Family, Girls’ Trips, and Coastal Towns (Part 4)

Charleston, SC 

Wow! So it has only taken me three months to finally finish editing these photos and get around to writing this blog. This hot summer proved to be a busy one! But now I’ll sit down and tell you about a trip to one of my favorite places…Charleston, SC. I absolutely adore this city, and my daughter and I visited here for a mother-daughter trip for the second time in two years. This time we were able to take our time and explore and have fun!

The trip out was pretty nice, and we listened to our favorite music all the way. We only had to turn around once when Googly Bear told us to “stay right to keep left”. That produced quite the confusion and laughter. Along the way, however, we happened upon a woods fire. I think it was a controlled burn as it was happening on a tree farm. We were on a back road somewhere in South Carolina, so we stopped, got out, and took some photos.

I decided that a couple of these shots would make for some good light glowing in the eerie fog photos, so I doctored them up a bit in post-processsing and came up with these:

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And as for spooky photos, Charleston is a great place to do a little ghost hunting. We headed out every evening for a little ghost hunting and exploring the city at night. We didn’t find any ghosts this time, but we found some places they sure would like. The city is filled with graveyards, old churches, and parks full of haunting stories and pirate tales. If you ever make it out there, be sure to take one of the walking ghost tours.

Aside from ghost hunting, this trip gave me and my daughter some bonding time…mostly in the form of me acting like a teenager again. Our condo had a loft with some pretty good acoustics, so we sang and said silly stuff just to hear our voices bounce around the room. It also made a good spot to throw pillows from. We stayed up late giggling and having a blast!

During the days, we explored the city hitting the Market first to pick up a few things we can only find in Charleston. Then we hit the sidewalks to find all that we could find in a two day span.  There are several interesting historic churches and graveyards to visit,

as well as dozens of historic buildings,

and interesting doors, alleys, parks, and windows.

We were also able to visit the Nathaniel Russel House with its beautiful gardens…

…lovely antique decor…

…and stunning architecture.

(And that gold paint on the crown molding…it has actual 24 kt gold in it! Wow!)

Well, at the end of this trip, we had walked our feet off and had a wonderful little girls’ trip. Of course, as is the case with most of our trips, there must be some disaster along with our adventure. I ran over something in the road and got a hole in my tire just outside of Charleston. Much thanks to the SCDOT for coming to assist me with a tire change and the wonderful guy at Automotive Solutions for repairing the tire and getting us back on the road and headed home.

And that, my friends, is the end of our Spring 2016 girls’ adventures. Keep checking for future adventures! A trip back out to Arkansas and Missouri are soon to come!

 

Family, Girls’ Trips, and Coastal Towns (Part 3)

Savannah, GA

Well, Savannah just happens to be on our way home from Jekyll Island, so it seemed like a perfect place to stop to eat…and take pictures, and visit churches, and see parks, and get chocolate! What can I say? We’re women. We need chocolate.

Now, after the adventures of the previous two days, you would think we would have no energy left for walking. Well, you would be right…but we mustered some up anyway. We thought we might indulge in a carriage ride, but apparently it was necessary to book those in advance if possible, so we had to pass. I did, however, get a couple of nice photos of some carriages and horses…

…and a dog poking his head out of a second story window where some construction was in progress.

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And of course, the squirrels couldn’t let the dogs and horses take all of the camera time, so a couple of those little guys posed for photos too.

The flowers were in bloom, so the parks were dotted with lots of beautiful colors.

And my beautiful daughter…well, we had to purchase a souvenir T-shirt to cover her sunburned shoulders.

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And a fountain seemed to be a great place for two girls to stop and rest their feet (and text I suppose).

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Now this was rather a rushed trip, as it is impossible to see all there is to see in Savannah in an afternoon. I, however, did my best to provide a speed tour. The Lutheran church, the Catholic church, and Forsyth Park made the list for the day to introduce my family to the beauty of Savannah.

We stopped in at the Lutheran Church first. I had visited this one in the past and wanted to show my mother the stained glass windows.

After visiting here for a few minutes, a nice gentleman who was a member of the church told us a little bit about the history of the building. Then he recommended that we take a short walk to the Catholic cathedral to see its beauty. The last time I was in the city, we didn’t make it to the Catholic church before the doors were closed to the public. This day, however, we were lucky enough to get to go inside. And what a sight it was!

It felt a bit irreverent walking around taking photos in the church like that, but there were others there admiring and taking photos as well. I hope we didn’t disturb those who had come there for more spiritual reasons.

Our next stop was Forsyth Park which is the largest of the parks in Savannah. We were greeted on entering by a young barefoot man playing his acoustic guitar and singing.

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I think perhaps he was one of the college students.

Finally, we headed to LuLu’s Chocolate Bar to indulge in a decadent chocolate confection. I, unfortunately, have no photos of that wondrous dessert as we ate it…all.  Now, though this is the end of this adventure, there is still one more to come. About a month later, my daughter and I traveled to the beautiful city of Charleston, so stay tuned for that adventure!

 

Family, Girls’ Trips, and Coastal Towns (Part 2)

Jekyll Island, GA: Day 2

Day two of our adventure found us in the historic district of Jekyll Island on the north end of the island. My niece wanted to see the nature center, so it was just me and my daughter for the first part of the morning. Nothing was quite opened yet, so we walked around a bit and took some photos.

There were several beautiful old buildings, and it was nice and quiet beside the water. But eventually the hour neared 10am, so we headed back over to the benches in front of the fudge shop. Yes…we were waiting for the fudge shop to open, because one must have some chocolate to begin one’s adventure. As we waited patiently for that door to open, I spied a squirrel in the tree above busily building a nest. He was quite fun to watch, though not quite that easy to capture in picture.

When lunch time rolled around, the rest of the family joined us. They were coming from the turtle center, so we were trying to meet them near there. I, of course, got out the handy-dandy brochure with a map. Apparently, I am no good at reading handy-dandy brochures with maps, because I took us the long way around to go right next door. But, we did eventually find one another. I got a few good photos on the scenic route to the turtle center as well.

Now the trees in this area were perfect for photo ops, so I, totally to the dismay of the younger of our party, delayed lunch for a bit to take photos.

Though I was met with some complaints, I think in the end she enjoyed monkeying around in the trees. In fact, she even made a friend. And in the end, we did make our way to fill our tummies. After lunch, my daughter and I decided that we wanted to see the Sea Turtle Hospital, so we went and visited the recuperating sea turtles before we left.

After this adventure, I took everyone to my favorite place on the island…the Driftwood Beach. It proved to be the perfect place for portrait photography.

I think my models had a bit of fun doing the shoot, and I might have had a little fun too. The only challenge was that it was a bit windy…

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…just a little bit.

I was amazed by the patterns the water had carved into the driftwood, and there was one stump on the beach with some particularly interesting patterns and a little puddle of water standing beneath it. Of course, we all had to dip our toes in the little puddle of water, but I’ll spare you the feet pictures.

Well…maybe I won’t spare you the feet pictures…

I will, however, spare you the photos of me dancing around on the beach. That’s just not pretty. No one wants to see that…except my daughter, who may blackmail with them later in life.

Later in the evening, we returned to the nature viewing area and fishing pier. I did capture a few photos of some of the fishermen’s catches, but seeing as how the photos made me nauseous later (and were only taken at the request of my niece with the somewhat morbid sense of awe)…I’ll not be including them. I did manage a few shots of some noisy gulls and some lovely shots of a couple of brown pelicans…and one little boat-tailed grackle who managed to get his silhouette in the mix.

And the final joy was watching a dolphin play near the pier. This was the second dolphin I had seen on this trip. The first was playing near the beach on our first morning there. With all of the natural wonders to be seen, this is the perfect vacation destination for nature enthusiasts and photographers. I know it is one of my favorite places!

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But don’t go away yet! There are still two more destinations I have to share with you, so stay tuned!

Family, Girls’ Trips, and Coastal Towns (Part 1)

Jekyll Island, GA (Day 1)

Nothing says “Fantastic Spring Break!” like having the privilege of taking your niece on her first trip to the ocean. This year Spring Break was supposed to hold the bittersweet adventure of sending my son off to the Coast Guard, but that adventure was delayed and another began. I called my mother, and by the end of the day, she, my sister, my niece, my daughter and myself were packed and off to the beach. My almost seven year old niece had never been to the ocean before, so her Aunt Athenia was very happy to take her and prepared to take lots and lots of photos. And yes, I do intend to share many of them with you.

Of course, the first photo has to be a child’s first view of the ocean…

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…but she didn’t quite cooperate on the waiting for me part, and she really didn’t want to turn around for a picture either. But as soon as she made her way down to the water, we were in for a solid morning of exploring the beach ecosystem and getting our feet wet in the waves.

It was such a joy searching for sand dollars, crabs, shells, and other beach creatures and watching my niece enjoy the beach with her mother.

We even chased a few birds here and there.

And as for me and my daughter, well we found a few minutes to have a little creative Whovian fun.

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And of course, it is always a joy to watch a teenage girl hang out with her grandmother.

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Later in the day, my beloved family managed to find a furry beach goer to hang out with. Of course, they made friends with the human beach goers as well.

By the time evening rolled around, the youngest two girls of our party needed a Disney fix, so they lounged in the suite while us old folk went for a little walk. And by little walk, I mean something in the range of a 2 to 3 mile hike through the marsh! A certain photographer/blogger forgot that the last time she took the trail she did it by bicycle. That little nature hike was quite a bit longer than memory recalled. It was, however, quite worth the trip.

For the first time ever, I saw a bald eagle in the wild! That alone was worth the hike!

However, many other natural beauties graced our vision along the rest of the hike, and the golden hours of the evening were the perfect time to witness them. As the temperature cool and the sun begins to set, the wildlife either comes out to dine or settles down to sleep (or roost as the case may be). We watched as deer nestled into the marsh grasses or grazed amongst the foliage.

We marveled at snails clinging to the marsh grasses.

And we watched in awe and wonder as the ocean birds flew about the marsh and settled down to roost for the night.

And besides the wildlife, there were beautiful landscapes to behold as well.

And the most amazing scenic landscape of all was the sunset.

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And that beautiful sunset was the end of Day 1 of our adventure. Stay tuned for more!

Girl’s Trip! (Part 2: Chattanooga)

Wow! So part two only took a month to get written. It is that crazy holiday time of the year, so as usually happens, life gets in the way of writing. The good news, however, is that I now have several wonderful events to write about. But before I move on to holiday cheer, it is time to finish my Girls’ Trip blog.

Now where did I leave you? That’s right…after we finished our hike at Cloudland Canyon, we drove over the mountain to Chattanooga. Thirty minutes later we were checking in to the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. This historic location was once the train station in Chattanooga. Now it serves as a hotel and historic attraction. The main lobby where you check in is in the old rail station and is quite lovely. You should definitely drop by and take a look if you’re ever in the area.

They have rooms in some of the old rail cars which might be an interesting overnight experience, but my daughter and I stayed in the standard hotel portion. Apparently the site was under a major restoration, so it didn’t prove to be the best time to stay. As for location, however, we were in a prime area for visiting this lovely city.

On our first morning, we found ourselves in need of something warm to drink. Lucky for us The Hot Chocolatier was right across the street. We started our Chattanooga adventure off with some of the best hot chocolate we’ve ever tasted…and a couple of truffles to accompany the delicious beverages. My truffle was lavender. I didn’t even know you could eat lavender, but now I know what lavendar tastes like (just like it smells by the way). Interesting.

Then we headed off to the aquarium. We decided to get passes for the Behind the Scenes Tour. We arrived at the aquarium approximately an hour before the tour began, so needless to say, we were unable to wander far. The tour was in the ocean aquarium, so we started out on the top floor of this building. To my delight, at the very top of the escalator was a sign pointing to the butterfly sanctuary! I didn’t even know they had one of these, so I again found myself in butterfly heaven on a trip. Yay! Before we entered Butterfly Heaven, however, we were greeted by two large blue Hyacinth Macaws who found great pleasure in laughing at all passers-by.

After talking to and laughing with the macaws for a little while, we headed to the butterfly room. To my daughter’s dismay, we ended up in this room before and after the tour. Though she enjoyed the butterflies, she was afraid I might decide to spend too much time there dooming her to miss the rest of the aquarium. Her fears were unjustified, however, as we did see all of the aquarium.

Inside I managed many wonderful shots of these beautiful lepidoptera. And after the tour, we enjoyed the pleasure of releasing some newly hatched butterflies into the habitat.

The Behind the Scenes tour was equally amazing. We were able to see the penguins up close and learn about them and their habits and habitat.

Did you know they raise one arm to regulate their body temperature? And their normal body temperature is 104 degrees Fahrenheit? Those are just a couple of the cool facts we learned about these interesting creatures. Penguins are awesome!

After visiting the penguins, we headed to the large saltwater tank. We were taken into the room where the divers enter the water and the sea creatures are fed. We met the divers and learned a bit about their job. Then we met with the people that feed the animals. We learned about their diet, where they get the food, and which creature eats what.

Then we were given the pleasure of feeding the sea turtles!

Then we had an animal encounter with a glass lizard. This particular lizard is legless and looks disturbingly like a snake. He wouldn’t stay still enough for me to get a good shot, so I will be unable to share a picture of this amazing creature.

The rest of the ocean aquarium was typical for a saltwater habitat.

After we finished the ocean aquarium, we took a walk to find some lunch. We walked under the bridge and found a hidden park. It was like a secret world. We didn’t actually find any lunch. Instead we found ice cream at The Ice Cream Show. It was enough to tide us over until dinner. Then it was back to the aquarium to visit the river side.

Now, I must admit, I am not a fan of river fish…except for eating. They aren’t the loveliest of fishes. There were some other interesting aqueous inhabitants, however.

My favorite river buddies live around the water on the banks of the river and use the waters a food source and place to play. Say hello to the River Otter!

And of course there was the regular array of reptilian, amphibian, and avian riverside inhabitants.

Unfortunately, our river adventure was cut short due to caterers setting up for an after-hours party.

On our last day in Chattanooga, we headed across the river for a shopping trip. Our first stop was in Coolidge Park for a ride on the carousel.

And of course any good shopping trip starts off with coffee, so we hunted down a great little coffee shop called The Stone Cup. We hung out at the coffee shop for nearly an hour sipping Peppermint Mocha and enjoying art. By the time we left, it was lunch time, so we picked up some sub sandwiches and headed to the Walnut Street Bridge to eat. Then we made our second trip to the Ice Cream Show for coffee and ice cream. We spent the rest of the afternoon inspecting the record and book collections of several shops. Our only find was a Disney trivia book that kept us occupied while at the ice cream shop.

We ended our day with a little down-time in Coolidge Park. My daughter played her guitar while I walked around taking photos.

A perfect end to an amazing Girls’ Trip.

 

 

 

Girls’ Trip! (Part 1: Cloudland Canyon)

My daughter and I recently took our 2nd Annual Fall Break Girls’ Trip. Our original plan this year was to go to Charleston again, but the hurricane the week before down in the Bahamas was causing all sorts of weather trouble for the east coast. Charleston was flooding, and there were photos online of our lodging area where people were paddling down the streets in kayaks. Seeing as how that didn’t seem like the ideal girls’ trip location for this year, we decided to look for an alternative. After a bit of searching, we settled on a trip to Chattanooga so she could see the Tennessee Aquarium for the first time.

Now, though Chattanooga was the final destination, it was not the first destination. There is plenty to see and do along the way. Our first stop en route was Cloudland Canyon. This was my daughter’s first trip there. After seeing photos from my last trip, she really wanted to see it for herself. Since I had my handy-dandy Friends of Georgia State Park Pass, we breezed right through the front gate with a friendly smile and wave from the attendant and headed straight to the lookout point and trail head. When we got there, my daughter had to put on her hiking shoes…and she didn’t like the way they fit. We walked as far as the benches at the trail head, and already, she was complaining. So, being a resourceful mother and hiker, we switched shoes. The shoes worked for me (though I still prefer my boots). Then off we headed to see the waterfalls.

We didn’t get very far before I had to stop for a photo-op though. We found the greatest tree.

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Then we started our walk down into the canyon. Before long we happened upon a rock wall (that of course reminded my daughter of MineCraft) and a little ways up the wall was a little hole that looked like a cave. I decided she could probably climb right on up there, so she agreed and gave it a try…and did very well.

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I of course didn’t try it. Those rocks were better suited to the lighter-weight and reasonably flexible. I would’ve broken something…a rock, my camera, MY HEAD! Needless to say, we did not want to take any trips to the hospital because of Mama’s foolishness, so I refrained (this time). As we continued along the path we eventually came up on a giant boulder overhanging the trail. Now the last time I was here, I only had my dog, Dixie, with me, so getting a photo to convey the shear size of this thing didn’t really work out. This time, however, I had a crazy teenage girl with me who let me direct her for photos. It is amazing how perspective can change with just a little manipulation. In the first photo, I had her stand directly under the boulder, so you can see just how massive it is.

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Then in the next photo I wanted to make it look like she was holding the boulder up. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look nearly as impressive in the second photo.

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And of course, we had to get the Hercules shot where she actually has her hands on the rock.

 

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Eventually we moved on from here and rounded the corner. In the distance, I could see the bridge that crosses Sitton’s Gulch. I wasn’t able to cross the bridge the last time because the grating hurt Dixie’s paws. This time, however, it was just us people, so across we went, and it was well worth the trip. We made it across and saw some lovely cascades beneath us, so we made our way around the trail to get a better look. As we were firing off a few shots, my daughter said, “I wish we could get down there to the bottom.”

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This of course was responded to with, “I think we can.” So down we climbed. There were plenty of sturdy tree roots and a somewhat worn footpath where others had attempted the descent. Soon we were at the bottom and trying to figure out how to get the best shots. It was absolutely beautiful down there!

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Of course, the trouble with making your way down is that eventually you have to make your way back up. After we were done marveling and exploring and photographing, we headed back over to where we came down and realized that this was going to take a bit more effort. Hand and feet were required for this climb, so the all equipment had to be secured and free from dangling into our way. Then up the tree roots we climbed back to the path. It was awesome! My daughter, however up for the challenge she may have been, does not find hiking to be her sport of choice after this adventure.

Soon we made our way back across the gulch and onto the path for the first waterfall. Along the way we passed more “MineCraft” rocks…

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…and a leaf stuck to the canyon wall.

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And eventually we made it to Hemlock Falls. Here I got a few shots of the waterfall disappearing into my daughter’s head.

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