Continuing north on US 17 from Awendaw, we move through the Francis Marion National Forest. There is a campground named Buck Hall that is open to the intra-coastal waterway with good views across Bull Bay toward Bull Island.
There is a pier and ample boat ramp, and it does not seem to be too crowded. We are coming up on July 4th weekend, and there were plenty of empty campsites.
The fishing is good - here is a small sand shark.
But just a couple of miles further up the street is something real interesting called the Sewee Shell Ring.
Following the signs will bring you to a small parking lot from which a trail runs about a mile through the forest out to the marsh.
It is hard to get a good perspective from the ground, but this shell ring is a couple of hundred feet across with flat land in the middle. This is the northern-most shell ring along the Atlantic. They are numerous further south, running well into Florida. Dating methods place the rings at over 4,000 years old, making them the most ancient architectural structures in North America.
A view from across the marsh shows how it jutted out into the tidal estuary. Bear in mind that over 4,000 years this has taken numerous direct hits from hurricanes and the land around it has been reduced to ashes in many forest fires. Even with all that, the walls of the ring still stand a good three feet high.
What they were used for still remains a mystery, but they certainly were substantial structures in their day. And it seems to me it would have taken numerous generations to collect this many oyster shells - even with today's motorized boats, they are not that easy to get. (Click here for oystering on the Broad River.)
Nearby is a large mount of clam shells, and a sign explains how much more recent this culture was. If you would like a nice quiet walk through coastal forest that opens on a walkway through tidal marsh, it is a good spot to stop. I didn't see a soul on my visit.
A few miles further up the road, we come to the Santee Rivers. Yes - there are two, separated by about a mile and a half of a silty delta.
As the sign explains, this is the largest delta on the eastern shore of North America.
The delta that lies in between the river is incredibly rich soil, but it has one big problem. Bugs. There was an old letter in one of the museums from a couple of hundred years ago that referred to the delta. It said that a man who had to spend a summer night on the delta had been given a death sentence.
I drove out a dirt road a bit to try to take photos, and no sooner did I get out of the van than I had an assortment of at least 30 horse flies, deer flies, mosquitoes, sand gnats and who knows what other types of bug trying desperately to rid me of my blood. I promptly got back in the van and decided that I didn't need a photo that bad.
On the north shore of the North Santee River lies Hopsewee Plantation. This property was developed by the Lynch family in the 1730's to grow indigo, an important dye in that time period. When you arrive at the house you actually approach the rear - back in those days there weren't dirt roads; the avenues of transport were the rivers.
Thus, the front of the house faces the river.
The home is fairly well furnished with period furnishings, but since it is owned by a private family, many of the items are from eras clear up to recent.
Outside are a few of the old slave quarters, whose insides are appointed with many of the implements used by the workers back in those days.
The bugs here were not as bad as out on the delta, but if I had not been on the delta I would still say they were the worst I have seen. When you get out of your car you immediately see hanging baskets full of bug repellent, which doesn't seem to do much more than just slow them down a bit.
One of the things I will always stop to photograph is old gas stations. I am not sure why I have the fascination, but it seems to me that they will soon be a thing of the past. A real rarity is to find one of them that is actually still in use - the last one I saw was well into Georgia. But just north of Hopsewee there is one that is still going.
Welcome to Carolina Country Store. A look at the property is telling. First, you have an owner named "Bud" who had Fox News blasting and some boxes of ammunition lying about.
There was the pot-bellied stove...
..and a few old cash registers.
Right outside is "Chicken City" - a large chicken coop with a miniature town built inside.
The buildings, which also serve as housing for the chickens, include a bank, a bordello, a church and a saloon.
Just out back were the obligatory rusting antique vehicles sitting on cement blocks, complete with a rooster defending them from intruders. I couldn't make this up if I tried.
Today's parting shot is another piece of yard-art along this stretch of road. This fellow is made of fiberglass, but it sure looked like it was old steel from the road.
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