Category Archives: South Carolina

Rock Climbing & Slack lining in Charleston

family photoFor our visit to Charleston we camped at the James Island County Park Campground. It is about 15 minutes away from downtown Charleston and a fabulous facility for outdoor people. It is a 643 acre park with an outdoor centre, bike paths, dog park, playgrounds, canoeing and multiple activity centres where they hold programming. After 3 days of playing tourist, we needed some adventure time. We got up early on our last morning and headed over to the outdoor centre for a morning of playing. They have a slack line area, a portable climbing wall with self belaying, a large climbing wall and a frisbee golf course.

We started in the slack line area and had a great time. They had 3 different heights and we did pretty well on the beginner side. Tim and I did the intermediate but no one tackled the advanced (3 feet off the ground).

We moved over to the portable climbing wall. It has a self belaying system so we could all climb at the same time. After testing it out a few times in one on one climbs, Hunter decided we should have races. Everyone hooked up at the same time, taking 3 steps back from the wall and then GO – you have to get to the top of the wall, hit the button (which rings a bell) and then get back to the ground first to win. We probably did this 10 times and by the end were laughing so hard we had to rest.

The main wall was a pretty busy place so we chose to play in/on the scrambling hut. It is a smallish building and the idea is that you should be able to climb all the way around the walls without touching the ground, yet you are never more than 1-2 feet off the ground. A great learning environment for everyone and often harder than the big walls themselves.

The big wall was the last part of the park that we tackled. It requires that you are belayed by a staff member or that you take a test that demonstrates you can belay. Tim and I took the test (and passed) so everyone got at least one climb in on the big wall. After playing so much on the portable wall, the big wall felt really long in terms of climb time. We were all very tired, in a good way, after our morning here.

We would definitely recommend James County Island Park. The outdoor centre facility is impressive and has very friendly and helpful staff and incredibly reasonable rates ($12 pp for the day). The campground is very clean and well maintained with top notch internet but no cable.

Fort Moultrie National Monument, Charleston

fort moultrie signFort Moultrie was first built in 1776 (at that time called Fort Sullivan) to prevent British naval incursions into Charleston Harbour. It was built of palmetto log walls that readily absorbed the shots and shells fired when 9 Royal Navy warships attacked on June 28, 1776. Colonel William Moultrie and his 400 men fought a day long battle that ended with the heavily damaged British ships being driven from the area. This decisive American victory galvanized the Patriot’s cause for independence, and resulted in the fort now being called Fort Moultrie.

The first fort was beaten up and washed away by storm waves so a 2nd fort was built in 1798 of earth and timber. It unfortunately faces the same demise due to coastal storms. The third and present fort was constructed of brick in 1809. Originally fitted with 40 guns, the fort garrison consisted of 500 men.

On December 26, 1860, six days after South Carolina left the Union, Fort Moultrie’s small Federal garrison abandoned the fort, moving to the unfinished but more defendable Fort Sumter. State militia troops occupied Fort Moultrie the next day. Confederate Fort Moultrie participated in the April 12, 1861 firing on Fort Sumter that began the American Civil War. Heavily damaged by Federal bombardments that commenced in 1863, Fort Moultrie remained in Confederate hands until February 1865.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Fort Moultrie underwent numerous changes as improving military and engineering technologies added to the complexities of coastal defence.

New threats of submarine and aerial attacks ultimately rendered static seacoast defences obsolete. On August 15, 1947 the army lowered Fort Moultrie’s flag for the last time, ending 71 years of service.

This was the last of our Charleston Forts and Hunter proudly got another Junior Ranger Badge along with his Civil War Historian patch!

 

Magnolia Plantation, Charleston

main houseRounding out our tour of the Charleston area, we spent the afternoon at the Magnolia Plantation, which was founded in 1676 by the Drayton family and continues to be held by the family. It is the oldest public tourist facility in the low country and the oldest public gardens in America, having opened to the public in 1870 as a way to raise funds to maintain the plantation after it was ransacked by Union troops at the end of the Civil War.

The Plantation started out at 2000 acres along the Ashley River where it grew a number of different crops, finally becoming very prosperous growing rice. It is now down to 500 acres and provides an extensive tour showing you the grounds, the slave houses, the gardens, the house and a small petting zoo that they have developed. The Plantation is also very bike friendly with bike and walking trails throughout.

We started our visit with the movie and then moved onto the petting zoo. The animals were incredibly friendly and very well cared for. Tim was intrigued with the peacocks (as you can see from the photos) and Hunter enjoyed all of the animals.

We then took a stroll through the gardens. They had started out as a 3 season garden but were gradually turned into a 4 season garden. At this time of year, there should be an abundance of camellia’s, azaleas, daffodils, pansies and other flowers. Unfortunately, due to the freezing cold weather, most of the blooms had died off or not bloomed at all. We were able to see some orchids and other plants in the solarium.

Slaves played a big role in the economic success of Magnolia over the years, both in the fields and in the gardens. These houses were occupied from the 1850’s through to the late 1990’s. Many of the slaves stayed with the plantation after the civil war and shifted from being slaves to “servants” or “field workers” – doing the same work but now having their freedom. The neatest thing for me was that the overseeing of the Gardens has been in the same 1-2  families for the last 200 years, having started with the first slave gardener in the 1840’s.

Our next stop was a train tour of the property to see the breadth of the property and some of the local flora and fauna. A number of the old rice fields have turned into swamps and are covered in duck weed – a murky green substance that is on the surface and the ducks just love to eat. Other fields are definitely havens for wildlife but you can see where the rice would have grown. Although the weather was quite cool, were were lucky to see 2 alligators out on the banks trying to soak up what little sun there was.

The last stop on our tour was to check out the house. They do scheduled tours of the house every 30 minutes to limit the number of people in the house and provide you with a historic overview. There is no aimless wandering allowed. The house has an interesting story as it is actually the 3rd house in this spot on the property. The 1st was burned down due to nature and the 2nd was burned down by Union forces at the end of the Civil War. This house was built in sections as the family could afford to rebuild over the last 100 years. It was lived in by the family until 1975, when they decided to open it to the public and move out to a house in Charleston.

Overall it was a worthwhile experience. We chose to do the tour as a package with a guide from Historic Tours of Charleston. The plus side was that this is slow season and there was no one else on our tour so we basically had a private tour (same thing happened with the pirate tour in the morning). The downside was that it felt quite scheduled and rushed and we weren’t really able to wander where our interests took us. It would be a great place to spend the day and either walk or bike ride around. They have a small cafe on site so lunch and snacks are available.

Historic Charleston is rife with PIRATES

hunter & pirate tour guideWe killed 2 birds with one stone and everyone was happy (fabulous parenting moment for me!). We went on the Charleston Walking Pirate Tour and learned about the cities sordid pirate past as well as got to see and experience much of the historic architect. We managed to do a 2 hour walking tour with no complaints about the walking part… The pirate part was really interesting for all of us, with Hunter being more interested in the shooting, jailing, plundering etc., and it fit in very well with all of our American History work.

tim hunter powder museumThe walking tour starts out at the Powder Magazine, Charleston’s oldest public building. It was built in 1713 and used as an arsenal from 1713 to 1748 to defend the colony from the Spanish, French, pirates, slave rebellions and native attacks. It provides you with a great visual overview of the City of Charleston and the founding history.

Historic Charleston has stood for a century as the cultural capital of the south. It was, and still is, an economic centre. It was founded in 1670 and was subject to periodic attacks from French, Spanish and plenty of Pirates. The heart of the city was fortified in 1704, however most of the walls were removed during the 1720’s.

Through our walk we learned all about a number of Pirates, their role in the history of Charleston, the difference between pirates and privateers, the story behind the pirates being offered pardon’s by the British Colonial Government and lots of other juicy tidbits. We also touched lightly on the slave trade. As a compromise between the North and the South, the sale of slaves on the street was made illegal in the 1850’s. This caused the creation of the Old Slave Mart in 1856, where slave auctions were held until the end of the Civil War in 1865.

slave martWe had a bit of a rush between the end of our Pirate tour and the afternoon tour we had arranged. As we walked to our afternoon stop, we took a quick detour to check out the downtown Charleston Fire Station.

Fort Sumter National Monument (Charleston Harbour)

fort sumter signWe have been working our way up to Fort Sumter National Monument as it is the starting point of the American Civil War between the Union and Confederate. We were all quite excited to spend some time here. Fort Sumter is on a small island in the middle of the Charleston harbour and is only accessible by boat, which leaves from either the Fort Sumter visitor centre or from Patriots Point, which was where we caught the boat.

Fort Sumter has a long and varied past. It was built as part of the coastal defence program that was initiated in the mid-1800’s to protect the United States from potential conflicts with the British, French & Spanish. Charleston was a high priority location due to the deepwater port and economic trade so there were actually 4 defence sites built in the harbour; Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie, Fort Johnson and Castle Pinckney.

On December 20, 1860 South Carolina voted to secede from the United States of America (click on the link for all the reasons why, they are fascinating). After that vote, the South Carolina Governor (confederates) decided to take all of the National fortifications, including the 4 sites in Charleston Harbour. At this time, the only fort that was actually “in service” Federally was Fort Moultrie, under the leadership of Major Anderson. Following the succession vote, he chose to move his men, under cover of darkness, out to Fort Sumter as he felt it was more defendable. At the time, the last stage of armament for Fort Sumter was not yet completed so, although there were very tall walls and a surrounding of water, there were no mounted cannons.

For the next 2 months, the Confederates demanded that the Union leave Fort Sumter and the Union refused. During that time, the garrison was busy trying to complete the armament of the Fort. When the Confederates finally attacked, only half of the cannons had been mounted and the Major Anderson surrender after 34 hours of battle. The Confederate Army was able to hold Fort Sumter for 4 years before it was taken back by the Union as part of Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Although a bit rushed, as you are only able to stay on Fort Sumter for 1 hour, we completed another Junior Ranger badge and the 2nd of our 3 forts towards our Civil War Historian badge.

Patriots Point Museum – It’s a naval candy store!

USS laffey 2Patriots Point Museum is located right in the middle of the Charleston harbour. It comprises the USS Yorktown (Aircraft Carrier), the USS Laffey (Destroyer), the USS Clamagore (Submarine) as well as a Medal of Honour Museum, Vietnam Support Base exhibit and Cold War Memorial. Talk about a full days exploration!

We unfortunately only had 2.5 hours so it was a bit of a speedy tour. Having visited the USS Midway (Aircraft carrier) in San Diego a few times, we decided to start with the boats we’d never explored before – the destroyer and the submarine.

They were both really interesting to walk through. The USS Laffey (Destroyer) was built in 1944, in time to support the D-day landings and decommissioned in 1975 after a very full career. TheUSS  Clamagore (Submarine) was built in 1945 and decommissioned in 1975, having served through the Cold War era.

The biggest learnings were around the submarine – they are really tight spaces (width & height) and people slept where they worked. This meant that if you were a weapons tech, you slept in the weapons room. That’s a little too close for comfort for me. Tim and Hunter thought it was really cool and spent quite a bit of time on the Sub. I’m not a big fan of small, confined spaces so my tour through was fairly quick.

The USS Yorktown is only slightly smaller than the USS Midway in San Diego, was built in 1943 and decommissioned in 1970. It is staffed by an amazing group of volunteers that are happy to tell you all about the ship and answer any and all questions that you have. As we were running short on time, we focused our exploration here on the flight deck. Isn’t that just nirvana – having military airplanes ON a military ship!