St Johns Island Christmas

Mud, More Mud, Wildlife and a Brunch Market

Published: 3 February 2020

 St Johns Island, SC

Doin' the Charleston!

We drove to Johns Island for Christmas and New Year (2019 - 2020). It is an Intercoastal Island a little south of Charleston in South Carolina.

The old Farmhouse we rented was in a quiet spot — one of two that lay amidst acres and acres of flat crop-bearing fields. The last two miles getting there were on a private and much-rutted dirt road. Getting to the journey's end was good after a not-so-bad 520-mile drive down I95. There was lots of safe open space to let the dogs run around and unwind. Accomplished travellers, they had slept most of the way, making do with just one stop.

We unpacked and got organized quickly. We were looking forward to eating out in Charleston, a city renowned for its restaurants. The Fat Hen on the Island had a good reputation and was close to the Farmhouse, so we went for our first-night dinner. We were tired, of course, but enjoyed the meal. We ate modestly; there was plenty of time to be bolder over the next two weeks, or so we thought.

Coping with Bad Weather

It began to rain steadily during our second night there. It continued all the next day and on into the early morning. Almost four inches of rain shattered the record for the most to fall locally over 24 hours back in 1941. During the night, I worried about flooding. For goodness' sake, we were on a flat Intercoastal Island, and THE FARMHOUSE WAS ON STILTS FOR A PURPOSE! We were likely OK up there. But we had a three-month-old apple-of-my-eye SUV sitting outside. I fretted and fretted as it rained on and on. Eventually, at 03:30, the ever-resourceful Karen found a live flood predictor map online. It indicated that saltwater would flood on parts of the Island but not around our immediate locality. I thanked the Lord, rolled over, and went to sleep.

The two-mile much-rutted access road was now under a lot of water. We knew some portions would be deep and perhaps unpassable. We carefully confirmed that the Beemer was well equipped to wade and slide through the muddy water to the tarmacadamed road. We could raise its suspension and increase the traction. It came at the price of reduced stability at speed, but that didn't seem unreasonable. But, we opted to limit our forays out to one a day and never in the dark. The dirt road condition improved daily, but more rain rapidly reversed the progress. We stuck with the single foray-a-day model for the rest of the stay.

The foray would have Kiawah Island as the first destination on most days. The aptly named Kiawah Beachwalker Park is a marvellous place to walk dogs. Off-leash was permitted on the whole beach out of season except for the nature reserve at its far Southeast end. Never crowded, we had the place to ourselves when it rained. We particularly appreciated the car park's dog-washing station, where we could rinse off sandy paws and other parts. The best supermarket for miles and many other good stores are at the Island entrance, so it was convenient for those limited to a single foray.

A Masterly Plan

Kiawah is a Barrier Island; the Atlantic washes and sometimes rages against its eastward-facing shore while the westward one faces into the Intercoastal system.

On KI, you give way to the wild turkeys on the road. They don't get out of the way quickly!

Downtown Charleston is just twenty miles away, but 'Big Golf' has ensured that the Island's incredible wildlife remains protected and gets an equitable share of the estate. One could argue that it would have been better to leave it alone, but that has never been likely, given its history and location.

So, five world-class golf courses are on the Island, each crafted by a different designer. The Ocean Course will host the 2021 PGA Tournament May 17 – 23. It's on the Golf Channel, I checked  But I missed it. .

It's Not All About the Golf

Living with Alligators

We were wary of encountering alligators, even though they mainly lie low in winter. They inhabit every freshwater pond in the Intercoastal, and there are lots of them. We wondered about the pond next to our Farmhouse on Johns Island. Ellen from the neighbouring farm confirmed that there were a few small ones. We were keen to avoid encounters like this with the beasts:

Kiawah Island is said to be home to more than 500 of them. But they enjoy a special place in the grand plan for the Island and are generally allowed to do what alligators do, including wandering across the greens when they feel like it. Who is going to argue?

Forays Plus

At the end of our time at the Farmhouse, I got out on two mornings to take some pictures. I expected to be at a Farmer's Market in Charleston, but it was a "Sunday Morning Brunch Market." On a day halfway between Christmas and New Year, nobody seemed much interested in Brunch. They were at a loose end. For many, it was someplace to take the dog along.

Early on New Year's Day morning, I headed to Wadmalaw Island. It's an Intercoastal adjacent to Johns Island and home to a clutch of shrimping stations. I enjoyed a stunning sunrise over the salt marsh and some beautiful skies. A fisherman from one of the nearby shrimpers joined me. He introduced himself as "Rabbit' and explained that he knew I had been taking pictures of the sunrise. He told me he sees it every morning and never tires of it.

Would We Go There Again?

We plan to go for Christmas in 2021 if we can. We should avoid long, unmade roads.

 Ye Wee Blogger

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