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Life's A Beach
Published Monday, February 09, 2009 12:00 PM
By Paul Zoeller
Summerville Journal Scene
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Always look on the bright side of life... hum along with me if you recognize that Monty Python tune. Silly movie, but a poignant statement about our attitudes when we are presented with less than desirable situations.

For example, this weekend I went camping and could have focused on the fact that I slept in a tent in freezing temperatures or I could remember the beautiful sunrise that greeted me every morning. I could complain about the sand covering almost everything I touched or be happy I didn't have to drive back and forth to the beach and pay for an expensive hotel.

Also, I could have been upset about the raccoons and squirrels that kept coming after my food but... you know what, I was not only annoyed but totally freaked out by these little pests. They had no fear and were freakishly strong. I watched as the raccoons lifted the lid on an ice chest even after I sat a heavy log on it. As I ate, squirrels dove from trees above to get the food sitting next to me at the table. They truly put the wild in wildlife.

The sun rises on the beaches at Hunting Island State Park near Beaufort.

Crazy woodlands creatures aside, everything has a bright side. What is my point? South Carolina Parks is celebrating its 75th Anniversary.

Back during the Great Depression Franklin D. Roosevelt implemented the New Deal Program to provide people with work. One such program, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was responsible for developing many of South Carolina's state parks.

The Hunting Beach Lighthouse is the last publicly accessible lighthouse in South Carolina.

Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina's most popular park, was developed through the CCC program. The 3,000 acre park is a barrier island near Beaufort with beaches, marshes and lagoon. The park is also home to the last publicly accessible lighthouse in South Carolina.

The island lighthouse, first built in 1859, was destroyed during the Civil War. After picking a new site due to erosion, the lighthouse was rebuilt and finally decommissioned in 1933. While the state parks are celebrating 75 years, the lighthouse will be enjoying its 150th anniversary this year.

Only 175 steps to the top of the lighthouse.

The lighthouse sits right off the beach and is surrounded by many of the original buildings used during its operation. The climb to the top is worth the trouble to get a view of the beaches and marshes along the island.

After climbing 175 stairs, a great view of the beaches greets you at the top.

The lighthouse was about a mile up the beach from the campsite, but was inaccessible while the tide was up. During that time, the beach was basically empty except for a few morning walkers. As soon as the tide rolled out, it exposed about 50 yards of extra sand and a path to the lighthouse.

As soon as the tide was out, everyone rushed to the beach. The sand was perfect for bike rides since it was compact and wet.

When the tide rolls out everyone takes to the beaches for a ride.

Many visit the park this time of year to escape the harsh temperatures up north. I met one couple who were retired and living at the campsite. They work part time for the park and spend the rest of their days soaking up the sun and scenery.

Many northerners travel south to the island for the winter because they can't relax outside like this in the snow.

The park is also a popular destination for equestrian riders. The beach is open to horseback riding December through February and throughout the day a group of riders could be seen galloping by. Those who were not as fortunate, stopped to watch and take pictures as the horses ran through the water and across the beach.

The low tides expose many dead tree limbs perfect for exploring or jumping.

The park also offered trails through the forest and around a lagoon and marshes. The trails are perfect for biking as well. Cooler temperature meant no bugs as I navigated the marshes and forest.

While bike riding through a site designated for cabins, I met one gentleman who had recently had to tear down his cabin due to erosion. Because the park is a barrier island, the north side of the beach is disappearing at the rate of about 10 feet a year, he said. Since the cabins are placed at the north end of the island, many are concerned about the erosion and have a website dedicated to the preservation of the island.

A boardwalk leads visitors through the marsh.

The only thing bothering me at camp were a few rodents mentioned earlier. The first night I could see them from my tent actually lifting a lid on the cooler even with a 20 lb. log placed on it. A bag of chips was all it took for them to try and get into my tent. These raccoons were looking rather big so life must be good at the park. The next day the squirrels kept me on my feet as well. A fellow camper passing by said they put everything in a car because nothing else will prevent the animals from getting to the food.

Didn't get to see much wildlife but was visited often by squirrels and raccoons after my food.

The campsite is right on the beach and lines of campers sit among the pine trees. Moon light strolls, falling asleep to the sounds of waves and every so often the faint scream of raccoons as they fight for food. Beautiful.

A Volkswagen RV along the beach.

As I said, always look on the bright side of life. Had the Great Depression not happened, we might not have all the state parks in South Carolina. And if there were no parks, the raccoons and squirrels would not be so plump from camp food. Like I said, there is good in everything.

Just remember...Life's a Beach.

Paul Zoeller is a freelance photographer new to the area. Do you have an idea for a new blog or a question about a current blog? If you do contact Zoeller at

Comments (10)

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Saturday, February 14, 2009 1:34 PM

Great shots of the island. Been there many, many times. Can never get enough of that place. Loved the staircase photograph. Climbed it many times. Next time explore the bike path in the forest. Unforgettable.

Posted by:
Thursday, February 12, 2009 4:39 AM

Each photo is very unique. I like how you see people on horses then see people on bikes. The light house staircase is an interesting shot, with the light and shadowed angles. Very beautiful photography.

Posted by:
I want to visit this beach!
Wednesday, February 11, 2009 8:43 PM

I loved this piece. The sunrise, the horses, the lighthouse -- it is all wonderful! Thanks for sharing it with us folks inland and so far away from the sand, the surf and the fresh sea air.

Posted by: Joanne
What a Beautiful and Quiet Retreat
Wednesday, February 11, 2009 4:13 PM

Nice pictures with beautiful surrounding sceneries. Wish that we can visit this camp someday!

Posted by: hn46
Camping on the beach
Wednesday, February 11, 2009 2:17 PM

I bet this camp site is very popular in the summer time. I don't know of many beaches that let you ride horses on it. The sun rise photograph is awesome. Isn't that little Joshua standing there?

Posted by: Co Hoa
Wednesday, February 11, 2009 12:18 AM

That is so awesome. I have always wanted to ride horses on the beach.

Posted by:
Wednesday, February 11, 2009 12:15 AM

Very cool! I always wanted to go to Hunting Park, but it was difficult to book a camp site. It is so beautiful in that area.

Posted by:
the beach
Tuesday, February 10, 2009 6:05 PM

enjoyed your article re: Huntington Beach while searching for another article.....I think I would like to visit there for the day (I'm not a camper)

Posted by: Mary
Hunting Beach
Tuesday, February 10, 2009 12:21 AM

As always, your blogs make me want to visit. Maybe soon............

Posted by: Betty
Life is a Beach
Monday, February 09, 2009 11:46 PM

We loved your pictures and story about Hunting Island. Sounds like a great "getaway". Where to next?

Posted by:

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