Drawn Back to the Sea

The picture of Elissa below was taken a month ago while celebrating her twentieth birthday in Asheville, North Carolina. I don’t know if I’m more astonished that my little girl is twenty, or that a whole month has already gone by since then! As always, our time together was precious to me and went by far too quickly.

My baby turns twenty!

I’ve made a tradition of letting Elissa update my map of all the states I’ve been through each time she joins me on my journey. I usually get a bit of heckling about the ones I’ve missed, but I think even she was amazed that I’ve actually made it through 43 states since I left Texas 15 months ago, and many of those states two or three times!

Elissa continuing the tradition of adding recent states to my map

A day trip along the very popular Blue Ridge Parkway was top on my list of things I hoped to share with Elissa while we were there but it was closed in both directions, due to snow one way and an accident the other. Instead we took a trip to DuPont State Forest and hiked out to Triple Falls which is the background to scenes from the popular movie The Hunger Games. Sadly what autumn color might have remained was stripped from the trees on the fringes of Hurricane Sandy so we did not get to experience the area at it’s finest. I’m hoping to get back here in the spring!

Triple Falls in DuPont State Forest

While in Asheville we got to spend some time with clients who’ve become very dear friends. Steve and Lisa Jane Johnson flew out from Texas so that I could do their annual Christmas card portrait. I’ve been a part of this long standing tradition for many years, and since I’ve gotten to know some of their extended family I’m sworn to secrecy every year. The cards are aways beautiful and creative, and kept under wraps until they arrive in the mail. I would share, but Lisa Jane would then have to shoot me! 🙂

While in route to a second camp spot in South Carolina Elissa and I were amazed at how much more color we found on the trees as we traveled south on the highway. With little change to the climate and type of foliage I can’t comprehend the difference, but it drew us out for a walk in the woods once we were settled in our campsite.

I’ve mentioned before that the only significant hardship on my journey is being away from Elissa. We’ve managed to find some time together during all of her breaks from school, and I have to admit I always anticipate her arrival like a child anxiously waits for Christmas. Each time I see her at the airport I am overwhelmed with emotion… my miracle, my precious baby, my spirited and headstrong child… grown into a beautiful, vivacious, loyal and loving young woman. How is this transformation possible in the blink of an eye?

After a precious few days with her I’m filled with even more emotion when I have to say goodbye and put her on a plane back home to Texas. And then comes the hard part. The quite after the joy. It’s hard to shake off the sadness when Elissa has gone home. My best remedy is immersing myself in a beautiful place… hiking through a thick green forest, kayaking a beautiful waterway, or strolling up a beach to the sound of the crashing waves. Much to my dismay I spent the next ten days camped in barren forests under dark gray skies and pouring rain. Talk about a funk!

Thank goodness I had my very dear friends Eddie Tapp and Judy Host to visit in Atlanta. I hovered north of the city waiting for both of them to return home from individual business trips, but as soon as they were back I was on their doorstep and ready for some healing time with two of the most loving and sincere people I know.

While in the Atlanta area I also soaked up some time with a another friend, Rainy Chastine, and her family. As with many of the friends I’ve visited along my journey, these three are all fellow photographers. Professional photographers I should say… old school. (As in we’ve all been around for a good long while!) I don’t know how to adequately describe the bond shared amongst our peers, at least not in brief, but I will say it’s really quite remarkable.

Interestingly, time with these friends gave me a good excuse to take a bit of a sabbatical… from driving, from shooting and from blogging. For more than a week I enjoyed “normal stuff”. Normal as in not nomadic. I cooked in a real kitchen with Judy. Got a pedicure. Went to the mall. Celebrated Thanksgiving with Rainy’s family and friends. Cemented a friendship with her adorable nine year old daughter, Summer. Got hooked on The Voice with Eddie and Judy. Celebrated Eddie’s birthday with several of their friends. Lots of conversation. Lots of smiles. Lots of laughter. All good, and all healing. Thank you, my friends, for being there with open arms.

After several days of recharging off the road I finally aimed “The Beast” toward the shores of South Carolina. Roughly six hours later I pulled into Edisto Beach State Park and settled into a campsite a short stroll from the surf.

I’ve been asked a lot of questions during this journey… “How long will you go?” “Aren’t you scared traveling alone?” And one of my favorites… “You DRIVE that big thing???” …but one of the most significant is “What have you learned about yourself since you’ve been on the road?” One thing I’ve understood about myself for a long time is that I NEED nature. This subject alone is worthy of a blog post all it’s own, and will probably lead into a book I’m planning on writing, but there is no doubt that I feel less alive while confined indoors, or surrounded by a city. For me, nature and nurture go hand in hand. Deep down I’ve always known this about myself, but the necessity has come to the surface while on this journey. Whether high in the mountains, deep in the forest or strolling along a shore… there’s no doubt that my soul needs nature like my body needs the air that I breath.

The moment I stepped on this beach it was like a gentle wave of peacefulness washed over me, and I thought to myself, “I am home.”

Sunset at Edisto Beach State Park

The two days I planned on spending at Edisto Beach turned into four, and I was quite tempted to stay longer, but had plans to meet friends in Florida and had a few days of traveling in between.

I don’t do a whole lot of dining out, but after a long day on the road AND a long walk on the beach I needed a meal far more than I wanted to cook, so at the recommendation of one of the park staff I ventured out to the Waterfront Restaurant. The food was good, the staff was friendly, they had free WiFi, AND the owner told me about a great place to kayak where I’d likely see dolphin!

That night the sound of the surf lulled me into a restful slumber, and before daybreak it drew me back out to the beach.

Pelicans glide above the waves at sunrise

Late that afternoon I made my way to the southern end of Edisto Island with my kayak, where I did indeed find dolphin. 🙂

Kayaking with dolphin along the shores of Edisto Island

I forgot to mention that I learned of Edisto Beach from my friends and fellow travelers, David and Beth. David also suggested I check out Botany Bay Plantation, just down the road. This is a Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Management Area with a swampy creek on one side and the Atlantic Ocean and beach on the other… with a whole lot of trees, a small lake, and a few interesting tidbits of history in between. I enjoyed taking the self guided driving tour at a leisurely pace, stopping along the way to photograph the scenery.

Tunnel of oaks through Botany Bay Plantation

First alligator sighting since returning south, at Botany Bay Plantation

Bleak Hall Plantation icehouse

At the recommendation of one of the park rangers I also enjoyed hiking Scott Creek Trail right there in the state park.

Great Egret

Regardless of my plans for the day, I was drawn to the beach for sunrise every morning. I know Jazzy and Sadie enjoy walking along the shore every bit as much as I do, but they’re also good at indulging me… sitting patiently while I stop to photograph the waves and dolphin and pelicans along the way.

Dolphin pair at sunrise

Brown Pelican

Jazzy and Sadie happy to be back on the beach!

I was camped about forty miles south of Charleston, and since I’d never been there I spent  one afternoon hiking throughout the historic part of town. I know I didn’t come close to seeing all there is to see, and will make a point of coming back one day to discover it in more depth. In all honesty, it’s one of those places I know I’d enjoy more if I had someone to share it with, so hopefully I’ll come back with a friend.

Battery Park

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge

Upon my return from Charleston I discover that a Pilot Whale had beached itself just a short distance from the campground, and sadly couldn’t be saved. I know it’s often illness or age that causes a whale to do this, but I had no way of knowing the reason when I left the following day. I just did a google search to see if any answers had been posted, and discovered this was one of at least three Pilot Whales that died along this part of the coast in a matter of days. No confirmed reason yet, but it’s suspected that intestinal parasites may be the cause in at least one of the whales.

Edisto Beach State Park… home for a few days… was another one of those places I had a hard time leaving, and did so knowing that I would return. When I do, it will be to this same campground. It was recommended to me, and I can easily endorse that recommendation. The beach is marvelous, the surrounding area enchanting, and the staff was helpful and friendly.

0 thoughts on “Drawn Back to the Sea

  1. Love, love, love….the beautiful pictures of Elissa, the water, the vast array of critters, the surreal sky, the words you choose to bring us along with you. Fran, you never disappoint. Love and miss you. K xxxooo

    • Glad you loved, loved, loved it Kathleen! I’m back in your old stompin’ grounds… Florida. You KNOW I’ll have good tales from here!!! 🙂 Much love to you and the Kelly Clan! (That always includes the critters!! :-))

  2. Fran, you have every right to be so proud of your beautiful daughter. I know how milestones in their lives can make us reflect on our own. My youngest just got his drivers license. When did I get old enough for him to drive? Glad you got to spend time with friends to get over your funk. Beautiful photos as always! Hope you get to swim with the manatees in Florida!

    PS. Keeping my nose to the grindstone…a town a week!

    • Thanks Laura. I’m camped along a river where the Manatee play, so I’m very likely to see them, and will of course slip into the water and swim with them when I do.

      Glad to know you’re still at it. Send me a PM and let me know how the family is doing!

  3. What a good parent you must be. It is great that your daughter was able to join you for awhile. Remarkable people and a very remarkable journey.

    • All I can say to that John, is I try my very best to be a good parent. It’s without a doubt the hardest job I’ve ever taken on, and I know I’ve been far from perfect, but considering what a wonderful young woman we raised I guess we did ok. I certainly can’t take all the parenting credit. She has a great Dad too.

      The journey continues to be remarkable, and the people I surround myself with are remarkable as well. I count you amongst those people, just so you know. 🙂

  4. As usual, your story and pictures are amazing; it always a huge excitement for me when I open mail and see you have an update!

    Elissa is BEAUTIFUL, I know you are one proud mom!!! We got our Christmas card from Steve and LJ yesterday, and I wondered where the picture was taken. Now it is WAY more special, knowing they met you to have it made.

    Merry Christmas from Texas!

    • Awwww… thanks Susan! It’s always good to know the stories and images are being enjoyed out there. This journey would definitely not be the same if I couldn’t share it in some way. As mentioned in the post, I’m hoping it will evolve into a book, but having this medium available… although sometimes a burden… makes a difference. I’ve pondered many times how capturing all this beauty and having no one to share it with would be a bit like the tree falling in the forest when no one is there to hear it.

      Wishing you many blessings this Holiday Season!!!

  5. Hey Ms. Fran! We miss you in Texas! The pics of E are gorgeous and so glad you were able to spend some time together. I can only imagine how your heart breaks when it’s time for her to go home. She’s growing into a beautiful, strong and amazing lady and I know you are so proud! Looking forward to joining you on the road at some point maybe in early Spring. We are just starting to talk about wedding dates and locations (yes I’m smiling). Your images are beautiful and your stories about your adventures warm my heart because I know you are right where you need to be, although we would love for you to be here. Merry Christmas from Texas and big hugs from your BF 🙂

    • Thanks so much Brandi. I miss Elissa and I miss my good friends, but I’m so happy to be out here enjoying life so fully! I hope you are able to catch up with me on my journey! Keep me posted on your plans! Merry Christmas to you and David!!

  6. We love seeing the world of God’s beauty through your remarkable talented eyes. You bless us with your lovely pictures.
    Steve and I enjoyed sharing Elissa’s 20th birthday with y’all. See uou again soon.
    Love and Hugs!

    • Thanks Lisa Jane. It was a treat for us to see you and Steve in Asheville! I know she enjoyed spending the day with you two! We’ll be sure to spend some time with you when I make my way back through Texas, but you know my girl is close to you and would enjoy visiting in the mean time. My best wishes to you and all your family this Christmas and in the New Year!

    • Thanks Eddie! And thanks for sharing all the comforts of home with this vagabond for a few days. It’s always a treat to spend time with you and Judy.

  7. Pingback: Back to the Carolina’s | Journey in Focus

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