RV Trip 6.3 – Edisto Beach SP, Hunting Island SP – Dec 12-18, 2019

This blog will finish off our trip along the South Carolina coast, but I thought I would give you a few fun facts about the state.

  • There is a rich history here due to the Spanish Explorers coming here back in 1514 and Charleston being founded as the first English settlement in 1670.
  • South Carolina became the 8th state in 1788 and currently has just over 4 million people.
  • Two major Hurricanes have impacted South Carolina with Hazel in 1954 and Hugo in 1989.
  • We spent most of our time along the coast which is also called Lowcountry due to being at sea level.
  • South Carolina is famous for its golf courses but since we’re not golfers we didn’t take advantage😉

We had a few planned stops on our way to Edisto SP with the Angel Oak tree and the Charleston Tea Plantation but then we also discovered Deep Water Vineyard and Firefly Distillery so of course we had to stop for some tastings. Unfortunately, the grounds for the famous Angel Oak tree were closed for some staff training when we arrived so we had to take our pictures through the fence. This live oak tree is one of the oldest trees on the east coast and estimated to be 400-500 years old. It stands at 66.5’ tall and the circumference is 28’! Its longest branch is 187’ in length and the tree gives shade to a 17,200 square foot area.

At the Charleston Tea Plantation we learned many interesting facts about tea. We first did the trolley tour around the plantation to learn about how they grow and look after the plants and then we did the self guided factory tour. The factory wasn’t producing tea when we were there but the videos explained the steps in the process. In the gift shop they had lots of free samples of both hot and cold teas. Here are a few of the key facts:

  • This tea plantation on Wadmalaw Island is the only place growing and making tea in North America.
  • The camellia sinensis plants are grown for 4 years before they can regularly harvest tea leaves from them.
  • They trim the plants to a set height and then only the new growth leaves above this height are harvested for tea.
  • During the prime season they can harvest leaves every 21 days.
  • To process the tea the wilted leaves are put through a Rotovane to rupture the cells, then they oxidize the leaves followed by the drying stage.
  • The three types of tea, Black, Oolong, and Green are done by varying the length of time oxidizing the leaves. Black oxidizes for 50 minutes, oolong for 15 minutes, and green for zero minutes and this gives them the colour/flavour.
  • 5 pounds of fresh leaves will make 1 pound of tea as 97% of the moisture is gone and 80% of the weight.
  • We will never drink decaffeinated tea again as they use the same chemicals as paint thinner and nail polish remover to eliminate the caffeine! Not really appetizing is it?  Heat releases the caffeine, so to get 65% less caffeine in your tea, throw away the first cup and steep a second cup as it has less caffeine in it.  In the south they enjoy their cold steeped tea which also has less caffeine.
  • To make the perfect cup of tea bring cold water to a rolling boil, use 1 teaspoon of tea per cup, pour the water over the tea (don’t put tea into the water), and brew to desired strength 2-6 minutes.

We decided since we were relatively close we would stop at Deep Water Vineyards for a wine tasting and it turned out it was connected to the Firefly Distillery so we got to do two sets of tastings. For the wine tasting they had the “Honeymoon package” where you both tried 6 wines but the first 5 were different so you could sample each other’s and therefore actually try 11 different products. The primary grape grown in this area is Muscadine but they also bring in some grape variety’s from California to blend. At the end he also let us try the grape juice itself which we liked so we bought a couple of bottles as well. Across the patio was the distillery and we shared a tasting of 6 different products. They had a large variety of vodkas, moonshine (whiskey without the aging), whiskey, rum, and liqueurs. Naturally we also bought several of their products. The distillery will be moving to Charleston soon as they don’t have enough space at the current location and the county tax laws are more favourable.

Finally, we arrived at Edisto Beach SP which has one campground in the maritime forest and another one beside the beach (which we had chosen). The beach certainly wasn’t as long as Myrtle or Huntington but did have a lot of shells which made for great walks. We had been told to look for Shark’s teeth but we didn’t find any until the next park. South Carolina State Parks practiced racial segregation from their founding until 1966. In 1965 a judge ruled that the parks must integrate so a group of 13 civil rights workers went to Edisto for July 4th celebrations, but they were arrested. Finally, in 1966 the park segregation was lifted.

One afternoon they were doing a ranger talk on Alligators so we did a 12 km hike from the beach campground to the education centre at the far end of the maritime forest. We watched a video about alligator research and went through the exhibits in the education centre. On the way back we stopped to see the 4,000-year-old shell midden which unfortunately was eroding into the coastal waterway.

Our last stop in South Carolina was Hunting Island SP for 3 nights. It was technically only 20 kms away from Edisto but we had to drive 135 kms out and back in order to get there due to the waterways. This park was massively impacted by hurricane Mathew in 2016 and actually lost 40’ of the beach and 14 of their cabins only one by the lighthouse remains. This park was one of our favourites despite the damage as it had a very long beach with shells and fossilized shark teeth, some great Mountain Bike trails through the Palmetto forest and along the salt water lagoon, a boardwalk out into the salt marsh, an interpretative centre with local snakes and turtles, a lighthouse (moved to current location in 1889 and 132.5’ high) which was open to the public, and ranger/volunteer led programs. Over our 3 night/4 day stay we did 11 kms of walking and about 29 kms of biking. This is definitely a park we would like to return to in the future. When we left Hunting Island, we had a great seafood lunch at the Johnson Creek Tavern.

To close off the South Carolina section we’re including a static view of the Google map for what we saw. In the final blog for RV Trip 6 we will include the dynamic drill down map that gets captured from our GPS trip logger we use in the RV. We hope you’ve enjoyed this short 3-week excursion in South Carolina. The next blog will begin our journey in the state of Georgia.

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