Lowcountry Weekly and the Friends of Hunting Island present the second group of finalists in our Hunting Island Memories Essay Contest. Next issue, our third group of finalists. We'll announce the winners July 23rd and also tell you about Hunting Island’s 75th anniversary celebration Aug. 2nd & 3rd.
Seaside Road runs the length of St. Helena Island, where you can cast adrift in your sea kayak on a high tide, paddle east across the estuarial Harbor River Basin and make landfall on Hunting Island: a semitropical paradise of unspeakable beauty.
Explore the southwest shore of the island, marveling at the dolphin pod strand-feeding on the mud flats, and otters plucking periwinkles from the spartina grass. Paddle around the headland and feel the ocean breeze freshen against your face as you kayak cleaves through the incoming sea swells of Fripp Inlet, spindrift billowing in the air and the taste of saltwater stinging your lips. Buck the tide and paddle hard past Russ Point and the fishing pier. Your effort will be rewarded when you steer left into the Lagoon and discover following seas and a stiff tailwind sweeping you along – deep into the wild interior of Hunting Island State Park.
The whiting were running that Sunday as a group of Armstrong College students paddled up the Lagoon in sea kayaks. The vignette straight out of National Geographic struck every paddler in awe: hundreds of whitefish – jumping, twisting and smacking the sides of their kayaks. White shore birds diving into the water and perching in trees made the palmettos appear full of giant snowballs.
Church meetings let out early that day as the report raced around the island like wildfire: the whiting are running! As far as the eye could see, white-clothed parishioners lined the banks with fishing poles, hand lines and cast nets as an escort of dolphins led the kayakers up the Lagoon that luminous Sunday afternoon; the day when all the kayakers’ hearts were spirited away, captured forever by Hunting Island State Park.
Jeanette Godfrey Chapman
St. Helena Island
(This essay was written in 1996, when the author was 17. It was submitted by her mother.)
I cross the small, old bridge over Johnson’s Creek, and I see miles of gray marsh covering the island’s bank. Hunting Island is covered in tall, green pines and old, swaying palms. I enter the campground through black, iron gates that guard the treasure within. The narrow pavement winds through the tall, old trees revealing tents, camping trailers, and the park store. I drive along the winding, paved road through hundreds of campers enjoying their lazy afternoon. Through the trees I see mountains of shimmering sand dunes. I can almost taste the salt on my lips as I begin walking towards the boardwalk.
Up sandy wooden steps, I leave the cool shade of the campground and warm, salty air hits my face. The sun’s reflection off crashing waves and white, powdery sand makes it hard to see. Down the beach, people lounge and children build castles in the sand. Beyond all the people stands the yellow recreation building, aged by the waves that eat at its feet when the tides come in. I look out over the vast ocean as eight shrimp boats scrape the sandy bottom for fantail shrimp.
A young, tan boy flies his beautiful yellow and purple kite and the old, weather-beaten, black and white lighthouse peers with watchful eye. I make my way back down the steps and can still hear the soothing sound of the surf caressing the long stretch of sand. I am thankful God created such a beautiful place for everyone to enjoy. I will always treasure the memories of summers spent on this beautiful island with my family and friends.
Kelly Brown Daily
We went to Hunting Island State Park twice. The first time we went in October of 2006 and returned in May of 2007. I was happy that we went to Hunting Island because I caught a fish with my bare hands in a shallow tidal pool. We saw a school of fish while we were in the tidal pool. My little sister caught a lot of hermit crabs in her small hand. In the hammock my little sister put her bottom on my head and sat on my head and I thought it was funny.
And we brought our dog Sierra too. We brought the Frisbee so we could play with Sierra on the beach. My sister got really messy from eating a lot of powdered donuts. We went up to the top of the lighthouse. We saw a really big blue crab on the beach. My sister and I rode our scooters in the park. We saw lots of raccoons and squirrels in the park. We went for a hike in the woods, looking for deer one evening. We found a big rock on the beach and my little sister sat on it. My Daddy told me that I almost caught a dolphin because we got new fishing rods. And we saw the biggest sand castle ever and we did not build it. I love Hunting Island State Park.