buck hall redux

well…here we are back at the place where a lot of things were set into motion.  to briefly recap for you dear readers who might not have been along when all this started…ten years (or so) ago i retired.  turned my back on the workaday world and set off to make a new existence.  we hit the road to celebrate by driving the blue ridge parkway and then the skyland drive parkway.  well, of course, that involved a lot of hills (called mountains here in the eastern part of this great country).  it was a great trip but all those hills grew a bit tiresome toward the end and i was longing for some flatland experience.  the magic of the internet pointed me toward a small national forest campground on the coast of south carolina.  well, we made our way here and fell in love with this small out of the way refuge on the inter coastal waterway.  i was so infatuated with the place that i approached a pleasant lady dressed in a green forest service uniform and asked how i could become a campground host.  she smiled and said “wait  right here”.  she returned with forms that needed to be submitted and within a month the forest service called and asked if i could host for march and april.  all i could say was “hell yes!”  that was the beginning of a six year experience that proved to be amazing.  it’s been about three years since i’ve been here after i turned in my host’s hat and i felt it was time to revisit.

and boy howdy, did i pick a strange time for this redux!  the nation is in a panic with the pandemic (coronavirus).  the country is slowly shutting down telling everyone to “shelter in place”.  yeah, i know, i’m not obeying the rules (sort of a perineal problem of mine) but, i sure feel a lot safer here than in a city. 

the drive down (a hundred fifty miles or so) was pleasant on a cloudy but dry day.  the road here from home is a boulevard of memories.  two lane blacktops thru rural south carolina that i can traverse without a sat nav.  there was a stop at cooper’s country store to stock up on dead porcine products (sausage and country ham with a pulled pork sandwich to go). 

this is the first real world test of the new (sound familiar?) solar powered cooler.  it’s really operated on a solar charged lithium battery.  it’s sorta like the amazing fridge i installed in the casita…12v/120vac and no gas involved.  that cooler maintained a temperature in the mid thirties for the entire trip and the battery was still fully charged when we arrived at the campground.  we’ll see how it performs during the dark.

we are on site two at the hall.  it’s the one site i alway envied when i was hosting here.  it provides a view of the waterway and the sunrise thru the back window of the casita (the trailer doesn’t have a front window) and it’s next to a wonderful live oak tree. 

my pals jake and clancy are here as well.  sort of a boy’s retreat.  we’ve not done a lot of interaction today what with all the set up stuff but i expect that will change tomorrow. 

it’s late and it’s been a long day….goodnight.


tuesday morning here at the hall.  it been a long time since i woke here with absolutely nothing to do.  no paperwork that must be done, no bathrooms to look after, no irate campers to deal with (the happy campers seldom bothered to tell the host).  it feels nice to have no responsibilities other than to enjoy this wonderful place and look after that wonderful dog.  one thing however has not changed…those damned noseeums are out in full force.  they’ve driven simple and i back into the trailer.  the puppy and i share our ill will for those cursed little creatures.  they may play an important role in the ecosystem here but, i can’t imagine what that role might be.

i was up before the sun and simple this morning.  sipping bourbon flavored coffee and listening to the quiet was peaceful.  when the puppy finally decided to open her eyes we went for a morning walk.  there was a bit of excitement when she managed to slip off the edge of the waterway onto the large rocks lining that edge.  it was low tide so she didn’t get wet but she was very anxious to get back out.  on her hind legs her front paws just made it to the ledge from where she had fallen.  i still had her leash but that was of little use attempting to help her.  i had to lie down so i could reach her armpits and extract her.  forty five pounds of squirming dog is a handful but somehow we managed to get her back on dry land.  she has a new found respect for that edge now.

after our walk we both had breakfast.  she had her usual kibble while i had country ham biscuits yeah, i know…not really a healthy breakfast but it sure was tasty.  the ham came from cooper’s country store.  a place in the middle of nowhere not far from salters, south carolina.  george cooper raises the hogs that he turns into hams, sausages and some seriously good sausage and bbq.  he’s been doing it for many years and i don’t think the store/gas station has changed very much in those years.  well, he did finally change the sign from the original esso to exxon. 

the day has remained overcast, mildly warm and intermittent showers.  that, dear readers, is the buck hall weather report for the day.


it’s a cool clear wednesday morning here.  the sun is rising and the breeze calm.  simple and i were competing for space in our small bed all night…the puppy won.  so, after a not so great sleep i woke to this insane itching from gnat bites yesterday.  my wrists (the only really exposed area) were demanding some fingernail attention.  so far i’ve tried alcohol and later some vinegar neither of which provided any relief.  but, i do smell like a drunken salad.  i had a great meal planned for last night.  mr. coopers sausage, rice, beans and cornbread.  everything was great except i forgot the beans that i’d prepared at home.  they were still in the amazing gosun cooler when i called my mates (jake and clancy) to the table.  the ever observant clancy mentioned the missing beans.  well, with great fanfare i went to the cooler, produced  cold beans and announced that we were trying a new recipe and the cold beans were being served over hot rice.  somehow i don’t think my showmanship worked, however, my very polite guests didn’t complain and ate cold beans.

simple has been amazingly cool about this trip.  sure, she will bark at passing dogs leading their humans around, but none of that going crazy stuff from our past trips.  she’s been quite pleasant actually and adapted to being with my human friends without me.  she appears to be quite comfortable in the trailer even when left alone for short periods.  i feel she’s well on her way to becoming a great camping dog.  and that’s a good thing in light of things to come.  we have the opportunity to spend a good portion of our summer in vermont.  the opportunity to host at molly stark state park campground in southern vermont exists.  another small facility (twenty four sites) with managers who live there.  they’re very pleasant people and friends of my daughter bonnie and that’s how the gig opened up.  i realize that i’d decided to sorta give up on the hosting thing when i “retired” from buck hall.  however, when presented with the possibility of spending the summer in the mountains of vermont instead of remaining in famously hot (and wickedly humid) columbia, sc it was a no brainer, right?  all the application paperwork has been completed and the required background checks submitted and approved (ha! fooled them again) so…unless this pandemic thing gets in the way, we’ll be heading north in early may.  stay tuned for updates. 

speaking of that pandemic thing…i’ve made a concentrated effort to ignore news of it so far this trip.  i’ve no notion of the situation currently.  for all i know, it’s gone or we all doomed.  there’s not a lot i can do in either case but i can avoid the stress of fretting over the situation and maximize the pleasure of living in the now here.

more impact from the pandemic….the camp host reported today that there’s a chance the campground may close due to health concerns.  a decision on that may be as early as tomorrow.  and here i was seriously considering staying longer than the end of the week if my site was available.  my pals and i decided today would be a good time to dine out for lunch.  little did we know of the governor’s order for all restaurants in the state to close their dining rooms.  we could however order take out from graham’s in mcclellanville and we did.  no, it wasn’t a good in it’s styrofoam box but what can you expect during such perilous times.  there’s still some levity however…a young man just sped past our site on a unicycle with a little dog on a leash doing his best to stay out front and causing me to smile.

friday…me and my mates had a meeting last night to discuss the situation here.  it was a casual meeting.  with so many cancelations for reservations (as per the camp host) there was the possibility of an opportunity to stay a bit longer.  we all pretty much came to the conclusion that what with all the rumors of closing the park we’d be best just to head back toward home.  and that’s exactly what we did.  we were all up and breaking camp early this morning.  i lost the race to the dump station and was waiting for a while for my turn.  i couldn’t help thinking what a nightmare it would have been if everyone was trying to lighten their load before hitting the road at the same time.  “dump fest” indeed.

one high point of this mini adventure was a visit by a couple of “gnome groupies”.  “trailblazer” (his screen name on the casita forum) and his lovely wife showed up for our first face to face meeting.  it’s fun to finally meet someone from your digital persona in real life.

so…another one’s in the record books.  our next adventure will most likely be hosting in vermont.  the gnome, simple and i all have our fingers crossed that the plague will be a memory by then and we’ll be able to enjoy a cool summer.  stay tuned….

the gnome, simple and your intrepid traveler…


update saturday afternoon:  it was officially announced that francis marion national forest had been closed.  whew!

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