We were going to camp for four days at Hunting Island State Park.
Heaven only knows where my tent was. I didn’t.
Hopefully, someone had kept track of it since my last outing before the COVID at Fort McAllister.
“Don’t worry about it,” they said. “We’ll set up a tent for you,” they said.
So, I did what any sensible woman would do. I went over to Dick’s Sporting Goods and brought home one of those festival tents like the ones lining Calhoun Street during May Festival.
No matter what, rain or hail, mosquitoes or sand gnats, I could add screen sides to this impromptu oceanfront villa plus a cot, sleeping bag, my favorite pillow, and ta-dah, I had a backup plan.
The children thought this hilarious, totally ignored it and proceeded to put up a Coleman umbrella tent for me and daughter Anne Elizabeth.
Oops. The rainfly was missing. Possible thunderstorms was the weather report. Cumulus clouds cluttered the sky. So, once again, I did what any sensible woman would do; I slung a spare tarp over the tent. It hung way down the sides and might look like a refuge for the homeless, but we wouldn’t wake up in the middle of the night with water drip, drip, dripping.
Never rained. Not the first drop.
For years, we had our favorite camping spot, smack dab on the edge of the beach, nothing between the ocean and us except palmetto, pines, and a shoulder-high sand dune.
It was gone. Washed away by hurricane winds and extraordinary tides.
Now, there are 14 new tent sites along the beach, basically the same sizes as before, farther inland, no water, no electricity, classed as primitive.
We had three adjacent sites, one with a picnic table and screened tent designated the food tent.
Not that any food was ever left there without a living body to protect it. At Hunting Island, raccoons rule. Anything edible is put into chests and locked in the car before bedtime. Don’t even think about taking a candy bar to your tent.
Raccoons are clever and determined, able to unscrew a jar with no difficulty. If a tent zipper is a problem, they simply rip it out.
Lying on my cot, I could hear them rooting around in the night, and thought, “Hah, you are wasting your time.”
If there was one common denominator amongst our Hunting Island campers, it was dogs. All kinds of dogs. Many dogs.
Tamela and Nick had brought along Thunder, a Black and Tan, a coonhound mix. He’s a congenial dog, used to run free, but resigned to the camp’s leash laws.
Cody and Rachel, both medical students from up near Atlanta, set up their tent next to us with their dog Cookie. Thunder was beside himself with wiggles of happy. Cookie completely different.
When they left, Lyndsay, a student of marine biology, and Alex, a master stonemason from Auburn, moved in with Sonny and Indi, who weren’t the least bit interested in another dog. Even an exemplary one like Thunder.
It was lovely when Laura came all the way from Beaufort to visit with her dog Sylvie, who to Thunder’s delight could hardly wait to play on the beach.
Taylor and Sarah’s Freya is a laundry list of breeds, medium-sized, extra fluffy tail, she was named after a goddess and pays attention to commands only when it suits her. “Lie down,” Sarah said and pointed her finger to the ground. Freya stood still and looked straight ahead. “Freya, lie down,” Sarah said in a soft voice and again pointed. Freya did not move. Her ears from her did n’t even twitch. Sarah did not raise her voice from her. “Freya, lie down.” Nothing. Sarah reached over and without a word, picked up Freya, swung her around, pushed on her backside of her. Freya was down. do not fuss Mission accomplished.
We met Lucy, an 8-month-old Dalmatian from Chapel Hill who could hardly contain herself at the thought of walking on the beach and pulled on her leash like a demented dray horse.
One of those $$$$ motor coaches was the camping home for Anna and Holly, a pair of brown shorthair Dachshunds from a small town outside of Greensboro. They were on an evening stroll through the camp. “So well behaved,” I said. “You would never know they yap like mad when we put them out in the yard,” confided their owners.
Sara and Charles Dillard are two of the campsite volunteers, folks who come every summer and assist the South Carolina park rangers. They had lived in Hephzibah, Georgia, where I did second-grade substitute teaching nine times back in 1977 when we were stationed at Fort Gordon. Small-world. Their precious dog is Pixie, a cross between a Shih Tzu and Toy Poodle, one of those dogs that don’t look quite real and belong in a Steiff display window.
There really were people who didn’t have a dog.
Like Pam and John who lived down the road on Lady’s Island and came one evening for a short visit. Their dog Tyson passed, leaving felines LC, Special Kitty, and Sylvester, who are not at all interested in leaving the comforts of home.
And there was Marilyn, “as in Monroe,” she said, a retired CPA who lived for a while at Sun City but gave it up for a house in North Augusta. She camps alone, quite capably thank you, and she gave us all sorts of tips about things like discounts on Jackerys. not dog. not cat Not even a canary.
We had a wonderful time. The beach. Sitting around campfires. The salt air. Sea breezes. Falling asleep to the sound of the surf as it rolled in only a hair’s breadth away. Meeting dogs.
And that orange moon rising out of the sea, disappearing, and flickering back.
Gobsmacked I was.
With luck, we’ll camp there again in October.
By that time, I will definitely have a rain fly.
But not a dog.
Annelore Harrell lives in Bluffton and can be reached at email@example.com.