After the deluge nearly stranded us in the Old Town Bluffton last week, we were hoping good weather would return before our time ran out. Ten days of gloomy skies, and a total of more than 5″ of rain during a few of those days (24″ just up the road in Mt. Pleasant!) left us wondering if we would ever see the sun again. We woke up to an absolutely glorious day yesterday, though, so we took full advantage by beginning the day with an interesting carriage tour of historic downtown Beaufort.  Our day concluded  with the nearly three-hour paddle /  photo shoot of Flipper and his friends who appeared in yesterday’s blog post. (Stay tuned for carriage tour pictures tomorrow.)

Following my swim this morning, Bruce and I returned to Bluffton to see the quaint and artsy community on foot. We didn’t want to leave South Carolina remembering Bluffton as just a rain-soaked town viewed from behind the wheel of Scarlett going through a car wash.

What a gorgeous day and a cute little Old Town! We began our stroll at The Church of the Cross, an interesting wood church of Gothic design dating back to 1854.  It is situated on a bluff with a fabulous view of the water below, so we enjoyed the scenery before wandering up to the weekly farmer’s market. Surrounding the food stalls were several art galleries, so we poked around getting an excellent feel for the artist community in the area. All of the galleries we visited were either a co-op, guild, or collection of works by several artists, so it was inspiring to see the variety of art and craft being created in the region.

This is Bluffton from my view behind the camera:

The Church of the Cross

The Church of the Cross



















As a dolphin lover who wanted more than anything in the world to be a dolphin trainer when I was a kid, “Flipper” was my favorite TV show. Yes, it was corny, but who knew? Heck, I was only eight years old.

Flash-forward 45 years, and I’m still crazy about those amazing bottlenose dolphins. Having the opportunity to watch them in their habitat has been such a treat while we have been in Beaufort!
Today, I celebrate my 200th blog post on WordPress by dedicating it to Flipper and his friends. These are shots from our third paddle in Fripp Inlet:





After getting rained out at the Beaufort Shrimp Festival on Friday evening and hunkering down indoors throughout the (incredibly!) rainy weekend, we were ready to get OUTDOORS!

Before the rain chased us inside for a marathon book-reading session, we enjoyed speaking with a few of the artists and viewing their art works during the First Friday After Five Art Walk in downtown Beaufort. The Shrimp Festival began an hour later, so Bruce and I wandered into the waterfront park and shared a few samples of very tasty shrimp dishes. Although we had planned to make a dinner of additional shrimp offerings, the drizzles of rain were increasing as we listened to the very cool R&B band perform for the crowd. (Man, that lead singer sounded like a cross between Lou Rawls and Barry White!)




Gazing off into the distance, Bruce noticed the extremely dark cloud wall and interrupted me as I was thoroughly groovin’ to Mr. Rawls-White. “Uhhh, those clouds are getting closer. Unless you want to get soaked, we better get a MOVE ON!” Up went the umbrella, and off we went. By the time we made the two mile drive back to the house, the rain was coming down in sheets!

Our hearts went out to Mr. Rawls-White, his two jivin’ sax players, the rest of his band, and all of the vendors who weren’t so lucky.

The festival was canceled the following day as Beaufort endured 3 inches of rain in 48 hours. Combined with a huge high tide that pushed water up over the seawall and into the park, it was a total wash in more ways than one. Thankfully, though, Beaufort came out of the storm with just spotty flooding and none of the tragedies that Charleston or Columbia experienced.

Today, the sun finally came out in all its glory while we explored Hunting Island State Park, the most visited state park in South Carolina. The following are scenes from today.

Meet "Buddy" the terrapin. You can find him at the Hunting Island State Park Nature Center.

Meet “Buddy” the terrapin. You can find him at the Hunting Island State Park Nature Center.




Sun at last!

Sun at last!












While strolling along the Hunting Island Fishing Pier, we watched this red getting hooked. He was too large to keep (according to state law), so he was tossed back. Hopefully, he will breed again, so many more little reds will grow up to be just like him!

While strolling along the Hunting Island Fishing Pier, we watched this red getting hooked. He was too large to keep (according to state law), so Big Red was tossed back. Hopefully, he will breed again, so many more little reds will grow up to be just like him!


Before heading to the coast for our stay in Beaufort, SC, several people commented to us that we had chosen a “great time of year to visit the coast”. Bruce and I both thought the same thing given the typically comfortable temperatures and good fishing conditions this time of year. We were willing to take the risk during hurricane season figuring the odds were in our favor.

Sure enough, Hurricane Joaquin is making its march north. Fortunately, the storm tracker shows it curving away from South Carolina, so we feel quite confident we’ll be ok. The weather otherwise, however, hasn’t exactly been stellar (aside from a couple of beautiful days), as we have had a lot of rain and gloomy skies since our arrival on September 22.

Yesterday, we took our chances and decided to see how much of Hiltonhead and Bluffton we could enjoy before the rains hit. Seeing (very) dark clouds off in the distance as we were wrapping up our look around Hiltonhead, we made our way to Bluffton in hopes of seeing the historic district before needing an umbrella. Our original plan was to also visit the Farmer’s Market, but once we saw the weather forecast for the day, we knew it would get canceled.

As we rolled into town, it looked as if someone had flipped the switch on the car wash, and we were in the middle of it! Except, the car wash Bruce and I took Scarlett through during our summer road trip wasn’t nearly as bad as this! We had never seen so much rain come down as hard or fast as this! It was like driving through Niagara Falls, or so I imagined.

I pulled over into a parking lot at Bruce’s suggestion to ride out the storm. Although, once the car was parked, I remembered the forecast calling for the rain to worsen throughout the afternoon and night. What were we going to do? Sleep in the car?

This area is called the “Lowcountry”, because it is located in the southernmost region of South Carolina; however, I decided it was also a fitting name, because it is absolutely flat. Flat means flooding. Uh-oh!

I made an executive decision, being the one behind the wheel, and decided that getting the heck out of there was a far wiser decision than getting stuck in a flood. Besides, Scarlett would have never forgiven me if I had gotten her stuck and had to call AAA to fish her out!

Off we went through the streets of Bluffton, relying on Trudy to navigate us back to the highway home. In the short time we had contemplated our stategy, the streets had already flooded to the point where our only option was driving smack-dab down the middle of the road. Only a couple of feet of asphalt remained visible, but it was good enough! Neither of us could see a darn thing ahead, but we somehow managed to make it out safely. Whewww!

It rained through the night, and we now have a reprieve until the next front arrives. Unfortunately, this is Beaufort Shrimp Festival weekend, and the rains are supposed to hit with a vengeance later tonight. The festival is scheduled tonight and tomorrow; however, the forecast calls for extremely heavy rain and thunderstorms late tonight and throughout tomorrow. Some areas of South Carolina are forecasted to get pummeled with up to two feet of rain! Charleston and other areas already had horrible flooding, and now they’re going to get hit again.

Thankfully (and, yes, I did check with the manager on this), the house where we are staying sits on land that isn’t prone to flooding. Our apartment is located upstairs, too, so we feel safe.

After a downtown visit for the First Friday Art Walk and dinner at the Shrimp Festival, it looks like we’ll be hunkering down and catching up on our reading over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the following are some miscellaneous pictures shot over the past few days. Cheers!

This map of Hiltonhead looks like a profile of my New Balance running shoe!

This map of Hiltonhead looks like a profile of my New Balance running shoe!



What's wrong with this picture? Note the sign BEHIND the starting block? This is at the pool where I have been swimming here in Beaufort.

What’s wrong with this picture? Note the sign BEHIND the starting block! This is at the pool where I have been swimming here in Beaufort.


Check out the dorsal fin and goggles on this pooch!

Check out the dorsal fin and goggles on this pooch!

Our home away from home is located upstairs behind the screened-in porch.

Our home away from home is located upstairs behind the screened-in porch.

Beyond the Spanish moss-covered oaks is the dock and marsh.

Beyond the Spanish moss-covered oaks on the property is the dock and marsh. This is the view from upstairs.

During the full moon high tide, the dock flooded.

During the full moon high tide, the dock flooded.


When I reflect back on my experiences doing action photography, there was only one subject more challenging than photographing dolphins in the wild from a kayak: snapping shots of small, fast-swimming fish while SCUBA diving (or even worse, snorkeling). Back in the 1980’s when I did underwater photography, digital wasn’t yet available, so I shot 36-exposure rolls of film using my dad’s Nikonos underwater camera. Getting one or two good shots from a roll was considered a success in the world of underwater photography, so the expense added up shooting through so much film in hopes of capturing a fish in focus and well-composed in the frame.

Fast forward to the 21st Century, and I feel very fortunate to utilize digital technology in my photography. Although I no longer SCUBA dive, I shoot plenty of topside pictures during my travels, so it’s nice to be a shutterbug without the concern of expense.

Thankfully, that was the case today back at Fripp Inlet, because I shot dozens of dolphin photos that ended up in my netbook computer’s recycle bin, never to be scene again.

Photographing my dorsal-finned friends while they hunted down fish for lunch was a challenge, but it sure was an enjoyable one! It was so relaxing being out on the water listening to nothing but the sound of water lapping up against my kayak and the pfffffft sound of the dolphins exhaling through their blowholes. (Of course, it seemed like that mostly happened just before I had my camera focused on the right spot. It’s impossible to accurately anticipate exactly where those dolphins are going to pop up!)

The greatest thrill was seeing a dolphin jump out of the water right in front of me, and then repeat the aerial show twice more in rapid succession. I think he was taking a good look around to see just what (or who) that was floating on that pink thing above him (or her?). As you can see, my timing in capturing this acrobat was a bit off, because my waterproof camera lacks a burst mode. Oh well, better late than never!





Several years ago when Bruce and I visited Charleston, one of the things that intrigued me most was the Gullah culture. It was our first time in the Lowcountry, and we were unfamiliar with the customs, creole language, and cuisine of the Gullah people who are descendants of enslaved Africans and live in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina and Georgia.

Today, we visited Penn Center on St. Helena Island which is the heart of the Gullah community. Founded in 1862, it was originally the first school for freed African Slaves. In addition to traditional subjects, trades and marketable skills such as agriculture, carpentry, and homemaking were taught. As the students learned, they utilized their new skills to help sustain and maintain the school.

Closed in the 1940’s, Penn became a central meeting place for those involved in the civil rights movement. It was a safe place blacks and whites could sit down together to discuss strategy and issues; and, it is also where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reportedly began his “I Have a Dream” speech.

In 1974, Penn Center was designated a National Historic Landmark District, and is the only African American landmark district in the nation. Today, in addition to the museum, the center offers educational and cultural programs related to the history of the Sea Islands and Gullah people.


One of the things I enjoyed seeing most at the museum and Welcome Center was the display of sweetgrass coil baskets woven by members of the Gullah community.

Originally used as a way to clean rice using the “fanning” method, rice was placed in the baskets to separate the hull from the seed after it was first broken up with a mortar and pestle.

A craft passed down from mother to daughter, there are now over 1,500 people involved in some aspect of basket making. These baskets were woven by Jery Bennet Taylor and are sold at Penn Center:















Where have the days gone? We arrived last Tuesday, and it is now Monday night. A week has gone by like that!

Not wanting my last post to be too lengthy, I stopped short of posting more of the photos I shot during the past several days. Today’s blog will feature those pictures.















A full moon high tide at Pigeon Point Landing flooded the boat ramp and parking lot. Bruce was able (almost!) paddle right up to our car! We watched the dolphins feeding just 50 yards out from the ramp.

A full moon high tide at Pigeon Point Landing flooded the boat ramp and parking lot. Bruce was able to paddle (almost!) right up to our car!
We watched the dolphins feeding just 50 yards out from the ramp.

Kayaking along Beaufort's downtown waterfront

Kayaking along Beaufort’s downtown waterfront.




The staging area for the two carriage tour companies is right next to the downtown boat ramp. We admired these handsome fellas while prepping our gear for a paddle along the waterfront.

Waterfront Park, downtown Beaufort

Waterfront Park, downtown Beaufort


Since moving to the East Coast in 2009, Bruce and I have taken our kayaks with us to explore the waters around Sanibel Island (twice), St. Augustine, and Laguna Beach– all in Florida. This time, we opted for a Lowcountry adventure and chose to visit Beaufort, South Carolina.

Located between Charleston and Savannah, Georgia, Beaufort is situated along the Intracoastal Waterway. It is a kayaker’s paradise with more than 200 marsh islands to paddle around, 175 species of wetland birds to observe and photograph, great fishing (Bruce is going for redfish), and plenty of bottlenose dolphins to watch while Bruce is busy catching those reds.

South Carolina’s second oldest city and The Sea Islands surrounding Beaufort were first discovered by French explorer Jean Ribaut more than 450 years ago. The city of Beaufort wasn’t founded, though, until 1711 by the English.

This quaint and historic city is known for its ongoing revival and celebration of Gullah culture including its cuisine which blends flavors from Africa and the West Indies. Frogmore stew (also known as Lowcountry Boil) is a Gullah dish that dates back hundreds of years and originated in the Frogmore area of St. Helena Island near Beaufort. A combination of shrimp, sausage, corn, onions and potatoes; it’s the most famous dish of the region. We plan on enjoying some of it during the Shrimp Festival next weekend.

Our home-away-from-home during our visit is a wonderful rental we found through VRBO. This is the owner’s second home; his main residence being in another beautiful city, Ithaca, New York.

This place felt like home the moment we stepped inside. Built in 2012, it’s still very modern and new, but casual and comfortable. The kitchen is awesome; one of the main draws for Bruce who loves cooking up the local shrimp and fish. Another selling point was the view of the marsh from the house, including the screened-in porch. (Stay tuned for photos in another post.) The Spanish moss-covered huge oak trees on the property surrounding the house were a bonus. The best feature, though, is the long private dock over the marsh, and the boat landing just down the street where dolphins can be viewed feeding just 50 yards from the boat ramp. This morning, I paddled out to watch them.

We couldn’t beat the house’s location, especially with it being so close to the historic downtown area full of antebellum homes featured in movies such as The Big Chill, The Prince of Tides, Forrest Gump, and more.

Our first several days here just zipped by. We arrived last Tuesday, and mid-week was spent settling in and exploring the area. It was love at first sight!

We had hoped to take three different kayak trips with Kim and David of Beaufort Kayak Tours; however, the weather didn’t cooperate, and we ended up having to settle for just one before they left for vacation. That tour was on Friday, and it was a gorgeous, calm evening on the water following a day of rain and thunderstorms that kept us holed-up indoors.


Our guides, Kim and David

Our guides, Kim and David

The group (joining the kayak club for the tour, and using our own kayaks saved us $40 each!) launched off Fripp Island Inlet and headed out to the marsh across the way. After stopping to see a huge bald eagle nest, we paddled back out to the open water to see the dolphins. There is a particular spot where they are known to feed, and when I say “they”, I mean that literally. There were pods of dolphins all over! In just about any direction I pointed my kayak, I would eventually see dorsal fins pop out of the water without waiting too long. On three different occasions, we saw a dolphin jump high out of the water! Unfortunately, I missed the shot each time. After all, this isn’t Sea World where the Dolphin Show hostess instructs you to “have your camera ready, because Flipper is going to jump through that hoop high in the air when I blow the whistle!” Rather, photographing dolphins in the wild is more like herding cats.

Just as I was aiming to get a nice shot of Kim, she pointed to a dolphin jumping out of the water.  He was long gone before I got a clue...

Just as I was aiming to get a nice shot of Kim, she pointed to a dolphin jumping out of the water. He was long gone before I got a clue…

Having said that, I did manage to get these two photos. The second was shot– no joke– no more than six feet from my boat:







As I jumped out of bed and streaked across the back of our house to answer the phone this morning, I neglected to notice the peeping Tom’s outside our bare windows.  It wasn’t until I hung up the phone that I looked out and saw I was being stared at by two gorgeous fawns casually relaxing under the trees in our backyard!  Bambi 1 and Bambi 2 weren’t spooked by the commotion I made, nor were they in any hurry to leave when I returned  with my camera.

These two little Sun City Peachtree cuties have been spotted by several of my neighbors in the past, and we were thrilled to get to see them hanging out at our house this time.



The beauty of Gatlinburg is in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that is located just south of town. The photos in my previous blog post demonstrate just a snippet of what can be seen in the beautiful Smokies.

The beast is in Parkway Drive, one of the tackiest and touristy streets I have ever seen in the U.S.A. Just about anywhere with a “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” is bound to have a tacky element to it, but Gatlinburg has nearly 10 properties owned and operated by Ripley’s. Add to it all of the arcades, miniature golf outfits, and other “family attractions,” and it rivals Panama City Beach and other tourist traps for the “Top Tacky Tourist Trap” award.

Now, add “redneck” to the mix. You can see where I’m going with this…

All bets were off, however, when I saw the variety of Confederate flag attire and Made-in-China (ironic, isn’t it?) crap on display in the stores along Parkway Drive. Want a Confederate flag bikini? How about a huge Confederate flag to fly on a pole in the back of your pickup truck? Check out these shirts. Pick any one; they all turned my stomach.


I had no intention of really spending anytime on that street; however, after sitting at our craft show booth all day yesterday at the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair, I was ready to get some exercise. After dinner, I walked the couple of blocks from our hotel to the main drag just to see what was drawing so many cars and pedestrians.





OK, I’ll ‘fess up. I also wanted to buy some fudge, so I thought I would hunt down a shop recommended on Trip Advisor.


Along the way, I passed “The Fudgery” and sampled a taste offered by the guy behind the counter. As soon as I saw the Confederate baseball cap on his head, though, I told him, “No, thank you,” and, I turned around and walked out.

After picking up some dark chocolate fudge at Fudge Shoppe of the Smokies, I had seen enough and returned to the comfort of our room at Mountain House Motor Inn.

I went to sleep last night wondering if I would ever see the day when the United States of America is truly the United States. In my dreams…