Journal Entry 12.29.2015 – There and Back Again

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Journal Entry 12.29.2015 – There and Back Again

I got home yesterday from my trip to South Carolina and just heard the 06:00 Alaskan Airlines flight taking off, again, from our local airport here in Walla Walla. Aside from long lines and some wait time at Sea-Tac (Seattle International Airport) I didn’t have any issues with my holiday flying. One develops patience when traveling… or doesn’t and has a miserable time.

I found sitting and walking around airports an opportunity to people watch, something that isn’t quite as entertaining at home in a smallish town. There were folks from every corner of the world, well, except maybe Siberia and the outer reaches of the Sahara Desert.

It’s good to be “home” even though I’m not certain just how long I will be calling this place home. I was happy to be reunited with my furry companions, Lilly and Ivory. Warm kitty greetings and loud meows and squeaks greeted me after the cats realized that I was, indeed, home again.

The weather in Georgia and South Carolina was a bit odd, abnormal for this time of year, but where is the weather acting “normal” these days, what with geoengineering and the impact of changes within our own solar system. On the island, we had days of heavy fog and on the mainland, there was quite a bit of rain and even some intense local flooding due to strong thunderstorms moving through, especially near Atlanta.

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I did get one day where the fog lifted a bit so we could take a long walk on one of the “local” beaches not inhabited by hordes of tourists. It was interesting to see remnants of damage from the recent hurricane from October. There were the bare root skeletons of trees ripped out of the marsh and piles of wind-swept debris piled high on the edge of the remaining salt marsh. Some of the beach sands had been stripped away by wind and water, leaving a rippled mud surface which was “fun” to walk across barefoot, sticky, and gooey. I didn’t wear shoes all week, living in flipflops and at times, barefoot.

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Hilton Head Island, where I was staying with a friend, is very touristy and very wealthy. It is also a land of contrasts, with the local Gullah population living primarily in simple trailer homes or one story ranches in modest neighborhoods, mostly off the main roads. The Gullahs are descendants of African slaves who have lived in the barrier islands for probably a couple of hundred years. They are a colorful and proud people.

Land use issues are present on the island, as well as elsewhere on the islands. Three and four story houses crammed onto narrow lots are popular with contractors seeking to maximize their profit. There are several gated “plantations” on the island, where the wealthy can ride around in golf carts, play golf and tennis, visit their beach / community centers and generally ignore the rest of humanity. Few are the truly wild beaches remaining, but those are quite striking, as the area especially near Port Royal Sound is protected aviary and fly-way for birds traveling north and south through the year.

My friend’s cottage is a modest and cozy beach home on the second line within walking distance of one of the local beaches. If you are fond of outdoor activities, Hilton Head makes a great place to live or visit, as there are hundreds of miles of walking / biking trails on the island, tennis courts (public and private), beaches and numerous golf courses. You can sail, kayak or motor the numerous waterways and play with dolphins just beyond the surf in the cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean. And yes, I saw one of the local alligators, denizens of the many lagoons and ponds found on the island. It is wise, if visiting with your dog, to keep the animal under leash control as the gators are fond of snacks.

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The island is very pretty, when visible. We did take a short tour of the highlights, along scenic avenues lined with tall oaks dripping with Spanish moss, as well as round-headed pine trees and other shrubberies. It is a pretty place, but do be prepared for traffic if sticking to the main roads. The locals and those in the know drive on the back streets as much as possible to avoid the traffic knots. Thousands of tourists visit Hilton Head every year and if living there, you adjust accordingly.

We didn’t really sight-see a lot off island, but since I arrived and departed from the Atlanta International Airport, some 4.5 hours away, I was given a road tour of some of the towns, roads and countryside surrounding Atlanta and reaching down to Hilton Head, which sits near the border of South Carolina and that of Georgia. The Savannah River, a broad, muddy river is the state line, at least near the coast. In this dampish season, all the rivers and streams were muddy and filled to banks and beyond, especially on the trip on Sunday. The Atlanta area had been hard hit by an intense storm which left much local flooding.

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I’ve now traveled three times clear across the nation within seven months, more traveling than I have done in the previous ten years. On the flight back, there were a lot of clouds, but it did appear the Mid-West was rather snowy. The Rockies were mostly buried in billows of clouds. As we entered Washington, I could see the volcanoes poking out through the thick layers of cloud, gleaming white in the bright sun. And just as we popped down between layers of cloud while landing at Sea-Tac, I saw the entire front range of the Olympics etched out clearly on the Western horizon, gleaming white from fresh snow. While it isn’t home any longer, the Puget Sound area is stunningly beautiful at times.

Light snow greeted our arrival in Walla Walla as we popped down through more cloud layers, skimming the wheat fields to the north of town. I gathered up my checked luggage and cleaned a thin layer of snow and ice off the car which had been sitting in the free long-term parking of our local airport. The roads were still good and didn’t present a problem for me to get home. I was grateful to be in one piece, to see my cats and little house… and to go to bed after a very long, long trip.

The rest of the week, I hope to be writing a few pieces and enjoying a winter break. Enjoy your New Year’s Eve festivities. I plan to be home, enjoying a low-key day, maybe venturing out for a walk or two in the crisp 25 degree F weather.

Holiday blessings to all,

Eliza

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