Alison on the Hunting Island Beach
Alison and I just got back from a nice little visit to Alison’s parent’s place on the South Carolina coast (with apologies to the Traveller’s Rest crew, who we probably flew over twice on our way in and out of the Charlotte airport). Her parents are retired and live beyond Beaufort, SC, which is pronounced “Byoo-fort” and you will be corrected on the spot if you mistakenly use the NORTH Carolina pronunciation of “Boh-fort.”
“When you like the way something looks, you don’t say it is “BOH” -tiful, do you?” The natives will point out with a smug smile at their unassailable logic…
“BYOO-fort” is a “BYOO-tiful” small city that reminds me of Belfast, Maine because it features many restored period buildings in its walkable downtown, it’s right on the water, and it’s the ‘step-child” of a nearby famous resort town (Hilton Head), which means that it has been spared many of the unappealing aspects of wild growth. The Berards live beyond Beaufort in a non-famous resort community at the end of the state highway heading east through a clump of islands amid the picturesque brown and green spiky estuaries (think The Big Chill, Prince Of Tides, and Forrest Gump — all of which filmed scenes around these islands) bordering the Atlantic ocean called Fripp Island. Alison’s sister Leslie and niece Tait were visiting at the same time to make it a full Berard family reunion.
Our tent site! (See the blue dome to the left?)
However, we decided to spend our three nights at the Hunting Island State Park campground which is the island adjacent to Fripp and offers beach-front campsites for around $17 a night. Despite being surrounded by 200 other campers (the place was FULL and we had to make reservations a month in advance to get one of the last few sites available), the greenery was so lush, and the 10pm quiet rule so well enforced, that we could hardly tell. Most nights were warm and muggy, but just on the tolerable side, so we slept well once we got used to the sounds of the deer and feral cats moving through the grounds poaching trash. In the morning, we rolled out of the tent, put on our bathing suits, and strolled a hundred yards or so to the beach for a morning dip in the tepid green ocean. On the horizon, several shrimp boats bobbed with their net wings spread wide. Beyond the beach inland the dense green forest swalled most signs of the many campers. After a float and body-surf, we took advantage of the excellent bathroom facilities complete with outdoor showers to rinse off, shave, and get ready for the day.
We left our tent and the campground just as the sun and the temperature was climbing — it easily hit 90’s with high humidity every day we were there — and retreated to the Berard’s house with its central air conditioning. Many of the parked RVs in the campground had AC, too! I imagine our own tent camping experience may have been less fun if we hadn’t had the escape from the heat and humidity for part of the day. We were also lucky that it did not rain a drop during our stay, especially overnight, which may have also put a damper on our “roughing it” experience.
During our stay I was able to suffer through the US – Ghana World Cup match live on ESPN (a surprise treat for this cable-less dude), as well as play a round of golf on the Ocean Point course that weaves through the housing on the Berard’s end of the island — their back porch overlooks the fourteenth green. The course is not Winged Foot, but has many wet spots and jungle-like thickets, and playing with my rented clubs (danged “Tight Lies” hybrids for a 3 and 4 irons! I can’t hit woods, even if they’re pretending to be irons…) for my first round of the year, I managed to lose most of the balls that Cos had found over the past few months. Needless to say I played terribly, but I did manage to tie for first place (with Sue) for the “Bingle Bangle Bongle” game where you get a point for being first on the green, closest to the hole on that approach, and first in the hole (from farthest away, naturally), so my short game did not suffer too badly.
We also didn’t starve, enjoying large spreads every night, featuring chicken, then steak, then shrimp, the last two on the grill. A food highlight for me was lunch at the Golden Corral in Beaufort, where Cos is a regular for breakfast. In true southern cafeteria style there was everything from pot roast, fried chicken, and boiled cabbage to sweet and sour chicken, grill-to-order pork chop, and spagetti and meatballs available to go on your endless plate. I started with a make-my-own taco, sweet and sour chicken on fried rice with a side of boiled cabbage; then moved to a salad with blue cheese dressing, chipped olives, Baco®s, and pepperocini and a quite good tender southern biscuit on the side; followed by some very good (probably local!) seedless watermelon chunks. Cos knows the waitresses by name;they know him by sight. They pour him a cup of coffee and start making his mushroom omlette before he even walks in the door on the few mornings a week that he eats breakfast there, and they were delighted to meet his whole family.