Old Sheldon Church Ruins

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Leaving Beaufort after a few hours of browsing and sightseeing, Martha suggested that we look for the signs to Old Sheldon Church.

“What’s that? Something historic?” I asked.

“Yes, it’s an historic site, ruins of an old church actually. People have ceremonies there,” she answered.

“Ceremonies?”

“You know, like weddings,” she said.

“Oh, I see.” But I really didn’t. Nothing Martha had said prepared me for the sights and sounds of this sacred place. When we came upon the site, I was so immediately spellbound that I pulled up just beyond the gate and turned off the ignition. I didn’t even see the nice parking lot across the tree-lined low country road.

Once inside the gate, Martha and I went our separate ways, each of us snapping pictures of the beauty around us. Aren’t iPhones amazing? The church remains are what loom majestically in the large space, so naturally we walked through, behind, and around them. Then there were the graves, big and small, old and somewhat recent. Who were these people? Why was this land important to them? What was their history?

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It had been raining on and off most of the day, and no matter where I stood on the grounds, I heard frequent splats of raindrops falling from the huge oak trees. Cleansing and refreshing. The air was cool, adding to the magical ambience of the place.

As I walked within the remains of the old church, I wondered about the congregations who had met there witnessing weddings, funerals, baptisms, and other rites of passage. They had listened to words of encouragement and guidance from the pulpit, sang hymns of praise and thanksgiving, and perhaps felt a calm respite from the world during their moments inside the sanctuary. How do I know that? I felt it.

The sense of peace and refuge was almost palpable. But there was a disturbing presence beneath those huge trees too, one of fear and desecration. We walked about almost reverently, each of us with our individual thoughts and feelings, only speaking occasionally in low tones. As we left the grounds, I read a sign and realized the source of my unease. Twice built and twice burned, Old Sheldon Church and its people had suffered much loss.

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As we headed back to Edisto, I found myself marveling at the richness of South Carolina’s low country. It’s lovely. And so full of history. After the touristy aspects of Beaufort (not a complaint, just an impression), a visit to quiet Old Sheldon was the perfect topper for the day. We both felt better for our presence there, and I hope Old Sheldon felt better for ours.

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Traveling South

The weekend travelogue continues. We checked into the Holiday Inn in Beaufort and were really impressed with the lodging. The only minus was the lack of a continental breakfast, something that used to be considered a frill and is now looked on as an expectation.  Still, the room was clean and pretty…loved the marble bathroom floor.

On the recommendation of the staff at the Holiday Inn, we went to the Dockside in Port Royal for dinner.  A little off the beaten path, the restaurant is on the water and provides a magnificent view of the harbor and the shrimp boats. We arrived right at sunset, and I took several photos of the beautiful setting sun and the surrounding area. During our wait, we chatted with a couple from Kentucky, and I enjoyed listening to their travel agenda for the next several days. I also enjoyed extolling the virtues of Savannah…love that place! I volunteered to take their picture, and they returned the favor.

The meal at Dockside was superb! We loved the ambience of the restaurant, the friendliness of the wait staff, and the scrumptiousness of the food. The prices weren’t that bad either. Truly, I’ve seen higher prices in other seafood establishments whose food can’t compare in taste, variety, or quality.

The next morning we headed out of Beaufort towards Hunting Island State Park and stopped for breakfast at the local Huddle House. What a microcosm of Americana!  A HH diner can always expect to be among the high and the low, the rich and the poor. On this particular morning, the noise level was deafening, and we soon determined the reason for it: two men trying to outdo each other with their stories. Finally one of them, the one dressed in his Sunday duds, got up to pay his bill, and we sighed a sigh of relief. “He can’t talk to himself,” reasoned my husband about the gent who was still sipping his coffee. WRONG! Not only did he talk to himself, but he also crooned a few melodies, and after a few moments we sort of succumbed to the situation and began enjoying the music. I also enjoyed seeing several mother/child combos sharing waffles bacon together.

Breakfast behind us, we drove to Hunting Island State Park, and I loved loved loved loved the scenery along the highway.  So green and tropical. At last we went over a very narrow bridge, and within moments we were at the entrance of the park. Ever since seeing a documentary on Hunting Island, I’d wanted to visit it, and we were both excited to finally be there.

Once inside the park, we first visited the beach. It was awesome! The beach was wide, the sand was white, and there were numerous dead tree limbs and trunks. People used the latter for hanging their bags, clothes, and other personal belongings. A few of the smaller limbs were decorated with shells. I loved it so much that not even the dozens of dead jellyfish dampened my mood. After leaving the beach itself, we walked a 1.4 mile trail through the maritime forest. The forest was on our right, and a lagoon was on our left. We were in heaven…or I was. I took picture after picture with my iPhone so that I could relive those moments in the months and years to come.

Although we were beginning to tire a bit, we couldn’t leave the park without visiting the lighthouse. I had read about it at the visitor’s center and wanted to see this special landmark “up close and personal.” In fact, I decided to climb to the top, and I’m so glad I did because the views were spectacular.  A young girl who was struggling for breath ran past me and declared that she was trying to beat the girls’ record of 15 times up and down in two hours. The boys’ record was 17 times. When I descended, she was still huffing and puffing. Hope she made a new record.

My hubby and I then decided to sit in the shade and eat a huge chocolate ice cream cone. It was divine, both the refreshment and the relaxing experience. Before leaving, we walked down once more to the beach. He says if you’ve seen one beach, you’ve seen them all. I say, “No way, Jose.” They’re all different, and the one at Hunting Island State Park is one of the most unique I’ve seen yet.

My friend Christy is looking for the perfect spot for a special weekend getaway. I hope I’ve convinced her to visit Beaufort, Port Royal, and Hunting Island. I know I’ll be back.