We drove down 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. It and another farmhouse and smallholding 400 metres away 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. It was good to get to journey’s end 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 organised 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 there 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 in 24 hours set way back in 1941. During the night, I worried about flooding. We were on a flat Intercoastal Island for goodness sake, and THEFARMHOUSEWASONSTILTSFOR A PURPOSE! We would likely be 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 on line. It indicated that there would indeed be saltwater flooding 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 that some portions would be deep and perhaps unpassable but couldn’t quickly determine where these would be. We carefully confirmed that the Beemer was well equipped to wade and slide its way through the muddy water to the tarmacadamed road. We could raise its suspension and increase the traction. This came at the price of reduced stability at speed, but that didn’t seem unreasonable in the circumstance. But, we opted to limit our forays out to one a day and never in the dark. The dirt road condition improved slowly day by day, but more rain rapidly reversed the progress. We stuck with the one foray a day model for the rest of the stay.
On most days, the foray would have Kiawah Island as the first destination. 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 nature reserve at its far South-East end. It was never crowded, and when it rained, we had the place to ourselves. We particularly appreciated the car park’s dog-washing station where sandy paws and other bits could be rinsed off. The best supermarket for miles around and many other good stores is at the Island entrance, so it was very 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.
Downtown Charleston is just twenty or so 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 all alone, but that has never been likely given its history and location.
So there are five world-class golf courses on the Island, each crafted by a different designer. The Ocean Course will host the 2021PGA Tournament May 17 – 23. It’s on the Golf Channel, I checked.
It’s Not All About the Golf
Living with Alligators
We were wary of encountering alligators even though they mostly lie low in the winter months. 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 indeed a few small ones in there. We were keen to avoid this kind of encounter 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 generally are allowed to do what alligators do. This includes wandering across the greens when they feel like it, apparently. Who is going to argue?
Right at the end of our time at the Farmhouse, I did get out on two mornings to take some pictures. I expected to be at a Farmer’s Market in Charleston, but it turned out to be a “Sunday Morning Brunch Market”. On a day halfway between Christmas and New Year, nobody seemed much interested in Brunch. They were mostly at a loose end, I think. For many, it was someplace to take the dog along.
Early on New Years Day morning, I headed out to Wadmalaw Island. It’s an Intercoastal adjacent to Johns Island and home to a clutch of shrimping stations. I was treated to 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 that 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. Maybe we will avoid long unmade roads.