There they were – two patches of pink on the live oak tree, surrounded by a number of white objects. This oak has been a roosting platform for many wading birds – great and snowy egrets, wood storks, and two roseate spoonbills. I had seen this pair a week ago when walking around our community during the peak of the flooding, and observed one feeding on the flanks of the overflowing impoundment along with a group of wood storks. I have gotten so used to seeing the wood storks that I often take them for granted, unless one flies by displaying its huge wing span. I wondered if my excitement at the spoonbills’ presence will wane with time.
The historic flooding event had not ended: Lowcountry rivers were still rising from midland waters rushing to the sea. More rains added further insult to injury a week after the record rain event. This South Carolina disaster brought to mind our 1989 experience with Hurricane Hugo. Throughout the peak flooding of the previous weekend, we were grateful every day at home for having power and running water, utilities missing for two and a half weeks after Hugo. The additional unwanted rains, added to our two feet of accumulation the previous weekend, were a reminder of torrential rains which occurred several days after Hugo had passed. I had battled alone the rain pouring into my house through a severely damaged roof, sweeping the puddles through holes in the floor cut out for air ducts. After hours of this effort, the dam broke, and a flood of tears poured out. I imagined the emotions experienced by current flood victims coming to grips with the state of their inundated homes.
With rain ended, and blue sky and occasional sun peeking through the clouds, we were off on the outgoing tide on the familiar passage to the Northeast Point of Bull Island. Yet something was not right – items were left behind. Where? After tacking and sailing back to the pier, I spied the small waterproof box on the floating dock. No need for a landing – a tack between the docks and close approach allowed me to reach out and grab the box on the fly. Returning to the entrance to Andersonville Creek, we followed in the wake of a shrimp trawler who motored through these waters in the past half hour.
In the Bay, our heading was east-southeast in a reach across the north wind. I had expected more wind yet we still moved along with the moderate wind and ebbing tide. No shrimp baiters had set poles within sight, and only a couple of fishermen were around. Offshore beyond Bulls Bay a number of shrimp trawlers were at work. After landing at the Point, for a moment I was alone. An outboard with a couple of families soon landed down the strand, and several of the children came by ahead of the others in their search for sand dollars. I began my walk, and what I thought was a driftwood stump by the dunes was in reality a man sitting in a chair. He was a part of group ferried over earlier and dropped here, and his fellow beachgoers had already made their way around the Point.
I would not follow in their footsteps, and left the beach to cut through the dunes and enter the maritime forest to Lighthouse Road and the dikes around Jacks Creek. Unusual pools of water, never before seen, stood in low points in the dune field. Water was sitting throughout the maritime forest, and not surprisingly that standing water created a fertile environment for an impressive mosquito hatch I would experience on my walk. On the open dike between Bull Creek and the Jacks Creek impoundment, the water levels were significantly up. I noted the progress on the new dike across Jacks Creek; the rains had surely impeded this project, and clearly much work remained. Past the remains of “Old Fort” appeared a larger than normal gathering of alligators, arrayed on the banks, the dike, and in the canal connecting Jacks Creek with the outflow to the marsh. Water poured through the water control structure as many gators took to the water in explosive splashes on both sides of the dike. The reptilian heads filled the narrow canal, and the flood waters draining out here seemed to be providing extensive feeding opportunities.
The walk around Jacks Creek down Old Fort Road and across Alligator Alley was surprisingly a dry one. Only smaller alligators including the summer’s hatch appeared at Pools 1,2,& 3. Water levels were much elevated in contrast to my last walk through here In May when Jacks Creek was drawn down for the dike construction.
Along the Lighthouse Road, heading toward the Boneyard, I ran into two young men coming in the opposite direction. They were from the ferry’s beach drop, and planned on walking the loop in the opposite direction from me, I wondered if they had enough time to make their pickup at the NE Point. It seemed more than ambitious, but I wished them well, and added the mosquitoes would speed them along.
I took the short path to the Boneyard, and descended the dike’s sheer face down to the beach, noting much erosion and toppled trees. This change has been an ongoing process at the Boneyard, and storms often accelerate the movement. Near the opening to Moccasin Pond, newly fallen palmettos lined the beach, and more would soon topple. Significant transformation appeared along the eastern strand, exposing more marsh sediments, buried trees, and Refuge refuse from the the 20th century. New pools of water separated the beach from the Jacks Creek dike, and carved narrow tidal creeks across the beach. The largest contained a little waterfall, and was the only one of these five beach creeks I was not able to cross without getting my feet wet.
Prior to my completing the loop where I entered the dunes, I saw the two young men ahead making their way to the NE Point to meet up with the ferry. From the distance it appeared all passengers were embarked, and the ferry returned to the beach for their pickup. (I learned later that they were 25 minutes late). As they left, heading to the southwest into Bull Creek, the outboard with families was also departing.Once again I was alone, and began my preparations for departure. With the flooding tide I shoved off for the sail home.