Sunday, March 04, 2012

Bull Island Sunrise

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from the photography group I belong to which indicated there was a new post on the message board. The message said that there were a couple of openings on a sunset trip to Bull Island, S.C. I have been wanting to go to Bull Island for ages! The only bad part about this trip is that the boat leaves the dock at 5:30 a.m.! Ugh. Anyone that knows me knows I am NOT a morning person but I decided to sign up for the trip anyway because these sunrise trips aren't offered that often. Initially my friend Felicia was supposed to go with me but she bailed because she had to work that weekend so I called my friend Mark to take her place.

The night before the trip I couldn't sleep at all. I had to get up at 2:30 a.m. so I could leave by 3:30 a.m. in order to pick Mark up by 4 a.m. The trip to Awendaw from West Ashley is bout 45 minutes and we didn't want to risk being late. I guess the best thing about heading out at this God awful time of the morning is that there isn't much traffic so we made it in perfect time. When we pulled up to the gate there were a few cars parked in the grass so we did the same. After waiting for a few minutes I got out of the car to organize my things and out of the dark came a voice that said "Good morning!" I replied and he then said that when we were ready to head on down the dock to the boat.

Mark and I got our things together and started across the large parking lot toward the dock. This area is part of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge which is in the middle of nowhere so it's incredibly dark out there! We could barely see 5 feet in front of us! Mark started shuffling around in his bag and pulled something out. Next thing I know I had a bright light shining in my face. He was wearing a head lamp! What a nerd... however, that thing DID come in handy because we couldn't see a damn thing as we walked down that long, dark pier!

As we reached the end of the dock everyone quickly arrived. There were 10 of us in all and I couldn't tell what anyone looked like because it was so dark! This pier was really long and brought us to the middle of the waterway. There were no lights out there and we were surrounded by water. All of us were trying to peer down to where the boats were to figure out what we would be taking to the island. Pretty soon the guide Captain Chris from Coastal Expeditions came up the ramp and greeted us. After a head count we all headed down the ramp toward the water. What waited at the end of that ramp was a very large ferry... and a very small boat. We all stood there awkwardly for a moment, not knowing which way to go, until the Captain said "Oh! We're taking the small one!" Ummmm... alrighty.

This little boat was wobbling back and forth in the water. On top of that, it was low tide so we had to step extra low down into it in the complete darkness. There were two benches facing each other and it sat all 10 of us quite cozily. The Captain started the motor and we were off into the darkness of the Sewee Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway.

I have no idea how Captain Chris navigated to Bull Island with no lights. At one point we actually hit a sand bar. When that happened I had an inner panic attack and was praying that he could fix the situation. I was so relieved when he put it in reverse and the boat eased off of the bar and once again, we were on our way. Someone asked why he did these trips when it was low tide and Captain Chris stated that if we didn't leave during low tide then our destination, Boneyard Beach, would be under water at high tide when we arrived.

The weather was pretty chilly and I was really glad that I wore a hoodie. It was nice having something to cover my head to protect it from the ocean wind. The day before I went to the store and bought some of those hand warmers to stick in my pocket. Those really saved the day!

When we arrived at Bull Island you could tell that the sun was about to appear because the sky was getting lighter and lighter. From the boat we all piled into a van and Captain Chris drove us to the North side of the island which is where Boneyard Beach is. As we drove up the road, almost to our destination, we were stopped because there were a couple of vehicles left from road construction blocking the way. We had to back up about 100 feet on a very narrow road with drops on either side to turn around, all the while racing the sun. We took another way to the beach and finally arrived. We all grabbed our equipment, scrambled out of the van and hurried to the beach.

When you are racing the sun it's so challenging because the sky is constantly changing colors and becoming lighter and lighter. One side of the sky was bright, blue, orange and pink while the other side was absolutely dark grey. I was constantly changing my camera setting every time I turned around. Literally!

Lilianna, one of the girls that we met that day, said she felt like
she was in a living Dali painting. I must say, I totally agree!

As I walked the beach I found several sand dollars. When I picked a couple up they were so brittle that they crumbled in my hand. I did manage to bring
three home with me (and yes, I made sure they were not living!)

Mark took a nap while I walked the beach from end to end.

Those who stayed for the afternoon were given maps of the island.

After spending several hours on the beach we were given the choice to go back on the skiff, or stay all day and take the ferry back later in the day. Mark and I decided to go back to the mainland early and were joined by Lauren and Lilianna.

The ride back to Garris Landing was much more enjoyable than the ride to Bull Island! First of all, it was high tide and we didn't hit any sand bars! Second, we could see! Third, it was warmer that it was at 5:30 a.m.! We all chatted on the way back and Captain Chris was a wealth of knowledge about South Carolina wildlife, the waterways and the island.

When we finally docked and climbed out of the boat we were greeted by approximately 30 senior citizens who were waiting to get on the ferry. We made the long walk back to the car and all Mark and I could talk about was food! We started driving back to Charleston and then we had the idea that we should see if Lilianna and Lauren wanted to join us for breakfast so we headed back to ask them. They said that sounded like a fabulous idea and we all agreed to meet at IHOP in Mt. Pleasant.

I think we were all so tired, but the conversation was great. It's always nice to meet new people, especially those with an interest in photography! After eating we exchanged info and then headed our own ways. I had to drop Mark off in West Ashley and we joked about the fact that he would be undressed and in bed by the time I was out of the driveway. I was only half-joking because I know I was right!

As I headed down the Interstate all I could think about was a big fat nap and that's exactly what I did as soon as I got home! I got something to drink, let the dogs out and jumped into bed and I must say, that was one of the best naps I have ever taken!

It was well worth getting up at 2:30 a.m. to see the sunrise! I can't wait for Robin to come back to town so we can go back for a day trip. I'd love to bring a lunch, our bicycles and roam the islands dirt roads. Bull Island is truly a magical place!

1 comment:

JAH said...

This is why I love the natural beauty of SC.