Contrary to our expectations, the seaside is filling up as we move north. From Sullivan's Island near Charleston to Myrtle Beach, more and more of the ocean front is covered by larger and larger buildings. A lot of the beachfront homes, it seems, are built with 4 to 8 bedrooms and rented out to large familes or groups of families or college kids. Cape Romain walking path
We stopped for a morning walk at Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, located in the Francis Marion National Forest. The Swamp Fox would have been astonished to see the suburban creep around his swampy hideaways. The forest was heavily logged in the early twentieth century, then purchased by the government who have been trying to restore it -- an effort made more difficult by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Our walk took us through woods of mixed growth, including some old snags and much young growth, including lots of trees just budding out.
We'd hoped for some bird sightings. Just as we entered the visitors' center a young man was excitedly reporting his sighting of the endangered split-tailed kite: "it looked like a jet plane when it passed me". We heard lovely birdsong and found some pretty yellow warblers, but our best "catches" were a couple of turtles swimming and a couple of large alligators sunning themselves in a pond. In an enclosure along the path, the Forest Service keeps a pair of red wolves, native to South Carolina. A captive breeding program seems to be working, so several wolves have already been released from various breeding locations back into the South Carolina wilderness.
There's definitely no wilderness along The Golden Strand, as the AAA guidebook names the stretch of South Carolina shore including Myrtle Beach. Souvenir stores, fireworks stands (at least 14), lavish miniature golf courses (at least 7) a water park, restaurants and motels of all descriptions line the Myrtle Beach attraction route. Myrtle Beach also sports a couple of amusement parks and The Carolina Opry. Clearly this is a Tourist Destination! Equally clearly, it's spring break. We got stuck in some Myrtle Beach traffic and were intrigued to see a pair of cops on bicycles riding up the line of cars, one on each side, peering in the windows (presumably for open containers). When we saw a group of lurching young drunks piling into their car, we hightailed it for our motel, set 10 miles inland at Conway. At the motel we heard that Myrtle Beach is the number one destination for this year's spring breakers. We plan to give the college revelers a wide berth as we head north!
Awhile back we read that many U.S. motels are managed by the extended Patel family from India. Today, Mark Patel confirmed this: his family comes from north of Bombay. They had been farmers in India. His parents (he seems to be in his mid-40s) came to the U.S., and, having established themselves, are continuing to make room for additional relatives. Mark's son says that he knows that there are other Patel's in the motel management business; in India we might be friends, or distant relatives, he says. But here, if we travel, we'll find part of our family.