Pretty Place

Recently, I came across this picture of Symmes Chapel aka “Pretty Place”. I think it is one of the most beautiful chapels I’ve seen, at least judging by the photo, and I can’t wait to visit it someday (very soon, I hope).

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Photo Credit: Dave Allen

 

I did a little research on Pretty Place and found that it is located in a very small portion of South Carolina that lies within the Blue Ridge Mountains. Constructed in 1941, it sits on the property of the YMCA Camp Greenville. Mr. Fred W. Symmes donated the chapel for the enjoyment of children who camp at the YMCA during the summer, but visitors are welcome to visit the chapel during daylight hours and the chapel can even be booked for special events like weddings.

 

If you’re interested in seeing a schedule for the chapel, click here or you can call ahead  at: (864) 836-3291.

 

I know that this is one destination that has found a spot on my bucket list.

 

Happy Easter, all!

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Hammocks Beach/Swansboro

It’s been a while since I’ve written about an excursion. Things have been complicated lately, and other thoughts and concerns have presented distractions. That’s ok. Life happens. But this morning when I got up and saw the sun shining on a beautiful day,  I decided that it was time to go exploring. I called one of my favorite sidekicks, and started the conversation like I often do, “I know it’s late notice, and it’s fine if you’re not interested but…” About two hours later, we were on our way to Hammocks Beach State Park near Swansboro, NC.

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Hammocks Beach consists of 1520 acres. It includes a mainland area that offers a visitors center, lookouts, a launch site for canoes, kayaks and ferries and a hiking trail. It also consists of four barrier islands: Bear Island, Huggins Island, Dudley Island and Jones Island which are accessible by ferry or private boat. Bear Island is the biggest attraction of the four. It is 4 miles long, has a south facing beach and contains hiking trails, as well.

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The history of Hammocks Beach is an interesting one. Originally, it was inhabited by Native Americans. Once the Native Americans migrated northward, pirates moved in and roamed the waters and the islands around the park. During the Civil War, Confederate soldiers used Bear and Huggins Islands to defend the mainland and during WWII, the Coast Guard used the area to monitor for German U-boats. In the early 20th century, the island was acquired by a neurosurgeon from New York named Dr. William Sharpe who willed it to the NC Teachers Association, an organization of African American Teachers. In 1961, they donated the park to the state of North Carolina. Originally intended as a park for minorities, the park was opened to everyone after the Civil Rights Act in 1964. 

(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammocks_Beach_State_Park)

Since we were at Hammocks Beach Park during the off-season, my friend and I were unable to take the ferry over to Bear Island. We stayed on the mainland, strolled around the museum in the visitors center and went to the lookouts on the grounds. We found the hiking trail but a controlled burn prevented us from walking the entire length of the trail.

We turned our sights to downtown Swansboro which was only about 8 minutes away, and found a restaurant close to the water named Boro. I had delicious Brazilian chicken in a tomato basil wrap with sweet potato fries and slaw. My friend had a burger and fries. The price was pretty affordable as we both paid about $11 and some change for lunch.

Afterwards, we walked the length of Front St where the restaurant was located. Quaint shops lined the street along the water. We found a candy shop called Candy Edventure and I bought some peanut butter chocolate fudge.

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They also sold scorpion suckers…

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and ant suckers…

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but I opted not to try those. (I can’t think why) (Eww).

With fudge in hand, we strolled back up the street and slipped into a coffee shop/bar named Bake, Bottle & Brew.  I figured that a cup of coffee would go really well with my dessert. It ended up being my favorite place on that little strip.

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With our bellies full and our sense of adventure satisfied, we headed home. I’m thinking that I may go back during the summer to see what those places are like during the busy season, but I really enjoyed hanging out there today while everything was kind of quiet, too.

Until next time..:)

Tractor in the Snow

This past week, we had a rare snowfall on the coast of North Carolina. While visiting family, I noticed their tractors covered in snow out in the yard. I liked the look of them so I went outside to take some pictures. I got the photo below of a weathered Massey Ferguson belonging to my step-dad. Just one of the many ways I enjoyed our snow days.

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Old Baldy

Old Baldy, located on beautiful Bald Head Island, turned 200 years old in 2017.  The longest standing lighthouse in North Carolina, Baldy was originally built to mark the entrance of the Cape Fear River.

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According to the website Baldy has:

108 steps and five landings with a ladder into the lantern room.

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It is 110 feet tall with one door and six windows.

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I climbed the lighthouse about a month ago. So far, I’ve been to three of North Carolina’s seven main lighthouses and Old Baldy is the first one I’ve been able to climb. The panoramic view from the top was breathtaking and an amazing reward for all of the huffing and puffing it took to get there.

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Bald Head Island can be reached by ferry which leaves from the Deep Point Marina out of Southport. Once on the island, you can get around by foot (the island is 4.8 miles long and 2 miles wide) or bike or you can rent a cart. There are restaurants on the island (I stopped in at Mojo’s on my trip), walking trails, beach access and a conservancy that features events like kayaking, surf fishing, touch tanks, birding and even stargazing after dark.

BHI is a tiny island with a lot to offer if you are looking for an interesting, relaxing and unique day trip.

Oak Island Lighthouse

Currently, there are seven coastal lighthouses in North Carolina. So far, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting three: Cape Lookout, the Oak Island Lighthouse and Old Baldy. I hope to visit them all.

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I traveled to the Oak Island Lighthouse a few weeks ago. It was a Sunday afternoon, I wanted to get out the house, and I remembered that I’d been planning to visit the lighthouse, which was a little less than an hour’s drive from my home, for quite a while. As I drove through the rural route that would take me to the lighthouse, I remember thinking, I would never live out here, because there didn’t appear to be much to do. I would see things a little differently once I reached my destination.

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The light from the lighthouse, located on Caswell Beach Rd on Oak Island, can be seen for 16 miles. It’s rather exciting to see it flashing in the distance as you approach the beach. The lighthouse was built in 1957 to replace a steel lighthouse on Bald Head Island (Bald Head and Oak Island are very close to one another) and when it was first lit in 1958, carbon-arc mercury lamps, which were used prior to incandescent lights, provided so much light that it was the brightest in the United States and the second brightest in the world. The light is currently powered by a 1,000 watt halogen bulb and displays 4 one second flashes then 6 seconds of blank. It stands 153 feet tall and has 131 steps that can be climbed to reach an outside balcony, although you must schedule a time to climb the lighthouse. It is not open during any set hours.

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It is very easy to access because it sits just by the road. There is a tiny parking lot directly in front of the lighthouse with free parking for 30 minutes. I saw another public access parking lot just down the road. Across the street is a walkway onto Caswell Beach. After I poked around the lighthouse, I crossed the street to check out the beach. It was super quiet compared to the beaches where I live, and I saw several pelicans flying so close to the shore that I could actually make out their little pelican faces. I glanced behind me to see the flashes from the lighthouse, and it occurred to me how fortunate the locals are to live so close to such a quiet beach adorned with their own personal lighthouse. Ok, I thought, maybe I would live here.

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Layers between Dunes

On the south end of Ft Fisher, there is an area designated for people to take 4-wheeled drives onto the beach. A lot of fishermen use the access. As a child, I went down there with my family. My father and one of my uncles both owned 4-wheeled drive vehicles, my dad a Bronco, my uncle a Jeep. The adults would find wading pools for the children to play in while the men fished. I remember those outings with contentment and happiness. Some of my best memories.

While visiting the beach a few weeks back, I ventured down to the south end on foot, eventually walking along the access between the dunes. I got this picture of tire tracks in the sand with the dunes behind them. Layers between the dunes.

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The picture below was taken the same day. I loved the view of the sun shining over the dune.

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Staycation Days: Hurricane Irma

I work for a company that allows me to carry over 40 hours of vacation time each year. That means that in the last quarter of the year, I generally take a little time off to eat up some of my surplus hours so that I don’t lose any of them. This week, I took some of that time. I recently took a trip to New York and want to take another trip out west next spring so I decided to use the time this week to work on projects around the house, go on local outings, etc.

 

Hurricane Irma ate up the first couple of days of my staycation. She didn’t hit us directly, she hit to the south and west of us, but she was so massive that we could still feel her effects from the distance. I’ve lived on the coast all of my life except for about 5 years when I was in Raleigh, NC. And even while I was there, Hurricane Fran ripped through the center of the state and hit the Triangle area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill).  As a hurricane vet, I generally feel well prepared for a Category 2 or below, even the average Cat 3. I know what to expect. Irma, which wobbled east to west and back and forth as a Cat 4 to Cat 5, was a different beast and she commanded my attention. I secured items in my yard and stocked up on snacks, water and gas. I got my pet carriers out and watched the weather diligently in the days preceding the storm, waiting with anticipation to see if there was any chance she might decide to hit the coast of NC as a 4 or 5, a sign that it may be time to evacuate.

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We were fortunate in my area. She hit well to the west of us and we only received some rain and  wind gusts of about 35 mph. I visited a pier at Wrightsville Beach as Irma pummeled Florida and South Carolina just to see the effects that the storm might have on the ocean. Even from a distance, she made her presence known. Gusts of wind pushed me forward and around as I climbed the stairs to the pier. My sunglasses, which were clipped to shirt, flew away into the ocean. Loose sand flew across the beach to blast those walking in its path. White caps surfed across the water.

 

Today, as I sit on my back porch, the sun is out and the air is calm. There is no sign of Irma here, but I know that in the Caribbean, Florida, South Carolina and Georgia, the effects still linger in the trail of destruction that she left behind. Nature is beautiful but she is also a force to be reckoned with. God bless those who were in her path.

Last of the streaming sun

Ooh, shiny

Sunsets occur everyday and yet, I never tire of them. Without fail, I am entranced by the clockwork rainbow of pink and orange,  yellow and blue, violet and twilight streaming across the the sky.

I experienced the sunset below on one of my afternoon excursions to the beach. I was in mid-sentence talking with a friend when I stopped and said, “Look at that one. The sky is showing off tonight”.

The sun itself is not seen in the picture, but you can see its determined efforts to make its presence known as light streamed through invisible holes in the atmosphere like spotlights on a stage.

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