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Edisto Enchantment

Author: B. V. Dahlen
Date of Trip: October 2011

On a mid October Sunday morning, we loaded our car and headed from our home in southeastern Virginia to Edisto, South Carolina. We arrived at the Wyndham Ocean Ridge Resort about 5:30, checked in, and found our condo. Like almost every building we saw on the island, it was built on pilings with a car port beneath. It was very roomy and comfortable. We had two bedrooms, two baths, a full kitchen, living room, dining room, and screened porch overlooking the lake. There were balconies off the front bedroom and the screened porch. It was raining and gloomy that night, so and we decided not to explore the area restaurants and to make a snack and stay in. While sitting on the screen porch I noticed a neighbor coming across the lake…an alligator slowly cruised by. It was a perfect welcome to the Lowcountry.

We slept late, and awoke to a beautiful sunny Monday morning. After a leisurely breakfast on the back screened porch, I watched a neighborly egret wading in the weeds looking for a meal. It was so peaceful to watch him. He was beautiful and graceful, especially when he stretched those magnificent wings to fly away. We went to the beach and relaxed under our umbrellas for a while, and returned mid afternoon, to attend a wine and cheese mixer at the recreation center of the resort at 2:00. From there we walked to the Golf Club to attend a talk on time share points and a free chicken barbecue dinner. We strolled back to the condo under the Spanish moss swaying in the evening breeze. The moon was full, and it was a perfect ending of a great day. We went to bed early, planning to watch the sun rise on the beach the next morning.

We were up by 5 and ready to leave by 5:30. It’s a good thing it was such a clear night, and the moon was full, because dawn was still very far away. The beach in the moonlight was beautiful. The moonlight was so bright it was easy to see our way. We walked a good distance down the beach and back before setting up our chairs to sit and watch the sun rise. It was glorious….just as perfect as we’d hoped. After the sun was up, and shining, we packed up our chairs and went to the Beach Cow for breakfast. I had a short stack of pancakes and bacon, while my husband had biscuits and sausage gravy…good plain hometown cooking. We went back to the condo and cleaned up a bit before meeting our tour group at the resort recreation center. We took the tour of the town of Edisto, led by the wife of the Mayor Mrs Burley L. Lyons. We visited Trinity Episcopal Church, which was founded in 1774. We learned that the present church, was consecrated in 1881, and stands on the sight of the old sanctuary. The church was occupied by federal troops during the Civil War, destroyed by fire in 1876 and damaged by the hurricane of 1893. The sanctuary was rebuilt and features beautiful interior work done by a former slave. The old bead-board and blown glass windows have been lovingly preserved. The churchyard features two interesting old headstones, Jane and John Mc Conkey. Jane was burnt to death and John was cruelly murdered. We then went to see the Edisto Presbyterian Church, which was built in the early 1830’s. It looks today much as it did then. The graveyard that surrounds the church on three sides dates back to the 18th century. There is a mausoleum in the churchyard with a great ghost story attached. We also went to the Edisto History Museum and to Middleton Plantation, before returning to Ocean Ridge. That afternoon we sat out on the screen porch and watched the herons and egrets roosting in the trees around the lake. Our friendly alligator swam up and decided to catch some rays right behind our unit. We nick named him Albert. He was a big guy. That night we ate at the Waterfront Restaurant which wasn’t near the water, but the food was plentiful and great. I had the seared sea scallops and there must have been more than a dozen huge scallops on my platter along with a delicious baked potato and a great salad. I brought back more than half to eat later.

In the morning I sat out on the screen porch, and read my Jane Austen in the bug free sunshine. Afterwards, we had some lunch, and drove to the beach. It was another perfect day. On our way home we stopped by the resort hot tub. Another couple joined us. We sat and chatted for a while until it got too hot for us. We went back to the condo and relaxed, heating the leftovers from the night before for dinner that night. We watched TV until bed time and crashed. The cable at the resort offered a great selection of TV choices.

Thursday was another beach day. We slept in and had a leisurely breakfast before driving to the beach. The sky was a crystal clear blue and the temperatures were in the 80s. There was a wonderful breeze off the water which kept it just right. There was a foot path through the dunes and after I’d read and napped most of the day, I decided to take my camera and explore a little. There were monarch butterflies everywhere, especially on these bright daisy-like wildflowers that bloomed all over. I took some pictures of the kids playing , the gulls, the sea oats, shells and the erosion fences on the beach. We stayed until after 5, drove home, showered and went to the Pavilion restaurant for dinner. It was located right on the beach, across from the Piggly Wiggly…the only food market in town. I was distinctly unimpressed. They had vinyl tablecloths, paper napkins plastic plates and even plastic wine glasses. At least our flatware was stainless. The service was very slow, the portions were small, and not especially good. We took a walk along the beach after supper and headed back to the condo. After a bit of TV we went to bed.

On Friday we awoke early. We wanted to go to the State Park for a walk before the day got hot, and the bugs got fierce. We slathered ourselves in sun block and bug spray. First we went to the park next to the beach, thinking that the trails led from there into the forest. We had to drive several miles down the highway, and on the other side of the road was the forest part of the State Park. We parked, and started walking. We had a choice of several trails, and chose a combination of intertwined trails that would give us a nice 3 mile walk. We saw a large herd of deer crossing the trail in front of us. The buck had a huge rack. We also saw some cardinals. Their red was so bright, I’m not sure if it was the light or their plumage. We walked another path to see the Indian Shell Mound, which stands on the estuary bank. It is the remains of many oyster harvests by the Island’s original inhabitants, the Edistow Indians. We went back to the condo, had some lunch, and drove to Charleston. We first found a parking space, and made reservations for the ghost walk that night. Then we strolled through the City Market. We booked a carriage tour of the city, and went to the red barn to board our ride. Two sturdy mules, Hit and Run, pulled us along while our driver, Marsha, drove backwards through the downtown traffic, and told us about the history, and interesting sights of Charleston. We drove by the College of Charleston and saw the stately homes being used as fraternity houses. We passed by the Hugenot Church, and the Old City Jail built in 1790 as a jail and asylum. Though it was intended to hold around 128 prisoners, over 300 were frequently kept there. In some rooms, prisoners were locked in cages, barely the size of a person’s body, packed in like sardines. Disease was rampant, and tortures continued. Rapes of both men and women were common. During its operation until 1939, over 10,000 people died on the property. We saw the Wentworth Mansion, which was built by a very rich man who wanted at least 1000 sq ft per child in his family – he had 15! After our ride, we walked through the Market again to Church Street, and to Bocci’s Italian restaurant for dinner. We I ordered Chicken Piccatta, and the Chicken Conchiglia, and shared a Snickers Cheesecake with our coffee and tea. We certainly had no complaints. From there, we walked to the Tour office, where we were directed down the street to the Old Customs House, to meet our tour guide, and fellow Ghost Walk participants. They had to split us into two tours, because so many people signed up that night. We had a great time. We went to the church yard of Saint Philip’s and heard the tale of Sue Howard Hardy. We strolled to the Old City Jail. Notable inmates of the jail include numerous pirates, Civil War soldiers (including survivors of the 54th Mass., as seen in the movie GLORY) and serial killers John and Lavinia Fisher, who were both were convicted of murder and robbery. Together, they owned a hotel, the Six Mile House, which they managed between 1810 and 1820. The hotel was located six miles north of Charleston, South Carolina, hence the name. After a short period, many reports were made to the local sheriff’s department about guests disappearing. During an investigation by police, Lavinia and John were discovered, along with two other gang members. John surrendered the complete group in order to protect his wife, and shield her from the possibility of gunfire. John and Lavinia were immediately arrested, and taken to the Old City Jail. They were tried together. John was hanged minutes before Lavinia was. Lavinia was hanged on February 18, 1820, wearing her white wedding gown. Just before hanging, she told the crowd: “If any of you have a message for the Devil, give it to me, for I am about to meet him!”. We heard of the many ghosts that haunt the restaurant, Poogan’s Porch, and walked through Bloody Alley, hoping to catch a glimpse of the ghost of one of the many duelers who died there. It was warm and clear, a perfect night to walk around Charleston listening to ghost stories. When it was over, we strolled back to the car, and drove back to Edisto.

We awoke the next morning to driving rain and dark skies, and decided, after checking the forecast, to leave a day early. We gathered our things and packed the car. We were checked out and on the road by 11:00.

We had heard that Edisto was a place of oceanfront beaches, saltwater marshes and live oaks draped in Spanish moss…..where, ‘gators sun themselves within snatching distance of feeding egrets, jet skis, spraying plumes of seawater, race past trawling shrimp boats, people pedaling bikes along nature trails, wave to folks exploring tidal creeks in kayaks and golfers keep a wary eye for alligators near the fairways. We found it to be a magical place, full of coastal history and romance. Edisto had delivered on it’s promises and we suspected that there were many that we hadn’t yet discovered. We were positive that we’d be back again soon.

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