Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wandering the Ruins

Due to the fact that my strained back muscle was still giving me fits Denny and I limited our time in Flagler Beach to exploring the A1A, puttering around doing odd jobs on and in The Beast and finally driving about a mile and a half down the road to see the Bulow Plantation Ruins State Park.

The entry fee is $4 per vehicle for the park. There are a couple of nature trails and a canoe launch on the grounds as well as the ruins of the Bulow Plantation to explore but it's not a huge park. The path leading to the sugar mill allows you to see what the land looked like when Charles Bulow purchased his 4600+ acres of land to build his plantation. His slaves cleared 2200 acres and planted cotton, sugar cane, rice and indigo. As we walked the nature trail to the sugar mill ruins I couldn't help but be awed by the incredible amount of hard work the slaves would have had to clear such huge trees and large amounts of brush and palmettos to be able to plant fields of cotton. There are only a few limestone blocks left in the area of the slave housing; it is said that Major Bulow owned 159 slaves who were housed in 46 cabins that measured 12 feet by 16 feet and that the slaves were allowed to have gardens for growing their own food. All of this was considering treating them well by the standards of the day. Major Bulow himself died only two years after the plantation was built and the grounds planted and his 17 year old son took over the reins of the business upon Major Bulow's death, successfully running the plantation until the start of the Second Seminole Indian War.
The path to the sugar mill is about 1/4 mile long, although you can also drive to the site. There are plaques that explain what you are seeing and what process of the sugar cane extraction took place in which area. The grinding mechanism was operated by a steam engine so the mill was quite modern for its time.
An artist's interpretation of what the sugar mill originally looked like.

During the time of the plantation's operation, there was unrest among the local tribes of the Seminole Indian Nation over the government's treatment of them and in not honoring treaties. When the government attempted to force the Seminoles into reservations west of the Mississippi River, the Indians rebelled and the war started. Bulow Plantation was taken over by army troups but they soon withdrew from the plantation due to the soldiers falling ill with dysentery and yellow fever. The Seminoles then burned all the local plantations, including Bulow Plantation and its mill. The land once again looks as it did when the Indians lived there as all that's left of the plantation house are the remnants of the support pillars at the four corners of the house. You can see them in the picture below; they are the four slender white posts within the fence. Denny and I measured it off--the house would have been 40 feet wide by 60 feet long. Not a Tara, to be sure.To the rear of the plantation house was Bulow Creek. The creek was used to ship the cotton, indigo, molasses and sugar down to the creek to the Halifax River on Bulow's barges. From there they proceeded to Mosquito Inlet (now called Ponce Inlet) and on to the Caribbean and the east coast. Supposedly John Audobon came here to study native Florida birds which was considered unusual as most plantation owners would have considered Audobon's work as trivial and non-productive. The boat slips still exist because Bulow lined them with the empty ale and wine bottles from house parties which kept the creek banks intact. And finally, simply because it intrigued me, are three blurry photographs of a chamleon. I was trying to focus in on him as he ran up the tree from the ground but quickly realized that he was changed color as I snapped away. He went from lime green to mottled brown in less than 15 seconds. He actually became much darker in color, but I stopped after the three shots when the camera wouldn't focus quickly enough. Mother Nature is amazing.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Ferry, A Bus and a Barrier Island

Having already explored Jekyll Island and St. Simon Island in previous years Denny and I decided to check out Sapelo Island, the fourth largest barrier island in Georgia. State owned, you have to make reservations to see Sapelo and you are given a guided bus tour once you arrive on the island.

Arriving at the visitor center on the mainland, you pay your ten dollars per person fee and then are free to wander the displays at the center. There is also a small gift shop where you can purchase souvenirs and if you are lucky, a sweetgrass basket made by one of the island residents of Hog Hammock, the last community of descendants of the freed slaves of Thomas Spaulding, one of the many owners of the island. The tours are only given on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the off-season, with Friday tours during June through Labor Day. On Wednesdays you have the chance to tour the Reynolds mansion if it is not being occupied by special groups, and Saturdays you can tour the lighthouse.

Once you have wandered through the visitor center you make your way down to the ferry which leaves precisely at 9AM on Saturday. We stopped to chat with this young man who caught what he called a spot-tailed trout (I couldn't locate it as a local Georgia fish) right as we were boarding the ferry. We shared the ferry with a group of 11 year old school children who, needless to say, were very excited about the trip. Denny and I, in turn, were very excited when we discovered that the children had their own bus and tour guide once we debarked from the ferry. Heh. The ferry itself (and there is now a second sister ferry being prepared for use) brings over 60,000 to 70,000 passengers to the island every year, operating every day except for six holidays.
Sapelo Island has been owned and fought over by the French, Spanish and British people before being purchased by several different American owners. Thomas Spalding was a successful planter and landowner who grew cotton and sugar quite successfully with the help of 400 slaves. He built the Long Tabby House which now houses the island post office as well as the original plantation mansion known as the South End House. This mansion fell into ruin after the Civil War and was restored and rebuilt by Howard Collins who later sold out to R.J. Reynolds.In 1976 the National Estuarine Research Reserve was created as part of Sapelo Island Research Foundation set up by R. J. Reynolds. Most of the research is handled by the University of Georgia Marine Institution which is located on the island. The studies involve the marshlands and the barrier island ecology. Fred, the young man who heads the DNR on the island, is very proud of the fact that the island is kept as natural as possible and he has removed much of the nighttime security lighting so that one can see the stars at night. He mentioned that if you look at the Google Earth map of the US at night, you will see a black spot along the Georgia coastline and that is Sapelo Island.

The tour encompasses the southern end of the island, parts of the original Spaulding compound, the community of Hog Hammock, the lighthouse and ends at Nanny Goat Beach. From boarding the ferry to leaving it, your day trip will last 4 hours. You can pack a lunch and picnic near the lighthouse or on the beach if you can eat quickly because you have only about twenty minutes per stop due to the amount of driving and the are to be covered. You will learn about the local flora and fauna, the history of the landowners and some of the history of the inhabitants of Hog Hammock, including a story about one of the residents who would sing a song to her children in a strange language that was eventually discovered to be a funeral dirge in the language of a remote village in Sierra Leone in Africa. Fred explained how the now feral cows and hogs along with the deer population are kept under control by controlled hunts since there are no predators on the island. The time passes quickly because Fred is very involved and knowledgeable about the island and the preservation of the marshes and the island's environment.
There are seventy-seven steps leading to the top of the lighthouse. This was one of the scarier sets of lighthouse steps we've climbed, as the stairs spiraled around a central post but only had a hand rail along the brick outer wall so that trying to pass someone coming down the stairs meant you had no hand holds on a very narrow step. Which meant you had to crawl up in spots which was a bit nerve wracking.
A walk on Nanny Goat Beach was a little disappointing in that there were very few seashells and absolutely no beach glass or sharks' teeth. But it was a lovely stretch of beach for walking.
Our day trip to Sapelo Island was well worth the time and money.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Half Round at Coastal Pines Golf Course

Wednesday we traveled about 20 miles down the road to the Coastal Pines Golf Course near Brunswick, Georgia. On what would have been a terrific golf course to practice my game, I was only able to finish nine holes before a pulled muscle in my back made me quit for the day. Denny was able to finish the full eighteen holes of this rather vanilla golf course. What I mean by "vanilla" is that the fairways were wide open, the trees lining the fairways weren't too thick to hit from, and the hazards were avoidable for the most part. The greens were a bit tricky, having some undulation and slopes that were deceptive so there was some challenge involved there.

For the men playing the white tees, the yardage is 6347 yards with a rating/slope of 70.3/128. For seniors the yardage is 5964 yards with a rating/slope of 68.4/121. For the ladies at the red tees, the yardage is 4998 with a rating/slope of 69.1/120. The fairways on the back nine started to get a little rough and weed-infested towards the last few holes. Denny and I had no one in front of us or behind us for most of the afternoon although there were a lot of people on the driving range. There is no restaurant or snack bar at the clubhouse, only a pop machine and a small display of snacks for purchase if you get hungry or thirsty and there were no water coolers on the course, only a drinking fountain at the restrooms midway through the course.

I was able to find an online coupon to play for $30 a person with a riding cart and there were specials listed at the clubhouse including a special rate for Sundays. I'm sorry I couldn't finish my round here because I enjoy not being pushed or rushed on a golf course and the condition of the course wasn't too bad overall. Perhaps we'll get back this way again to give the golf course another try. Certainly Denny played well here, so that's an incentive to return.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Georgia Haiku

Early morning walk
Cardinal flashes scarlet
Good morning to me

Quiet Time

There's an owl in the woods across the lake. The fact that I can hear him emphasizes how quiet it can be here on a foggy morning. It is quite a change from the never ending sound of surf that awakened me every morning last month. I miss that already.

Walking Patches is a noisy experience. Dry, brittle live oak leaves snap, crackle and crunch like a bowl of Rice Krispies just after you've poured on the milk. The campground brochure states that there are snakes here, but I can't imagine one being within one hundred feet of us with all the noise I make walking over the thick layer of fallen leaves. The cat is in seventh heaven here with so many new odors and hidden places to investigate in such a small area. The huge stack of cut timber is a daily challenge to surmount and then use to survey her domain. Because once we settle in at a campground, the campground belongs to Patches until we leave.

The change back to Standard Time has us moving into that semi-hibernation mode, when you add chilly evening temperatures to the mix. Everyone here stays inside after dinner because it's full dark by then and too cold for a camp fire. Patches is restricted to the rig at that point because I have no idea of what type of critters come out at night and have no desire to find out. Fortunately I still have a load of programs taped from the four weeks we were without a television in the living room and a cupboard full of paperbacks to read so long evenings are not a problem. Besides, with the way time passes now it won't be that long until spring rolls around and Daylight Savings Time kicks back in. So for now I'll enjoy the evenings snuggled down with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book and the company of my bestest buddy. Long nights aren't really so bad.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

A Rainy Day at Whispering Pines Golf Course in MB

We gambled against the predictions of rain on the day we were scheduled to play at Whispering Pines Golf Course in Myrtle Beach just north of the airport and unfortunately we lost the bet. It's a shame, because this is probably a great course when you're not being drenched in a sudden downpour. Unlike many of the courses in the area, there are no homes along this golf course, just tall trees, well placed bunkers and some water holes to make it interesting.

From the men's white tees the yardage is 6245 yards with a slope rating of 70.9/192. For the red tees it plays 5176 yards with a slope rating of 70.0/119. If you play the most difficult tees, the yardage is 6771 with a rating of 73.4/131 and the senior tee yardage is 5497 and 66.8/115.
On a sunny day, this would be a fun course--we had to head for the parking lot early when the skies turned black and we knew we were in for it. Should we return next year as planned, I'm sure we'll give this course another try because the opportunity to play without fear of hitting condos and townhouses is rare in a reasonably priced golf course in this town. The only distraction is the noise of the airplanes taking off on a few of the holes that border the airport. But the airport isn't that busy so it's not much of a problem. We enjoyed this course even if we didn't get to finish our game.

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Saturday, November 06, 2010

H is for Horses--2010 Heart Ride on the Beach

This weekend is the annual Jack Monroe Heart Ride on the Beach for the American Heart Association. I have always loved horses so for a few hours over a period of three or four days I stand on the beach and take pictures of horses and their riders. It's a labor of love for me and I think the riders should be acknowledged for what they do to support the fight against heart disease.

Because Bl*gger limits me as to the amount of pictures I can post, I will be uploading the photographs to my album on Webshots, where I have also posted the Heart Ride photos from 2009 and 2008 in separate albums. You will find the photos here. I have taken about 400 photographs, so it will take me a while to edit them and get them all uploaded so if you are interested, keep checking back okay?
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