Sometimes just getting away from the everyday, even if it’s just for 2 or 3 nights, gives a chance to renew. And when that getaway is with a bestest friend of 43 years – it’s even better!
We spent 3 wonderful days and nights at Kiawah. Driving around on the island, you see large acreages of trees, ponds, and marsh. And it’s not until you look at a map do you see that the island is filled with homes, cottages and condos. The management has created settings for all of these man-made structures that still give the passerby a feeling of remoteness and preservation. Yes, you still see the houses, but I found myself looking at the marshes, the old live oaks, the wildlife even more.
We drove out on the small fingers of land that reach eastward into the marshes toward the Kiawah River, Cinder Creek and Bass Creek. So much construction yet it is amazing how these homes are situated on the lots saving old oaks and pines. The Conservancy has set aside large pieces of the island for parks, native habitats, walks and preserves. You are not allowed to park cars along the roads so we could only stop briefly for me to hang out the window to take photos. But there were so many ‘paintable’ views in every directions, that was never a problem.
The Kiawah Conservancy was established in 1997 in order to preserve this beautiful natural habitat. Frequent sightings of deer, alligator, and all sorts of birds add to the beauty of this well balanced ecosystem. We caught sight of an extra large alligator; definitely not one you’d want to come across on a walk.
We rode bikes; after 40+ years of not riding, my first attempt took me into a tree. The second attempt missed the trashcans but just barely. So with pride in hand, I hopped onto a 3 wheeler with a big basket that could be filled with beach treasures! That’s just an excuse for my clumsiness, because in truth, Kiawah isn’t really known for its shells. But if your legs are strong enough to either peddle or walk the extra miles past the Ocean Club – you might just find some whelks and a few sand dollars!
On the way back home we stopped at a true treasure – the Angel Oak on Johns Island. This old live oak (Quercus virginiana) has been around for perhaps up to 1500 years. There’s some debate on the age, but if you could see the large long limbs that stretch out in all directions, it’s not hard to imagine that it took centuries to get to this size. The Angel Tree is 65 feet tall and the trunk measures 28 feet in circumference. The longest branch stretches out 187 feet, so it’s pretty much impossible to take a photo that encompasses the entire tree. What really impressed me was that the shade from the canopy of the Angel Oak measures 17, 200 sq. feet.
The property was part of a 1717 land grant and remained in the family until it passed into the Angel family through marriage. But there are rumors that it might have been named for the ghosts of former slaves that appear as angels from time to time.
It’s not hard to imagine all sorts of celebrations that have occurred under this massive tree. As we visited, there were several picnics, a bus of school children was pulling out of the parking lot, and several photographers were trying to catch a photo without people milling about. There are signs cautioning viewers to not climb or sit on the branches but it really is tempting to take a seat and look up through the branches as children surely did countless years ago.
Sadly, development is beginning to creep in toward the tree and arborists are worried that ground water changes could make a big affect on the health of the old tree. Thankfully, there is a group called the Coastal Conservation League and they are accepting donations to purchase a 17 acre tract to keep the Angel Tree safe for future generations. It is definitely a treasure worth saving.
So hoping that in your future you’ll get a chance to renew too. And remember to hug a friend and maybe even a tree near you today!
Happy memory making,
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