Dominick House with Coastal Expeditions

I was blessed to be able to spend this past weekend on a Dominick House Coastal Expeditions trip to Bull Island. The weather was fabulous, the company was fantastic. Everything came together to make memories, and spark my curiosity for learning more about a lot of completely different things. The trip truly allowed me to disconnect, and has recharged and re-energized me in a magical way.

There is a ferry to the island, so you can explore on your own. This experience takes the ferry trip to the thousandth degree. There’s never enough time when going over on the ferry. I am glad, though, that I’d been a couple of times, so there was some familiarization with the lay of the land.

The trip leaves from Garris Landing, one of my favorite happy places, because it always involves adventure. The Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge is indeed of International Importance.

At the House

Dominick House was built in the 1920s. It’s rustic, charming, filled with artifacts and books and all manner of interesting things. There is a shared living room and dining room, and all manner of sleeping quarters throughout. I shared a room with two other ladies, with a private bathroom in our suite.

Shared spaces, gathering, and communal meals helped everyone get to know each other, and really bond over the course of the trip. Them meals – were spectacular. Our hostess/guide/house mothers, Annie and Abbi, also fed us in style. First breakfast (for the sunrise crew), second breakfast (shout out to an amazing homemade sausage gravy with biscuits), dinners (our Saturday night dinner was an amazing Lowcountry Boil), and lunches appearing for us out on the beach was great. There is nothing like coming around the bend after a solid beach hike, to find chicken salad sandwiches on croissants, laid out on a white tablecloth in the wilderness.

On the Trails

One of the greatest things we were able to take advantage of was transport-assist. Everyone piling into an open trailer pulled by a truck, being able to go further, faster, and going places that are usually inaccessible. Transport-assistance rocks!

I’m only going to list some of the highlights of what we saw on the trails, multiply this times 100 to scratch the surface of everything encountered. The landscape is incredible, from forest to ponds to beaches.

Two once-in-a-lifetime sightings for me included creatures that couldn’t possibly be more different. I do not have any photos of the bobcat we saw from the truck, but I do have some paw prints in the sand. It was fluffy, brown, and quick!

The second sighting was – Jimmy! Hurricane Idalia displaced some birds rarely seen in South Carolina, and although most have moved back south, there is one American Flamingo still here – and we got to marvel over that bird on consecutive days. Read the story covered here, indicating Jimmy has been here at least a month. We kept a respectful distance and were able to view this pink, long-necked bird enjoying some delicious eats in Upper Summerhouse Pond.

Also on pond expeditions, we saw Red Drum (looking like crazy big wild goldfish), and Mullet, and got to see and touch an alligator skeleton in the brush.

We learned about plants along the trail, these were some of my favorites:
Fennel – pretty evergreen, smells lovely, crush it up to sooth bug bites.

Sumac – not the poison kind – the kind that has berries that taste lemony.
Sumac – More Than Just Lemonade

The Toothache Tree – aka Devil’s Walkingstick, Prickly Ash, Hercules Club, Angelica tree, Prickly elder, Pick Tree, Shotbush. We crushed the leaves and rubbed them on our gums for a distinctly nonvaccine sensation, hence the nickname.

American Alligators, and a Bald Eagle

We also saw a couple of Zebra Longwing butterflies. I have observed them at the Butterfly House at Brookgreen Gardens, but to see them in the wild was a treat.

On the Beach

Access to the incredible beaches of Bull Island was a big highlight, we spent a lot of time walking the coast. Boneyard Beach stretches for three miles on the north end of the island. We also visited a beach I’d never been to before, off Mills Road. Having these places all to ourselves was a real treat.

We viewed what was left of the bones of an 1800s shipwreck, laid bare due to the exceptionally low King Tides because of the Harvest Moon.

Several of the most special moments (among many!) of this trip took place on the beaches.

Sunrises on the beach were so special. I took the best photo of one of the best moments of the trip at the Boneyard, of a tree that just fascinated me. As the sun lined up in the branches, the tree came alive with squawking, noisy grackles, greeting the day, all bracing themselves into the wind.

Another sunrise moment, I have no picture of, but I will carry in my heart always happened at an informal session of Sunrise Yoga. I have never participated in a group yoga session. Being with these friends, at this place, at this moment – I had tears, no lie. Corny as it sounds, I wasn’t the only one so moved. I’ll never forget it.

I got to swim in the ocean, total immersion, with complete abandon and the joy of a child. I am not a strong swimmer, and have lingering memories of a near tragedy getting swept up in a riptide as a child. It is a rare opportunity to be able to get out there and swim in he waves, comfortable and safe. Although everyone claimed they were going to go in on Saturday, there were a lot of folks that balked, as the ocean can be a little chilly at first. On Sunday though, there were a dozen grown children splashing around, having an absolute ball.

On the Boat

We encountered dolphins several times on our excursions. Hearing their breaths, watching them feast and frolic can bring out a child’s joy in anyone.

Sunrises, sunsets, and moonrises

You can’t beat eating ice cream over warm brownies, on a boat, in the middle of a wildlife preserve, with friends.

The People

Housemates – What does it mean when people have a bond?

A bond between people is a “strong feeling of friendship, love, or shared beliefs and experiences that unites them”. 

Let’s be frank. I’m not a big fan of people in general. I prefer solo experiences to group ones, especially with a group of strangers. I got so lucky to be with the particular group on this tour. I got to meet a couple with sweet Italian accents, European perspectives, and adventurous spirits. I shared a nightcap and talked bourbon and future dreams of nomadic van life with another pair of explorers. My roommates are local, and we will go on more adventures together for sure. Three ladies provided me with a towel wall so I could change out of my wet beach clothes right there on the beach. One lady put me at ease with a jovial “don’t worry, I’m a lactation consultant, I’ve seen it all”.

I cannot say enough about my Coastal Expeditions family – and that’s what they are to me now, like it or not, family.

Annie, and Abbi – when you meet young adults who give you hope for the future, you know you are on to something special. These young ladies gave me hope for the future. Thoughtful, considerate, hard-working, joyful, environmentally-conscious stewards of the future. They are both going to be wildly successful at anything they put their minds to, and I look forward to adventuring with them again.

Chris – I’ve been on several short adventures with Captain Chris, including a couple of beach drops and Milky Way tours, but to be able to spend a whole weekend with such a knowledgeable, interesting, kind, and thoughtful mentor was spectacular. The knowledge and wisdom and anecdotes Chris shared with us is something you cannot put a price on, replicate, or get anywhere else. I have been given the gifts of curiosity and thirst to learn more, and the confidence to challenge myself, erase doubts, limitless. This is a person, who if you listen, and pay attention, and believe, can change your life for the better. I am forever transformed.

Product Pitches

As you might imagine, or might not be able to imagine how many, there are mosquitoes. Lots of mosquitoes. And black flies, that bite. I used a combination of two products that really met the challenge. First off, my hat, shoes, hiking pants, backpack, and a couple of overshirts were pre-treated with Sawyer Repellent for clothing and gear. I also had topical skin spray, non-aerosol, non-stinky, quick drying, 12-hour Z Zone Picardin insect repellent. The gear treatment repels and kills mosquitoes, ticks, and chiggers; the skin spray repels mosquitoes, flies, ticks, chiggers, no see-ums, and gnats. Several people wore head nets, I didn’t have any trouble with any bugs. Picardin rules over DDT.

Unfortunately there were also a lot of the creatures in nature I dread the most, for whom there is little defense – red ants. When they say wear closed toed shoes, listen.

Klymit V Seat, Lightweight Inflatable Travel Cushion – I got mine at Wal-Mart for $7, and it made the trailer rides much more comfortable.

I used this iphone app, the Sky Guide app, extensively. It continues to be one of my very favorite and useful free apps.

Thank you for making it all the way to the end of this lengthy post. I will be back to Bull Island soon, and I will be trying a new adventure – kayaking at Francis Marion National Forest. I had some trepidation, but this Bull Island trip has given me a confidence boost. I have no choice but to honor it.

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