Lake Wateree SP, Skidaway SP
Because we left Meadows of Dan around 10:30A on Thursday, April 1 in quite a brisk wind (low forties/upper thirties temps) we changed our plan from going down Interstate 77 through Statesville (notoriously windy stretch south of here) to heading down Squirrel Spur and south via Mt. Airy.
Traveling in the Time of Covid: Jack had gotten his second vax shot, and I’d even managed to get the first of my two (Moderna), thus feeling less vulnerable on the road. Still, we endeavored to stay and keep those around us as safe by continuing to mask up and keeping as much distance as reasonable between us and strangers. We left home with the hope that around April 22 or so, I’d be able to obtain access to the #2 Moderna shot somewhere along our travels.
First stop: Lake Wateree State Park in SC, higher on the “River Loop” than when we were here before (site #24) and the ranger said the second bath house had been renovated. Oddly, strange wiring in both the men’s and the women’s meant that when the motion-sensors activated, the full-velocity hand dryers would blow loudly. Jack opined to one of the guys trying to fix the men’s that the problem wasn’t with the units but the wiring. But he came away certain the guy was clueless beyond the fact that the units cost $600 each.
The wind was strong off the very high water. The paved pad on which we were expected to level was quite sloped to the side, so we moved the trailer away from the hookups and toward the severe drop-off of the pavement on the awning side. We also dispatched with setting up the awning as there was zero “front yard” not already taken up by the picnic table (which, to their credit, was brand new and still clean and fresh) and the fire pit.
From this minimal set up we moved straight to dinner (our standard chicken salad) and soon tucked into bed with the furnace fighting back the below-freezing overnight temps.
Friday, April 2 dawned with less wind, but chill temps. The internet told us Meadows of Dan (home) was in the mid-20s, and we hoped house sitter John and the doggies were doing okay with the new mini-split we’d had installed recently.
We waited until 40 degrees before venturing out to walk along the nature trail we’d enjoyed with John and Mary back in December. Since they’d had some obvious and significant flooding, we stopped first at the check-in/tackle shop to see if the trail was even open. They said it was, but there were some wet areas that we could easily go around.
We noticed some very yellow blooms high in several of the trees along the path. They reminded us of the kind of jasmine we had planted in our yard in Houston, and confirmed that it was, in fact, the same fragrant jasmine we remembered when I was able to have a good sniff of flowers on a plant that was growing at eye level, enjoying more sun than those climbing to the tippy-tops of trees.
The water was high, and we noted that one of the small bluffs we’d stood atop with John and Mary in December was this time, not raised above the water at all.
Of course, we traveled during the region’s famous pollen time, and many of the trees sported “Racing Stripes” of yellow “paint” around their trunks.
The Nature Trail’s forest protected from the wind in force near the water, so it was quite a nice walk, and I used my trekking poles to get some extra calorie burn. When Jack headed back to the campsite, I carried on and walked across the causeway to the newer loop recently opened to camping.
This section is definitely more raw and sunny—and at the time I was there, the bath house was still under construction. Individual toilet/showers were being created, but those set up on sites had to be self-contained or drive over to our loop to use the bathrooms.
Later, herds of children moved in and started racing and yelling and fighting all over our loop. Next door a large rig full of an amalgam of families and cousins or step kids, etc., tried to use their scissor-type stabilizers to level their enormous B-3 (Big Brown Box) on a level-challenged site like ours. It wasn’t long before the stabilizer bent and threatened to let everything crash down.
Next to that activity was a group trying to back a large rig, and I know they worked at it for an hour before getting it the way they wanted. Apparently, they didn’t know to leave space enough for the slide-outs on the sides and kept having to move the rig.
Sitting in the waning sun at the back of our camper (protected from the wind) we watched the goings-on all around us. In addition to the B-3 fiascoes, mobs of noisy kids were playing volleyball or losing their gliders in the trees, then breaking up the tree branches in an effort to get them down again. When the sun set and it got cold again, we heated some of Jon Beegle’s pulled pork BBQ and combined with some of Jack’s famous mac-and-cheese (plus a quick salad) had an easy dinner.
We resolved to escape early as possible in the morning, even to forego our morning coffee and tea. Check-in at our next destination (Skidaway State Park near Savannah, GA) was relatively early (1PM). So, we rolled out of Lake Wateree State Park by 7A on Saturday, April 3. Having taken back roads, we finally got some caffeine down our throats near Colombia, SC, and arrived at Skidaway around 1PM, where the high for the day was around 58 (lows in the 40s) and enjoyed a gentle breeze that kept the bright sun from being too hot.
We looked forward to meeting up with fellow Altoiste, Annie, but were unsure which site was hers. While we knew we were all in Campground #4, we headed to our site (#55, which is a pull-through) and took our time setting up for a four-night stay.
We had a choice of two bath houses available to us, one having been renovated more recently than the other. Our loop is close to the start of the Big Ferry Trail (the only one of the 3 or 4 trails on our map that allows bicycles), which runs about 3 miles round-trip out to the marshes and back.
Around 3:30P, Annie rolled in next door in site 54. We decided we’d get together for a campfire after dinner and then Jack and I took a quick “shake down” bike ride around the loops to get our bearings. While the daytime weather was dry and warm-ish, a campfire was comforting as the sun set.
Early on Easter Sunday, April 4, we heard a couple of barred owls talking to one another (and later, Jack actually spotted one, alerted to its presence by a mob of crows). And we had our coffee and tea watching a small herd of deer browse their way along our back “yard” toward the main visitor center.
The sites were very well-spaced, and even though we saw multitudes of people all around the visitor center and along the roads, walking, riding, exercising, etc., there was hardly any noise (except squirrels) and the spacing between sites was, for the most part, generous. With the old live oaks and Spanish moss, plus many other understory trees, there was shade nearly everywhere, and plenty of privacy.
Disappointed that the nearby Publix grocery store was closed for Easter, Jack and I explored the area via car and found a “cart path” leading from the church parking lot nearest the campground entry road over to the Publix shopping area and its backing neighborhood. In the opposite direction from the neighborhood, we found a dead-end road lined with gated communities, straight and flat as a board. It looked very good for potential cycling.
Typically, many rigs departed in the usual Sunday evacuation from campgrounds everywhere. But there were plenty of day-trippers visiting because the weather was quite fine. After lunch, Annie and I walked along one of the hiker-only nature trails for about an hour at a good, exercise-worthy pace. Many folks were also on the narrow trails, though, and I felt like I should have used my mask more frequently, although Annie and I were talking so much it was hard to remember to use a mask.
Afterwards, I began the process of making a Dutch Oven chicken pot pie for all three of us, enjoyed around the Solo stove, on another lovely evening.
On Monday, April 5, Jack and I tried our cycle wheels on the Big Ferry Trail, and it was not as we’d hoped—there were treacherous exposed roots all along the path. Tricky for navigation, sure—but also rough on the hind parts. The most unfortunate aspect, however, was that our eyes were so focused on watching for roots, we missed much of the available views and southern flora of the trail.
We rode from there straight down the roadway to the paved church path and over to our long, straight run past the gated communities. The dead end and lack of commercial enterprise made it an excellent, low-traffic 2-mile (one way) sprinting venue. After the tree-root hell, it was good to stretch our legs.
That afternoon, temperatures hit the seventies (!) and we hopped into the car for our delayed visit to Publix. Both of us had a craving for pizza so we found a non-franchise take-out place and ate in the car. Meanwhile, Annie took her kayak to the marsh (parking at the boat launch and parking area on the Savannah side of the tall causeway bridge). The high for the afternoon was 75 degrees, and we enjoyed our first “shorts weather” day for the season!
Dinner for the two of us was a reprise of the chicken pie (next time we re-heat DO Chicken Pot Pie, it will be thinned with a bit of Half and Half mixed with chicken broth, the leftover crust removed, and over fresh drop biscuits—we tried Grands packaged in the tube, but the Omnia oven is too small for such large biscuits). After dinner, we invited Annie over for another Solo Stove fire for the evening. I got out the pudgy pie irons and we made two fresh blueberry and cream cheese pies and divided them up amongst the three of us for dessert.
Pine tree pollen blanketed everything, including my laptop screen, and my sneezing might wake the dead—such are the joys of a southern springtime.
On our final full day at Skidaway, Tuesday, April 6, we took another cardio ride down our long, straight road, ending in a good sprint. Before the temps rose to 75 degrees, we tootled around the neighborhood behind Publix, and hoped we’d discovered a wifi source in a “public” library—the word is in quotes because Annie disabused us of the public nature of the institution: it is actually open to residents of its neighborhood only.
We drove out to Wormsloe Plantation, a historic site, museum, and visitor area. Since there were lots of trails and structural foundations, we were able to stay outside, for the most part. There was a small museum with a lot of displays and explanations of the whole site’s history and uses—and some of those indoors did not wear masks, making me particularly uncomfortable in the hot, close quarters. We probably wandered outside for an hour or so, but I discovered later that the mosquitoes were stealthy and numerous, and I was a particularly tasty entree on their dinner menu.
After our visit to Wormsloe, we hit Dubberly’s Seafood, on a back road behind a house, where we got some sweet Savannah shrimp to cook on the grill. They were VERY good and if you can find the place, it’s a great fresh seafood source.