How We Roll
We saw a great Christmas-lights display at James Island County Park, where you can drive through the lights and there is also a short walking trail through some of the lights. In South Carolina, it is generally warm enough to walk around outside in November and December.
Another highlight was a visit to the famous Angel Oak on Johns Island. This Southern Live Oak is over 1,400 years old, 66.5 ft (20 m) tall, and measures 28 ft (8.5 m) in circumference. From tip to tip, its longest branch distance is 187 ft (57 m). There is currently a group trying to save it from the development that is creeping up and swallowing the natural areas around Charleston.
One downside to the Charleston area is a local paper mill, which can be stinky if you are downwind of it. Most days, we didn’t smell it, though, and without that odor, the “low country” is quite beautiful and very different from landscapes we were familiar with in Washington State and Chicago. One additional note: be prepared for lots of traffic. You’ll want to avoid driving around during rush hours in the morning and evening.
Another tourist highlight is visiting plantations in the Charleston area. We went to the Boone Hall Plantation where we saw original slave houses and the “big house” where the slave owners lived. The stark contrast between the two ways of life is obvious (and a bit depressing). The day we went, there was a Civil War reenactment of the Battle of Fort Wagner, which was won by the Confederacy.
One thing I will say about Charlestonians: they view their history as a learning opportunity. Charleston was a major slave port and for much of its history, slaves made up half of the population. That isn’t a great thing to be noted for, but the attitude in the area is that it was wrong and people can learn from it.
One of our favorite things to do was to visit the beaches. Hard-packed sand makes walking easy, and the beaches aren’t crowded, at least in November. We visited Isle of Palms (Mount Pleasant) Sullivan’s Island (Charleston) and Folly Beach (James Island).
We came to the Charleston area to visit Jessica and Bryce and stayed for a month. We found a campground about 40 minutes away from Jessica’s apartment and visited with them mainly on weekends, although there were a few weekdays when Bryce either didn’t have school or got out early, so we hung out with him on those days.
Since Jess and Bryce had moved here only recently, they didn’t know the area well and had fun exploring with us. Jessica had been to Charleston several times though and was able to direct us to the neighborhoods near the harbor where you can park for free. The narrow streets, colorful row houses, and wrought iron gates and fences in Charleston gave Boo some great chances to work on his photography hobby.
The Charleston area we visited includes greater Charleston, Johns Island, James Island, and Mount Pleasant. These are all connected by bridges, and the area includes ocean beaches plus a lot of small lakes and swampy areas. We were told the swampy areas and small lakes are inhabited by snakes and alligators, although we never saw either.
When we crossed the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. bridge (the largest one) on our way to Johns Island, we could see Charleston to the south. Bryce spotted a large aircraft carrier in Charleston Harbor and wanted to see it. So we went to the Naval and Maritime Museum at Patriots Point. For one price, we toured the aircraft carrier, the USS Yorktown, a submarine (USS Clamagore) and a destroyer (USS Laffey).
One of the main “touristy” things to do in the Charleston area is to buy “sweetgrass baskets.” These are made by traditional Gullah people (formerly slaves) and you can see stands all along U.S. 17, which runs through Mount Pleasant. These can be quite pricey and we don’t have room to store stuff in the motor home so we didn’t buy any, but Boo got some great pictures.