Monday, March 12, 2012

Flying Nun Road Trip

9am.  I arrived a little late at Sister Marty’s apartment this morning.  Daylight savings time  kicked in last night and we moved the clocks ahead an hour.  So, when the alarm went off at 6am – which was 5am – I didn’t want to get out of bed. An hour later, I realized that I had fallen back to sleep!  After putting the food from the fridge into the cooler, Dave packed all our goodies into the car and kissed me goodbye.  Marty and I were off on a road trip to Myrtle Beach, SC and the only thing on our agenda was to relax and bird – oh, and to spoil our daughter Amanda.

The weather was perfect.  Mid 50’s, sunny and clear skies.  We had Dave’s special tuna salad sandwiches in the cooler, a fresh batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies and the most important birding trip food of all, Hussman’s Cheese Curls! 

I drove as far as Lexington, KY, and then Marty took over.  I’m so spoiled on road trips, because I never have to drive.  I get to kick back, play on the internet and find interesting places to visit along our way, work on my latest knitting project, and blog! Meanwhile, we kept track of Red-tailed Hawks and which states the licence plates were from on the vehicles we passed along the way. 

We stopped for gas and a power converter at Radio Shack in London, KY and realized that the trees are already blooming out!  The further south we go, the further along spring is.  We ate ½ of our tunafish ginormous sandwiches and some cheese curls and were back on the road.

When we reach the Kentucky/Tennessee border, we hit a detour.  Apparently, a rock slide had pummelled the highway the day before, so we were directed down a Civil War Trail, Hwy 25W from Jellico thru Wynn, Habersham and to LaFollette, TN.  

My guess is that this was the route everyone took before the interstate was built.  The highway wound through a beautiful creek/river valley with striking rock formations on one side of the highway, and blue green water flowing through mild rapids in the river on the other side. 

Forsythia and weeping willow are blooming along the highway here. We arrived in LaFollette at 1:30pm  and saw this beautiful weeping cherry tree in center of town.

Knoxville at 2pm and then East on I 40 to Asheville.  We saw our first red bud blooming here.  Still 66F and sunny.  The drive from Knoxville to Ashville is my favorite part of the drive.  There is something magical, or should I say spiritual, since I am travelling with a Sister of Charity, about going through the Smokies. 

I love the rawness of nature here and the lack of human intervention/destruction.  We turned on Pandora and played a John Denver song as we crossed the mountains.  Perfect.

Once in South Carolina, we stopped at the visitors center and saw our first daffodils. 

It was an easy ride to Amanda’s house in Conway.  10 hrs, license plates from 22 states and 7 Red-tailed Hawks.  

Day 2 – Myrtle Beach, SC

We started our day off with blueberry coffee and bluebirds perching outside the window.

On the road by 9am.  Huntington Beach State Park was our first destination to see if we could find Seaside Sparrows, Alligators and Painted Buntings.  As we crossed the causeway  between the salt water marsh and the freshwater marsh, we ran across this curious fellow sitting on the guardrail.  

There were a ton of shorebirds along the edges of the marsh, and Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Great Blue Herons, Black-crowned Night Herons, Double-crested Cormorants, and Green-winged Teal.

We parked at the Gift Shop and walked the trail to the beach.  

What a beautiful day!  A nice, cool breeze coming in off the water, and a low cloud cover that lifted within in minutes.  

Life at the beach was abundant.  We saw Northern Gannets, more Pelicans, Grebes, Gulls and Loons.  It was way cool.  

I think we would have sat there all day, if we hadn’t gotten a little chilled.

We ate our lunch and then walked the trail behind the Castle Atalaya, the picturesque, Moorish-style winter home of Anna Hyatt and Archer Huntington, sculptor and philanthropist, respectively, who left the park and adjacent Brookgreen Gardens as their legacy.  

We saw at least a dozen alligators hanging out in the back pond and got good looks at Common Gallinule and Pied-billed Grebes in the scope.  

We’re a little early for the Buntings and the Sparrows, but we did get good looks at Yellow-rumped Warblers and White-throated Sparrows.

After leaving the Park, we headed across the highway to Brookgreen Gardens, a garden museum that preserves the native flora and fauna and displays objects of art within that natural setting.  

What a breathtaking experience!  

Vibrant floral gardens surround figurative sculptures in a this tranquil preserve.  

We must have walked 1 mile as we meandered through the various themed gardnes. 

Even at 23 yrs, Amanda is stil the same little girl who would run down the the creek behind the house and grap frogs and snakes.  She spied  tadpoles in one of the pools, and immediately grabbed a couple to show the interested park patrons. 

It wasn’t long before she had here eye on a couple of anoles, and just like that, she had one in her hand and was showing a little lady her wirey friend.

I just love seeing all of the flowers here.  

By 3pm we had walked another mile and were getting a little tired.  We found a statue of St Francis of Assisi the patron saint of nature. We have a stature of St Francis in the courtyard at the Motherhouse too!

There is no way you can see everything in one day.  Fortunately, our entrance fee is good for a week, so we’re planning on coming back again tomorrow so we can go to the zoo and the labyrinth.  

No comments: