June 27-28, 2019, Hilton Head Island-
I made it to Hilton Head Island, if only for a night and the better part of a day. Today was a very full day on the road, with a lunch stop at New Moon Cafe, in far-off Aiken. I will go somewhat out of my way to visit New Moon, because it’s all about the ambiance. Today did not disappoint.
After a lengthy ramble through the Low Country, I spent an hour or so in Beaufort-first looking for the Gullah Geechee Cultural Center, only to find it had moved and was closed by the time I got to the new location. The town’s renewed prosperity is reflected in its Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, named for the former mayor, whose passion was revitalizing the dockside area of this port city. Time was, when “America First” advocates would point to Beaufort as a place where people fighting poverty and famine should “turn, first”, during the Africa Famine Relief campaigns of the late 1960’s. That is not the case today. Beaufort is coming back.
The sense of idyll is also found on Hilton Head Island, which I first visited with Penny and Aram, in 2007. On that particular day, torrential rain visited us, in the early morning. I opened the motel door, to find water at the level of the door stoop. Fortunately, no alligators were present-as was the case earlier this year, with some other family members. The property where we stayed in 2007 is now owned by Red Roof Inn. The manager told me that drainage is still an issue for the property. Tonight, though, the skies were clear and the ground dry.
I went over to Hilton Head Diner, where we had had pancakes for breakfast in ’07. This time, I enjoyed dinner-a gourmet burger with waffle fries. I sat at the counter, kibbitzing with one of the waitresses, Kim, and enjoying the tales of an island native named Mark. His grandfather had built the causeway bridge that connects HH with the mainland. After dinner, when I headed to my car, a local woman asked for help, in jump-starting her car. I found her battery had loose, rather poor connectivity. As Mark was a truck driver, I went back to the Diner and asked him for help. He was able to rig a connection to her battery and we got her back on the road, in short order.
I found it necessary to pay admission to one of the staples of a Hilton Head visit: Harbour Town, as the access is controlled by Sea Pines Resort- a golfer’s paradise. I am not a golfer, but I like lighthouses and seaport areas and the day pass was reasonable, so in I went. A light lunch at this relaxing patio bakery-cafe ensued. The place was once the lighthouse keeper’s cottage.
Hanging moss abounds in the Low Country.
Here is Hilton Head Lighthouse, now a gift shop, operated by Sea Pines, which charges admission for those wanting to climb to the top. The woman on the left and her sons in front were willing to be included in the photo, for scale.
After walking around the area for several minutes, I came upon the same family looking at this unique boat. Mystique is constructed almost entirely of teak and mahogany.
Hilton Head, like other parts of the Low Country, was once the domain of Gullah Geechee culture, which used a blend of several West African languages and English, and preserved much of the traditional culture of enslaved Africans in the area. Scant traces of the culture remain on Hilton Head, save Mitchelville, on the northwest corner of the island. There was not much going on in Mitchelville, as I headed towards Penn Center, the first school for freed slave children, after the Civil War. That unique institution is still offering the children of the Sea Islands a solid and complete education, blending practical skills with state-of-the-art technology and consideration of today’s issues.
As for Mitchelville, I do not take photos of people, especially in impoverished areas, without their consent. Penn Center, on St. Helena Island, was much more amenable to a photographic record. It is the subject of the next post.