Finally, after months of thought, weeks of planning, days of packing, and over eight hours of driving, we made it to the beach! This was the first time my nieces or Puck had ever seen the ocean, so we were all excited to be there for their first experience.
If you've never been to Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina, I recommend it. It's my kind of beach. Because it's a state park, there aren't condos and houses in view, and no car sounds or big crowds. The beach access trail nearest our camp site was a short walk over a wetland board walk...
through a stretch of pine scented forest...
and then onto the deep sand of the dunes.
There are sea oats waving in the breeze on the vegetated dunes nearest the beach. Then, you walk up the last dune and all of a sudden the sound of the ocean intensifies, the breeze tries to take your hat off, and the ocean is spread out in front of you. When my nieces reached the peak of the last dune, their mouths fell open and my eldest niece said "Oh wow, it's so BIG!" It's a spectacular ocean approach.
It was wonderful to drop all our gear and wade into the water. Despite my niece's previous declarations that they would not swim because of a fear of sharks, as soon as they saw those irresistible waves they were fearless. Puck was less enthusiastic about the crashing waves and the salt flavored water, although he did enjoy long walks on the sand.
My tongue would be hanging out too, is I got that much sand in my mouth! I tried to explain to him that rubbing his face in the sand would not help get the sand out of his eyes.
With just two full days for our beach adventure, we took advantage of the opportunity to play in the waves and in the sand and settled in for long stretches, which meant we brought lots of shade to protect our landlubber skin. All that beach practice paid off, this was the most comfortable beach experience I've ever had.
Can you see the tiny crab Jamie has in the scoop of sand in his hands? We thought he looked just like Mr. Krabs from Spongebob Squarepants.
In the evening, when we didn't want to swim because sharks come out at dusk, it was the perfect time for building sand castles. We all went back the beach after dark too, to try out our new ocean fishing tackle. It was a wonderful to be out on the deserted beach after dark, even if we didn't catch a shark like I hoped and feared. The stars were brilliant, and the sound of the waves must have lulled us into a good nights sleep, because we slept like champions on Saturday night.
The next day, Grandpa surprised everyone by walking up the beach to our spot with brand new boogie boards!
I was terrible at boogie boarding, but my nieces had natural boogie boarding skills and could ride the waves all the way onto the sand.
Uncle Brandon is a sand mer-man!
When we made our camp site reservations, there was only a single site available, even though we made the reservations well in advance. We got rustic camp site No. 1, which turned out to be perfect for us. Our site was in the shade of a beautiful live oak tree. It was near enough to the car that it wasn't too hard to get an expeditions worth of gear to our camp site. And the water fount was very close. The bathhouse, which was a fair distance from our site, was always empty, despite the campground being full. Most folks were in campers, which have their own bathrooms, so my worries that we would have to wait in line for a shower were for nothing.
Brandon and I used our old big tent so we would have plenty of room, but we failed to put a tarp over it, and also didn't realize that it's not water resistant any more. On Sunday evening it rained for a little while, while we were away from camp enjoying a nice meal at a restaurant. Sunday night was one of those nights sleeping in a tent when we question why we like camping. Do we even like camping? We couldn't remember that we did when our pillows were wet and our clothes and sheets were soaking up the puddle on the floor. And why is there sand on everything?! Is this entire campground just one big sandy ant hill?! Where are all these ants coming from!?! Ack. What's wrong with a condo, anyway?
The park has a salt marsh that is home to lots of birds and other wildlife. These trees had nearly a hundred large white wood storks nesting in the branches.
See that dark spot in the marsh water? That's an alligator! Luckily we had some children to feed to the alligators and keep them satisfied.
On our way back to our campsite after dinner, one of the alligators was enjoying the warm rain on the side of the road, so we got to admire his patterned tail and white throat.
And then Monday it's time to make the long trip back home. Somehow all of our now wet things have expanded, and don't fit as well into the car as they did on the way there. It's a good thing everything was already wet and dirty, because Puck was like a walking wet sand depository, and he decided to nestle on my pillow for the ride home!