Sunday, July 28, 2013

Botany Bay

     Botany Bay is a place I have wanted to go for over a year.  We had planned to go as a family, and take a few friends, but Brian woke up sick, and then T-Rex and Blondie opted out because we had been in the car all day on Friday to see Cameron.  So, I packed up Cheesie, Big Al, her friend "M", my mom Cathy, my friend Karen, and we headed out.
     Botany Bay is a nature preserve here in SC that is located on Edisto Island.  It doesn't have bathrooms or lifeguards and you can't collect shells or remove anything from the beach, but it DOES have a natural beach with few people, and a huge opportunity to explore different habitats and a bone yard beach. Be WARNED:  There are a lot of pictures coming up - but I only included a small percentage of what I actually took.

When you finally get to the entrance, you sign in, and drive about 2-3 miles down a gorgeous oak alley with a packed dirt road.  After passing by fields of corn and sunflowers, as well as many AMAZING oaks, you finally end up at a little parking lot.   There was a volunteer there that warned us about a possible alligator on the beach (we never saw him) and then you gather everything you need for the 1/2 mile hike across the marsh.

Which is where we were exceedingly glad to have a handy teenage boy with us to carry the cooler of food, and since he has wonderful manners he never complained.

Once on the oyster shell path you walk through the marsh.  The egrets and terns were out and happy.

 The fiddler crabs were fun to watch, and show Cheesie how they scurry around. I pointed out plants and grass names to her as well, but I don't think she was as interested.

Once you emerge from the trees on the hammock you find yourself right in the middle of  a bone yard beach.  A bone yard beach happens on our coast when the saltwater encroaches into the root system of trees and the trees begin to use the saltwater.  Eventually the tree begins to die and turn gray, the root system upends, and the tree is left on the beach.  This, in my opinion, is so beautiful to see because the natural bleached colors, and the lines of the trees are just extraordinary.

Since you can't remove any of the shells or natural materials from the beach there are lots of whelks to find, although you really need to check for the whelk to still be inside the shell (we found a couple).  Many people take the empty shells and decorate the trees with them. Big Al found a gorgeous tiger striped one, and Cheesie kept checking out all of the impromptu shell scultpture.

 Walking around you had to be careful.  The oyster shells were encased in the pluff mud that was in places all over the beach.  As the tide went out I saw that they were easily in areas where people would swim, so I highly recommend wearing water shoes.

We saw patterns left by sticks and plants

As well as remnants of trees.  I'm not sure if the grouping on the right is natural, or if someone found the pieces and "planted" them there.  The ability to find natural art everywhere was really inspiring.

Cheesie and I went for a walk and she scampered up the trees, and found all kinds of bugs and crabs on them.  Below are more examples of the beauty on this island.

Rather hard to see in the above picture, but those stakes have cages buried in the sand near them.  They are documented turtle nests.  The stakes were all numbered with the highest we saw being 261.  I think that is a lot of nests for one summer, but I haven't looked it up to see if that is the case. 

I saw rain clouds moving in (we're still in the summer of endless rain) and I got a little nervous, so I had Cheesie go get Big Al and her friend so I could catch some pics of them as well.  

As Big Al and M walked over, they noticed the pluff mud.  If you haven't experienced pluff mud it has a particular smell that everyone here identifies with the lowcountry, and it stains everything.  If you walk across it you either slip, or sink into it. 

Of course if you're teenagers you pick it up and throw it at someone, or smear it on someone. 

When they finally made it over to where I was standing the goofiness began..... not that these two were being serious before.

 And then the second pluff mud fight began....

Stylish whelk hats. Eventually they went back to swimming, and I sat on the beach enjoying the evening. 

 A shrimp boat with TONS of gulls and terns harassing the poor fishermen.

I love this beach, and think we'll be bringing more folks out to it soon.  I am DEFINITELY making sure my other kids get out there within the next couple of weeks. And..... since we never saw the alligator we were warned about we'll have to try to find him next time.

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