemeteries. I even drank a Sam Adams in Boston looking across the street at the cemetery that Sam Adams is buried in, really good beer too. So it seemed natural to get away form the city and spend some time where people are not worried about Covid. First stop was Colonial Park Cemetery as Savanah's oldest, established in 1750, listed cemetery it seemed a great first place to begin.

Off to Bonaventure Cemetery which was immortalized in the best selling Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil which I strongly recommend you read. Absolutely massive cemetery and as it turned out was the perfect place for a picnic.

Eventually we left Savanah for now and headed back to Hunting Island. We spent the afternoon exploring around the island as evening was drawing near as the idea was to spend the next day exploring the coastline, the lighthouse, and nearby islands.

Hunting Island is a beautiful state park and they are dog friendly! The pups got to frolic along the sand, sniffing at sand crabs and biting at waves. Living in Florida it was not their first encounter with saltwater of course, but it is much nicer to be able to roam freely for at home we are limited to two 100 yard swaths of sand.

The only publicly open lighthouse in SC was originally built in 1859 and rebuilt in 1873 after it was destroyed in the Civil War and was made to moveable! Amazing engineering back in those days. The entire shell is cast iron segments that are bolted together. There are 167 steps to the top and the view is worth the $2 entry fee.

I had read about an old fort installation that was worthy of a visit somewhere near Lady's Island so we loaded up and headed out to explore the region. The fort was closed but as taking random turns has often worked out for me in the past we were able to discover the Chapel Of Ease, built in 1740!

I am a huge fan of history, always have been and likely always will be. While I live in the area of our Country where Europeans first attempted to settle that history isn't on display so much. Standing within the walls of a church that was build 26 years before the American Revolution was palpable. Imagine the people that have come and gone the conversations that those walls have heard, the plans laid out, the heartwarming and heartbreaking moments it has been a part of. Yet, here she sits almost forgotten on the side of road off the coast of Georgia.

So the plan was to leave Savannah and head over to Charleston for the next day, but as were trying to take an afternoon break in our hammocks the realization hit that it was simply too bloody hot! Far too hot to be sleeping outside. Seems that unexpected warm weather we had encountered just a few weeks ago has reared its ugly head again. Ugh. We decided to quickly pack up and make a break for cooler climates to the north. The next morning we arrived in Shenandoah, a day earlier than expected mind you, and I was so happy that we did as they were almost at capacity! I thought my first trip up there was busy, but wow. Had we stuck with the original idea we would have been left with no site in the park.

Terri had heard me speak of my friend Binky a few times and knew he wain North Carolina at the moment, but didn't realize that I had been in touch with him and made plans for us to meet in Shenandoah.

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