Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Elms Plantation Ruins

Robin and I decided to brave the cold weather today to find The Elms Plantation Ruins. Our initial plan for the day was to go to the Folly Beach Christmas Parade but we slept in and Robin had a bit of a headache so we hung out in our pajamas for most of the morning.

Once we we were dressed we headed out to the general vicinity of the ruins. Robin had to run an errand so she met me at the location. I drove by the Elms Plantation neighborhood, which is a gated community, and noticed that the gate was open. There was no "no trespassing" sign so I decided to drive back there to see if I could find the location that I pinpointed on Google Earth. I was warned in a prior conversation by Mayor Heitzler not to park in that neighborhood because it is a private community, but you know... I know best, right?? Ha! Wait until the end of my story!

While waiting for Robin I put together a small cache to place near the ruins. When she arrived we walked toward the woods and into an opening. There was a trail but we had no idea where the ruins were, so we just wandered aimlessly for about an hour - mostly off trail. The woods were thankfully not very dense and we could walk openly without a constant battle with limbs and vines attacking us. It was very quiet and peaceful and some of the oaks were amazing! It was pretty cold out so we knew we didn't have to be on constant lookout for our slithery little friends.

We spread out a bit so we could cover more space and eventually lost sight of each other. I tried yelling for Robin, but it was obvious that she could not hear me. I walked to the path and stood there for a while hoping that she would eventually come my way. No luck. I sent her a text message asking where she was and didn't think I would get a response because she never brings her cell phone anywhere. I was thinking we should have brought the 2-way radio's with us!! Miraculously, my phone started ringing - it was Robin - she actually, for once, brought her phone with her! I told her where I was and waited for her. After waiting and waiting still no Robin. Hmmmm... I called her again. I was pretty irritated because I had been waiting for a while and I was really cold. Also, who knows what was lurking in those woods. Sasquatch could be lurking around the corner!

I called Robin again. She thought that I was headed over there. What?! Ugh!! No..... I told her that I didn't think that she ruins were over there. Why would the Mayor tell us to go in on the neighborhood side of the woods and not the University side? I told her that we were losing daylight and that I was going to continue walking. Luckily she found me within minutes. I didn't want to wander anymore so I used my usual "phone-a-friend" option and called Mayor Heitzler. He told me that he had been there a couple of days ago and gave me some landmarks, all of which I had seen. We chatted for a couple of minutes and I happened to look to my left and said to Robin "What is that?"

To my left were all these large mounds and bricks strewn everywhere. When I saw the fallen column of the plantation house I knew we found it! I felt kind of dumb when I told the Mayor that the whole time I was talking to him, I was standing next to it. Oopsie! He told me to have fun on our adventure and we hung up.

The first thing I did was place the cache. I chose this really cool spot under these trees that were all intertwined and twisted together.

Sadly, there wasn't really much left of the ruins. The only thing standing was a portion of a column of the house.

Most of what was left was just brick after moss covered brick.

The ground was covered with leaves so we really couldn't tell what was underneath them all. All I could think about was that I'll have to come back during the Summer when it's easier to see the ground. Hopefully the moss will have gone away by then, also.

I found this document on the Historic American Buildings Survey search on the Library of Congress website.

I really wish that there were surviving images of the plantation house and gardens, but being that the house was so old and lay in ruins after the 1886 earthquake I think we are pretty lucky that even an artists rendering survives.

This drawing is what I had in mind as I walked over all of those moss covered bricks. I always have to remind myself to take a moment to be still and imagine what stood where I was standing 100 years, even 200 years ago - the daily, bustling activity of a working plantation, the rice and corn fields, the sunken gardens, the avenue of oaks... what happened to the furniture that was in the house? Is it in some of the old, historical homes of Charleston? My mind races like crazy when I visit these historic places!

After taking many photos we decided to head out of the woods and found we were surprisingly close to the neighborhood. While walking up the street we heard someone call out to us. Robin yelled "Yes" - I then realized that the woman asked if "those cars" belonged to us. I just kept on walking because I really didn't care what the woman was saying. The woman kept yelling out to us. She asked if she could help us. Both Robin and I answered "No" and I added that we were leaving. She kept yelling out to us. She wanted to know who we were and what we were doing in her neighborhood. At that point I really wish I had listened to the Mayor when he said not to park in the The Elms!

We kept on walking and we were almost to the car and the woman was following us with her yelping little dog. I knew that she was going to be relentless so we stood and waited for her. I was incredibly irritated by her persistence. It was pretty absurd.

As she approached I said "Can we help you?" and she asked if we were visiting someone and we told her no. I told her again we were leaving and she told us that we weren't supposed to be in her neighborhood. I said there was no "no trespassing" sign at the gate and she said there was. Then she said "there is a gate!" and I said "then you should close it if you don't want people coming into your neighborhood!" She said they were going to call the police... I told her that she should have.

I really didn't care what this lady said. To me, she was just the neighborhood busy body wanting to know who we were and what we were up to. I turned around and walked to my car and Robin told her (I think) that we were visiting the ruins. I heard the lady say "Oh, well then you must understand..." Um, what? This just added fuel to my fire. I got in my car and left. When I was leaving the neighborhood I double-checked for a "no trespassing" sign and surely, there wasn't one. The only thing I saw was a sign that says the property was under police jurisdiction - the same kind you see in a grocery store parking lot.

As I left I drove to over to the University to see where the entrance was to the woods for caching purposes. When I arrived at the entrance of the woods I saw a "no trespassing" sign on the gate. Ugh. I was parked half on the street and half on the grass. I just sat there in my Jeep pondering what to do with my cache. How were people supposed to retrieve it if they can't go down the path due to the stupid "no trespassing" sign?

I was a bit overwhelmed by being accosted by The Elms neighborhood Nazi and then seeing the "no trespassing" sign that I just sat there and decided to check my email on my phone. I wasn't there for more than 5 minutes when two university security guards approached me.

I opened my window and one of them said "Yes?" and I said "Yes, what?" - Okay - yes, I had a bit of an attitude... I was having a bad day! He said "Well, you are parked on the grass back here and it looks like you are hiding and up to something" - really?? Hiding and up to something?? Wow!

I held up my phone and said "I'm checking my email and just taking a moment before moving on" and he said "Well, you are parked in the grass and you aren't allowed to park in the grass" and I (after looking around for a second) said "there are no signs" and he asked if I was a student there. I said no. He said that the "no parking on the grass policy" is printed in all the student handbooks. I, again, reminded him that I wasn't a student and said no problem... I would move. I drove down the road and decided to go back and ask them some questions regarding the property.

When I pulled up to them one of the guys came over to my passenger side, which didn't feel comfortable with at all. Luckily I have automatic locking doors. Creepy. I proceeded to ask the the one I was talking to before who owned the property where the woods are. He said he didn't know. I said "aren't you campus security?" and he said "yes" - he said they just watch the path that leads to the neighborhood and didn't know how far back the university property line is. The only thing I really found out from these two jokers is that they were security guards who patrolled the university, but had no idea where the university boundaries were. I asked them how they decided where their jurisdiction was if they didn't know what was university property and what wasn't. They couldn't answer that.

So... looks like I need to go back to pick up my cache because it will be WAY too much of a pain in the butt to get this thing approved and deal with the trespassing issues over and over again. How am I going to retrieve it if the Neighborhood Nazi and the CSU Nazi's are patrolling the area?

I swear these things only happen to me!!

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