Hilton Head, South Carolina…Vacations don’t always go as planned!!!

With our children scattered across the United States, we try to meet somewhere for the holidays.  This Thanksgiving, it was our year to have everyone with us, so we traded our timeshare for one in Hilton Head, South Carolina.  We left early in the morning to drive to SLC, Utah and catch a flight to Atlanta.  Flying into Hilton Head is a bit tricky, so with our daughter driving down from Iowa, we thought it would be great to meet in Atlanta and then drive the rest of the way to Hilton Head.

After flying all day, we were hungry, so we stopped at a Cracker Barrel in Morrow, Georgia.  Since we travel a lot, we did all the things you are supposed to do.  We parked in a visible spot, a busy parking lot, during daylight, and we stowed everything out of sight in the back seat.  Sometimes, all the preparation in the world isn’t enough…after eating, we came out and someone had smashed the passenger window.  The resturant camera caught them crawling in the vehicle and grabbing 5 bags.  So much for a restful vacation.  After meeting with the police, filling out papers, making the necessary calls, and stopping at Home Depot to buy plastic and tape for the window, we were on the road to Hilton Head.  It was a bit noisy with no window, but we tried to make the best of it.  We all decided that we needed to make sure this did not ruin our vacation.

We didn’t arrived at the Marriott Harbor Point resort until 11pm.  We were emotionally and physically exhausted and were grateful for a nice bed.  The next morning, we did some grocery shopping and settled into our condo.  The view from the 3rd floor was beautiful no matter the time of day.

The resort provides barbecues near each unit.  We went down to cook some hamburgers and noticed the warning sign…..and then saw the alligator. No swimming in the pond this week.

Our son is finishing his last semester in Michigan, so wasn’t able to come, but we wanted to include him.  Each night we played games, with each person earning points.  At the end of the week, whoever had the most points would be crowned, “Top Turkey”.  We had sent the game pieces to Jade, so he played along via the computer.

We also decorated our condo for Thanksgiving.  We colored turkeys, made a Thankful wreath, enjoyed some Jarsma cookies from Iowa, and hung decorations.

On Monday, we went to the resort’s private beach.  It was around 70 degrees.  There was no one in the water and very few people on the beach.  We are used to cold water, so we didn’t mind.

We ran and played and splashed in the water.  The waves weren’t big, but still fun.

Our grandson, Wyatt, especially enjoyed himself.  Eventually, the cold caught up with him.

With no one of the beach, we relaxed and enjoyed the day, we even had a sundog.

Our only visitors were the seagulls, that were able to steal a few chips.  Wyatt decided to take it upon himself, to keep the birds away from the chips.

We headed back to the condo, changed our clothes and went to the miniature golf course.  We were only going to play one course, but enjoyed it so much that we played the second one as well.

The golf was competitive…

We enjoyed the pirate theme as well.  Each hole had a sign that gave you interesting facts about famous pirates.

We rang bells, petted pigs, learned about cannons, and enjoyed the pirate atmosphere.

At one hole, you putted through a tunnel.

After our fun golf outing we headed back to the condo for dinner.  However, our door wouldn’t open.  We called maintenance and when he arrived, we heard the dreaded words, “wow, I’ve never seen this happen before”.  Luckily, Jim had left he balcony door unlocked.  So the poor guy, had to go through the unit next to ours, crawl over the roof wall and then jump down into our balcony.  We were finally able to enjoy dinner and our nightly games with Jade.

On Tuesday, we had the morning free, as the vehicle window was being replaced.  It was quite the process as the entire door panel had to come off.

We then headed to the local movie theater for Discount Tuesday.  We loved the movie Wonder and enjoyed the reclining chairs.  Afterwards, we ate at Zaxby’s.  It was actually really good.

On Wednesday, we drove to Congaree National Park.  On the way, we stopped to look at the cotton fields and the harvested bales.

Congaree National Park protects the largest remaining tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in North America.  It is South Carolina’s only national park.

We started our visit at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center.  He was instrumental in preserving the surrounding forest.  We looked at the exhibits and enjoyed an interesting movie about the history of the park.

Since all of Wyatt’s stuffed animals and toys were stolen from the vehicle, he “scored” a new bat from the gift shop.  We grabbed a quick lunch, checked the mosquito meter, and headed for the boradwalk trail.

There is a 2.4 mile boardwalk loop trail.  Most of the hike is on an elevated boardwalk, due to flooding and muddy conditions.  There are parts that are on a dirt path.  We were there during the dry season.  It was still beautiful, peaceful, no bugs, and not crowded.

The ground under the boardwalk is known as Dorovan muck.  It is a mixture of clay and old leaves, that can be up to 8 feet thick.  The area is dominated by Beech and Cypress trees.

The Cypress trees have a unique feature called knees.  These rise up from the roots.  There purpose is not exactly known, but it is assumed that they provide strength during floods and winds. Cypress trees are know as “wood eternal” because it decays very slowly.  It is rot and water resistant.  This is why it was almost logged to extinction.

When the park floods, the walkway and boardwalks can be inaccessible.  The moss mark on the the trees, indicates the flood line.

We saw ferns and fungi.

Weston Lake, at one time, was part of the Congaree River.  The course of the river changed and a lake was left behind.  We were able to see a Yellow-bellied slider turtle.

There is a tall elevated walkway leading to the lake.

There were interesting trees

And snakes, spiders, and caterpillars…

Congaree National Park is home to the tallest group of Lobolly Pine in North America.  Many of the trees reaching over 150 feet tall.

The walk back was enjoyable.  The forest echoed when we whistled.  The area was originally designated a National Monument in 1976 and changed to a National Park in 2003.  We were pleasantly surprised by it’s beauty.

Since we were only a short distance from Columbia, we decided to visit the state capitol building.  On the way we stopped at USC Gamecock stadium.

South Carolina’s first State House was in Charleston.  In 1786, the capital was moved to a more central location in Columbia.  Construction on the present day State House was began in the 1850s.  However, the outbreak of the Civil War halted it’s progress.  The Union Army burned the building materials and plans, when they occupied Columbia in 1865.  The building was finally completed in 1907.  The columns on the front are carved from a single piece of stone.

Numerous statues and monuments can be found on the State House grounds.  The most prominent is the one of George Washington on the front steps.  During the occupation of Columbia during the Civil War, Washington’s cane was broken off, but the reminder of the statue survived.

The Statehouse is open to the public.  The dome is constructed in two parts.  The false interior was built separate to fit inside the exterior dome.

Our adventures finally caught up to some of group.

On Thursday, we enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving dinner that we prepared in our little kitchen.  Jade joined us over the computer.  We had brought along Great-Grandma Flo’s place cards.  It was a very nice dinner.

Each unit at the resort, is provided with 2 bikes.  Cindy and Jodi, got up early on Friday and explored the resort by way of the bike paths.  They ended up at the beach.

With some wind over night, the waves were bigger than on Monday and they decided that they should bring the entire group back for one last beach adventure.

The sea foam was pretty

Whitney and Wyatt enjoyed themselves

A trip to the beach wouldn’t be complete without that one wave…

It was another awesome time at the beach and we didn’t mind the chilly water.

After a ferocious competition all week with our different games and activities, Jodi was crowned “Top Turkey”.

Our week had come to a close.  We didn’t get to do everything we had wanted, as some of our time was taken up with the details of the vehicle break-in.  We still had a great time, enjoyed everyone’s company, and once again learned that sometimes you just have to go with the flow and whatever happens, you can still enjoy yourself.  Jodi dropped the Idaho crew off at the Atlanta airport.  With Jerie’s ID  stolen from the vehicle, it was quite an experience getting through airport security without her identification, but we made it.

The final piece of our adventure, was stopping at our favorite Mexican restaurant.  It was a great way to end our unusual, unpredictable vacation.

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