August 2006               


            On our last day in Southern Georgia we drove to Hilton Head Island.  What a disappointment!  It was solid strip malls, hotels, restaurants, etc.  We drove to nearly the end of the island, where we encountered a toll booth.  We stopped to pay the requested $5 toll and were told that vehicles of our type were not allowed into the property.  So – we headed back to the park. 

            On the 2nd we hitched up and headed north again.  We left I-95 and drove northeast on US 17 to Charleston, SC.  We were planning to stay at James Island County Park, but when we arrived a little after noon, they were already full.  As we had to drive through the park to get back out, we had a chance to take a look.  If we come back to this area again, we will definitely make reservations to stay here.  It has large spaces and is really nice. 

            We made our way back to our second choice, Oak Plantation Campground and checked in.  This is also a large park with large spaces and with a good rate. 

            Fort Moultrie is a National Park on Sullivan Island.  The fort was first built in 1776, from Palmetto logs and earth.  The Palmetto logs were used as they were the only wood available, but it soon became apparent that they were the best building material that could be used.  As the Palmetto logs were spongy, cannonballs bounced off the walls and did not damage the fort.

            The fort was abandoned after the Revolution.  In 1798, the second Fort Moultrie was completed, as one of the forts built along the Atlantic Coast to provide defense.  It was destroyed by a hurricane in 1804.    

            The present fort was built of brick in 1809.  It was one of 4 forts to ring Charleston Harbor.  The fort was abandoned during the night by Federal troops when South Carolina seceded in 1860.  The troops moved to Fort Sumter which was stronger.

            Fort Moultrie was modernized in the 1870’s and remained in service through WWII, with modifications for newer technology as it emerged.

            The fort is now divided into several sections which demonstrate its various uses through the years, rather than to be kept in one time period.  It is a very interesting park to visit.

            Did you know that tea is grown in the U. S.?  Well neither did we.  We had seen a sign near the entrance to our campground that indicated the direction to the Charleston Tea Plantation.  After a little checking, Millie discovered that it is a plantation where tea is grown, on Johns Island.  It is the only tea plantation in the America and tours are offered, so off we went to check it out.

            The plantation dates back to the early 1900’s and was owned by Dr. Charles Shepard.  Following his death in 1915 the plantation was neglected until 1960 when it was purchased by the Lipton Tea Company as a research facility.  Mack Fleming and William B. Hill purchased the property in 1987 and established the Charleston Tea Plantation. 

            The Bigelow Tea Company is now a partner in the enterprise.  There is an actual tea factory on the property, with a video tour being offered.  The tour explains how the tea is grown, picked and dried to produce green, oolong and black teas.  All three of these teas come from the same plant, the only difference being the drying process. 

            As the weather had been very dry, the plants were not growing much when we visited and the factory was not in operation.  We did take the video tour and have a sample of their tea.  A gift shop is also on the grounds. 

            After we left the gift shop, we walked over to one of the fields of tea plants and saw the mechanical picker that is unique to Charleston Tea Company.   It was an interesting afternoon and we learned a lot about tea growing. 

            We decided to take a guided tour of Charleston, so we drove to the Visitor’s Center and purchased tickets to tour the city and a boat tour to Fort Sumter.  We were impressed to learn that the city has parking in their adjacent garage for large RV’s.  We wish more cities would make this available!

            Our tour of the city included several historical districts.  A stop along the battery was made.  This beautiful (and expensive) area of the city has many fine historical homes lining the harbor.  We had been here many years ago and only had a small glimpse of this beautiful area. 

            We boarded the ferry to Fort Sumter after lunch at the nearby South Carolina Aquarium complex.  The ferry dock is located between the complex and the new Fort Sumter Visitor’s Center.

            Most of us know the story of Fort Sumter, how the fort suffered the first shots fired in the Civil War. 

            Located in Charleston Harbor, the construction was begun in 1829.  When it was occupied by Federal troops in 1860, it was still not completed.   When the commander refused to leave the fort, shelling by Confederate cannons located at Fort Moultrie, Fort Johnson and several other batteries began. The shelling began on April 12, 1861 and on April 14th, the garrison surrendered. 

            Before the shelling, Fort Sumter was a three story brick edifice.  Confederate hot shot set the officer’s quarters on fire, the flagstaff and main gates were destroyed and fire surrounded the magazines.  In the 34 hour engagement no one was killed but 5 Federals were injured.  

            The fort was occupied by the Confederates until 1865, when it was abandoned in the face of Sherman’s march.  The fort, for 20 months, had managed to withstand Federal assaults that reduced it to rubble. Confederate losses were 52 killed and 267 wounded.

            During the Spanish American War, Battery Huger was constructed across the parade grounds of Fort Sumter. The remainder of the parade grounds was filled with sand.  In the 1950’s the park service removed the sand which was nearly 20 feet deep.   The battery remains today, containing a museum and gift shop.  

            We were given a ranger presentation when we left the ferry at the fort, then we followed the self-guided tour.  It was interesting to see some of the shells from the Civil War still imbedded in the interior walls.  A large cannon was discovered in great condition when some rubble was removed from one of the casements.   

            It was a beautiful day to be out on the water and we enjoyed the ferry ride.  On the way back to Charleston, we watched dolphins in the harbor.

            One of the things that has interested Millie since its discovery in 2000 is the Confederate submarine – The Hunley.  The vessel was recovered with all of its crew still aboard, in fact they were still at their stations.  The reason for its demise is unknown, as the submarine was undamaged in battle.  

            The Hunley was the first submersible vessel to sink an enemy ship in war.  It carried a crew of   .  Her torpedo was attached to a spar on the front of the vessel, which was rammed into the enemy ship and then exploded when the Hunley backed away. 

            The Hunley is presently housed at a research facility in Charleston and tours are given on weekends.  We made our reservations online and picked a good day to go as the weather was rainy and it was a good day to be indoors.  Due to the fact that National Geographic owns the photographic rights, we were unable to take pictures of The Hunley and artifacts on display.  You can see pictures on the webpage

            The tour was interesting and it was awesome to see this little submarine in its water filled conservation tank.  We also saw films on the submarine.

            Following the raising of the vessel, the crew was interred with full military honors.  This has been described as the last Confederate military burial.  One of the display cases features the Medals of Honor presented to the crew.  Another one is the recreations of crew members faces using modern forensic methods. 

            The crew is buried in Magnolia Cemetery along with the designer of The Hunley and other crew members who died during previous tests of the vessel. 

            Outside the Charleston Historical Museum is a model of this tiny submarine and the museum features exhibits on it.  A model showing the interior with crew members is also on exhibit. 

            We spent a day touring parts of Charleston on our own.  We walked along the battery; admiring the historical homes and watching dolphins play in the harbor.  One of the sections of homes is called Rainbow Row as the homes are painted various colors. 

            In a park along the harbor is a beautiful fountain shaped like a pineapple.  It was a very warm day and there were children playing in the water of this fountain and another in the park.

            A trip to the historic marketplace and lunch at Bubba Gump’s was part of the day.

            One of the unique Charleston home designs is the “single house”.  These homes are built right next to the street, with no front yards.  A door at the street appears to lead into the house, however that is an illusion.  If you walk past the house you will see that the door actually leads to a porch or “piazza” and the main door of the house is located off this porch.  Many of the homes also have beautiful side gardens.

            We had noticed a sign for the “Angel Oak” when we traveled to the tea plantation.  When Millie talked to her friend Phyllis one evening, Phyllis inquired if we had been to see the tree.  Phyllis told Millie it was impressive and we decided to drive over and see the tree.  It is impressive!  The Live Oak tree is estimated to be over 1400 years old and is recognized as being the oldest living thing east of the Mississippi River.  More on the tree can be found at

            Another National Historic Site that we toured is the Charles Pinckney plantation known as Snee Farm.  Originally part of a grant to Richard Butler, the land was purchased by the father of Charles Pinckney in 1782.  The Pinckney family was prominent in Charleston.  

            The plantation was not the primary home of Charles, but was used to raise cattle, indigo, rice and other foods.  It was used by later owners to grow cotton.  The Pinckney family lived in Charleston, but visited the area often.  Charles hosted a breakfast for George Washington at Snee Farms in 1791. 

            Snee Farms was a working plantation until the 1930’s and acquired by the National Park Service in 1990. 

            The significance of Charles Pinckney in U. S. history is that he was a delegate to Congress and along with his cousin, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Pierce Butler and John Rutledge, he represented South Carolina at the Constitutional Convention in 1787.  He took an active part in the convention and then labored for South Carolina to ratify the new Constitution.

He was also Thomas Jefferson’s campaign manager in South Carolina in the campaign of 1800.  Jefferson appointed him Ambassador to Spain where he served from 1801-1805.  He helped facilitate the transfer of Louisiana from France and tried to get Spain to cede Florida to the U. S.  

Pinckney also served South Carolina as a member of the General Assembly and four terms as governor.  He also was a member of the U. S. House of Representatives and Senate.  His public career lasted over 40 years. 

            We left Charleston and moved to Central South Carolina.  There we toured the Capital city of Columbia and the surrounding area.  Our first visit was to the South Carolina History Museum.  This large museum is contained in a former cotton mill facility and is excellent.  (No photography)  Also located in the building is a small Confederate Museum (separate museum and fee).  We toured both.

            We spent one day touring the home of the Governor and the State House.  The Governor’s Mansion was originally a military academy, built in 1855 and occupied as the home of governors since 1868.  It recently received a 5000 square foot addition.  

            We toured the lower floor of the historic home, including 2 parlors, the library and small dining room.  The state dining room was prepared for a luncheon to take place that day and we could only peek into that room.  The house is furnished with many lovely antiques.  It was really fun to leave the home and see bikes, toys, etc on the front porch.  The governor and his wife have a young and energetic family.

            The mansion is housed in a square block area that also houses several historic homes and gardens. One beautiful fountain is seen as you leave the governor’s home.  One of the homes is known as the “lace house” and is used for public functions.   Beautiful ironwork surrounds the porches and fence of the home and gives it the name of “the lace house”. 

            A small wall garden is used for weddings.  It was a really pretty site to have an outdoor ceremony in.

            The South Carolina State House was begun in 1855.  Construction was halted during the Civil War, with only the foundation and exterior walls completed.  The building suffered damage from Sherman’s cannons and bronze stars mark the scars on the outside.  Little was done on construction other than to make it functional until the mid 1880’s when the interior décor was started.  This work was completed by 1895 and the final construction was completed by 1907.  5 principal architects worked on the building.

            The building contains floors of pink Tennessee Marble and white Georgia marble.  The foundation, walls and columns are of blue granite, the state stone of South Carolina. 

            In an effort to make the building fireproof, it contains little wood.  The beautiful staircase is of wrought iron, even the panels that mimic carved wood.

            We toured the building with a group.  We visited the beautiful Senate and House Chambers.  The Senate chamber is the location of a sword that is displayed when the Senate is in session.  When placed in its brackets on the front desk, it activates the lamps on either side of the desk, indicating that the Senate is in session.

            In the House chamber, the mace is displayed.  The mace is the oldest original mace used in this country, made in London in 1756.  It was hidden during the American Revolution and disappeared for over 40 years before being found in a Pennsylvania bank vault.  It is placed on the front of the desk by the sergeant at arms to indicate that the House is in session.

            The dome contains two domes, an interior one and an exterior one.  The exterior dome is finished with copper. 

            The former legislative library and now Joint Legislative conference room is the only room in the State House that has remained original.  It has two beautiful wrought iron spiral staircases, a ceiling of pressed metal and the original chandelier weighing over 1000#. 

            On the grounds of the State House are many trees and monuments.  The African American History Monument traces over 300 years of African American history in South Carolina, with 12 scenes depicting the impact of slavery, the struggle for civil rights and the emergence into mainstream American.  An obelisk contains r rubbing stones from the regions of Africa where slaves bound to South Carolina were captured.

            The beautiful Palmetto Regiment Monument honors the men who fought in the Mexican war.  It is the oldest and one of the most elaborate on the grounds.  When it was erected in 1852 the price for its construction was $5000.

            The only home ever owned by the family of President Woodrow Wilson is located in Columbia.  Wilson spent his teen years here and that time had an influence on his political views. 

            After checking the website for the home on the internet, we drove to Columbia to visit.  Aha! As our luck would have it, the home is closed for repairs.  (No mention of this on the website.)  We visited with a couple of nice ladies who worked in the gift shop, then stopped at the grocery and headed back home.

            Congaree National Park in central South Carolina is one of our nation’s newest National Parks.  Established as a National Monument in 1983, it received designation as a National Park in 2003.  

            The park is home to many towering trees.  We took a ranger guided walk over the boardwalks.  The park is home to a diverse wildlife population as well as champion trees.  The largest bald cypress tree is 27 feet 5 inches in circumference.  Several large Loblolly pines are also in the park.  One champion is over 167 feet tall and 15 feet in circumference.  A larger tree has since been discovered further back in the park.  Our ranger walk was fun and informative.

            We waved goodbye to Columbia and moved further inland.  We arrived at Asheville, NC and checked into Rutledge Lake RV Resort.  Asheville is one of the places we have visited previously on vacation and wanted to return to again. 

            The Cradle of Forestry, operated by the U. S. Forest Service in the Pisgah National Forest was our destination one day.  As we stopped at the entrance gate, the gentleman on duty there noted our truck and inquired if we did a lot of RVing.  When we answered yes, he asked if we had ever considered volunteer workkamping.  It just so happened that we had been discussing this possibility for a few weeks and had decided it may be an option for next summer!  He gave us information on volunteering and told us to talk to any of the staff at the visitor’s center as they were all volunteers.  

            We talked to the two ladies at the information desk and they were very enthusiastic about their experience at the facility.  We were given an application to fill out.  We think we would enjoy volunteering in this area.

            We viewed the film on the beginnings of forestry education in this country and the exhibits in the museum.  One of the exhibits is a simulated helicopter ride with firefighters over a forest fire site. 

            We left the museum and followed the Biltmore Campus Trail.  This interpretive trail winds through the Biltmore Forest School’s historic buildings and explains the history of the forest school.

            When George Vanderbilt acquired the land on Pisgah Mountain, the area had been a farming community with open fields and some woodlands.  Vanderbilt saw the potential in converting over 80,000 acres into income producing forests. 

            He hired Gifford Pinchot as manager.  In 1895, Dr. Carl Schneck was hired to replace Pinchot and he remained in Vanderbilt’s employ until 1909.  Dr. Schneck was from Europe and until his arrival in this country, no forestry schools existed in the U. S.

            Dr. Schenck began the forestry school on the estate.  A schoolhouse used by early settlers was the classroom for the school.  Students lived in homes that had been used by farmers before Vanderbilt owned the land.  

            Classes were conducted in the building in the mornings and the afternoon consisted of hands-on forest work. 

            Walking along the trail you can visit various sites that interpret the school of forestry.  The ranger’s dwelling was constructed in 1882 by Hiram King.  He was a carpenter and owned a sawmill.  Dr. Schenck used the King House as an employee’s residence.  Ranger Jimmy Case and his family were the first to live here.  A double wedding was held on the front porch of this home when two of Ranger Case’s daughters were married in 1904. 

            Ranger George Gillespie and his family later lived in the home.  Mrs. Gillespie cooked two meals a day for 8 students who lived with them. 

            Across from the King House is the commissary, where students could buy some food items, tobacco, toiletries and get their mail.

            The Black Forest Lodge was the home for rangers who protected the Pisgah land from trespassers.  Several of these lodges were located in strategic areas of the forest and rangers were hired at $50/month.   These lodges show the Bavarian influence of Dr. Schenck’s homeland.  The lodge is constructed of chestnut and was moved to the present location to replace a lodge originally on the spot.  There is only one other of the lodges remaining and it is located next to the visitor’s center.

            The Forest Festival Trail interprets forestry and its uses.  The trail winds past plots of experimental tree planting beds.  Signs indicate the age and species of trees planted.  A lumber mill, circa 1900, represents the use of trees for lumber and shingles.  In the early days, the sawmill moved from place to place rather than hauling whole logs out of the forest. 

            A logging train is displayed.  The 1915 Climax engine hauled logs from the forest to large mills.  Supplies for the logging camps were hauled on the return trip.  Log cars and a steam log loader are attached to the train.  The log loader could haul logs up the mountain slope and onto the cars at the rate of about 100 logs a day.

            Other exhibits on the Forest Festival Trail include a display of mule driven road graders and a fish hatchery.

            Located on the grounds of the visitor’s center is the Moon Tree.  An informative sign gives the history of the tree, grown from seed that has gone into space. 

            On our way to the Cradle of Forestry we passed a beautiful waterfall.  Coming back to Asheville, we stopped to admire this beauty.  Looking Glass Falls are 60 feet high and one of the most visited falls in North Carolina.

            We drove up on the Blue Ridge Parkway and visited the Folk Art Center and Allanstand Craft Shop.  We enjoyed the exhibit of Quilts “New Traditions: Quiltmaking”.  There were several very striking quilts that we liked. (Sorry no photography.)

            Millie toured the permanent collection which contains examples of traditional Appalachian crafts of the 19th and 20th century.  Baskets, furniture, dolls and wood carvings along with other items are in the collection.

            The craft center also has a large gift shop containing the works of many artisans that are for sale. 

            After we left the Folk Art Center, we drove north on the parkway.  If you read our time last year in the Blue Ridge, you know that part of the parkway was closed due to the road being damaged by a hurricane.  We wanted to drive that section of the parkway. 

            It was somewhat overcast and although we stopped at several overlooks, the haze was not conducive to good photographs. 

            We still have never driven the section of the parkway from Asheville south to its terminus and sorry to say, we won’t get to this time.  There had been a rock slide a couple of weeks before our arrival in Asheville and that section of the road is closed.  Oh well, just another reason to come back.

            We spent one day visiting the Biltmore Estate.  Billed as the largest house in America, this spectacular mansion contains 250 rooms.  We visited many years ago and since that time more rooms have been opened for touring. 

            Also when we were here before tours were with a guide.  Now you can follow a printed guide or do as we did, rent an audio tour.  We like the audio tours as you can spend as much time in each room as you want. 

            We spent several hours touring this wonderful treasure filled home.  We even spent some time on the piazza, enjoying the beautiful view.  What a place to live!

            The house was built by George Vanderbilt beginning in 1889.  When the construction began, Vanderbilt was a bachelor.  The house was completed and opened with a grand party on Christmas Eve of 1895.   The house is still decorated in a grand manner every year for Christmas, much like it was that first time and we want to return sometime to see it.

            Vanderbilt married Edith Dresser in 1898 and they lived at Biltmore.  They only had one child, a daughter Cornelia, born in 1900.  We could only imagine how wonderful it would be to live in a house like that as a child, with lots of room to play.

            Cornelia married John Cecil in 1924 and they had two sons.  The family still owns the property.  William Cecil owns the house and takes care to preserve this home.  It was opened to the public for the first time in 1930. 

            After our tour of the house, we had a wonderful lunch at The Stables.  This restaurant is actually located in the stables next to the house.  

            We toured the wonderful gardens and conservatory of Biltmore.  The gardens are changed seasonally.  The conservatory has many exotic plants; this was a favorite pastime of the Victorian era.

            There is a winery and a farm area on the grounds, but we were tired and didn’t stop to tour these.

            Our next move was to Hiawassee, GA.  This little town is located in the mountains of North Georgia.  We checked into Bald Mountain Campground and got set up.  This park is several miles out of town and ringed by beautiful mountains.

            Our main reason for coming to this area was to visit Helen, GA.  Millie’s sister, Mary, lived in this area many years ago and had always told us about Helen.  Helen was a little mountain town in the 1960’s, that was falling on hard economic times.  In 1968 a group of businessmen decided to revitalize their town by turning it into an Alpine village. In 2002, $1.2 million was spent on more improvements. 

            We had a beautiful drive through forest and mountains to Helen.  We strolled the main street and checked out some of the shops.  The village is scenic, but for us, one visit is enough.  It did have a little of the flavor of Gatlinburg, TN many years ago. 

            We spied an ice cream shop that advertised the Moose Tracks flavor.  We fell in love with this ice cream when we were in New England and have not seen any since then.  We were disappointed to discover that the store was out of Moose Tracks, so we settle on another flavor and sat outside on a bench people watching and enjoying our ice cream.

    It began raining, so it was back to the truck to head home.


As always, you will find more photos in the gallery.  Next month, Labor Day in the Mountains; Nashville, TN; Winterset, IA; and Amana, IA. 



(Lots of new photos in the gallery, take a look.  We couldn't link to all of them.)