Eighteen years passed, before I ventured out in a kayak again. That doesn’t mean my last adventure paddling was bad, it was actually fantastic, but I didn’t own a boat at that time, and I spent a great deal of time backpacking, cycling, climbing, sailing…etc. The itch hit last year to explore our coastal areas, and I dug out a tandem kayak and did an overnighter to Bear Island (Hammock’s Beach State Park). It was a wonderful experience, and I took my wife out there in October for a repeat trip over our anniversary.
Well, once infected with this form of travel, I became obsessed. Within a few weeks of the second trip, I bought my first solo sit-inside kayak. Used and beat-up, the vessel was brought home to a surprised wife. One month later, we bought another Wilderness System 14’ for the wife. One week later, I bought another 15’ Wilderness System for myself (I’ll be honest, I was jealous of my wife’s sleek boat). A tremendously mild December led to many days on the water.
As cooler temperatures rolled in for January, I started planning out a three-day trip in South Carolina. I was planning to launch the last weekend in February, so further south was for the benefit of potentially warmer weather. The destination was narrowed to Capers Island, near Charleston, SC. Capers is the only barrier island in SC that you can legally camp on, with a free permitting process, it was fairly easy to acquire permission.
I talked my long-time friend and tour leader, Shannon, to join me on the trip. The wife graciously allowed him to borrow her kayak, as it was still a little too cold for her. We joined up and drove down to the Isle of Palms (IOP) early Friday morning, with the hope to hit the water by noon. I had calculated the tides, and knew that a falling tide would aid us in the 6 mile paddle to the island. Beautiful weather greeted us, and once our boats were loaded down, we departed the IOP marina. Within minutes we were cruising down part of the Intracoastal Waterway, passing sandbars and oyster beds. We made short work of the 6 mile paddle, assisted by the tide and a slight wind to our back, and within 2 hours we were standing on the shore of Capers Island.
Famished, we wandered up behind some sand dunes to block the wind while we enjoyed a sandwich. We then needed to find a camping spot. We walked along the southern end of the island, spying a fantastic site that was sheltered from the on-shore breeze. Clearly, this was an established site (fire ring, makeshift table, and a great tent site), although it might have been slightly out of the approved camping area. We decided to take a chance, as it clearly had been used for years. We moved the boats closer to the site, and unpacked.
After getting camp settled, we both headed off in different directions to explore the beach. It was quite breathtaking, as the sea is slowly taking the island. Trees litter the beach, some still standing upright as they did for many years. As the sun began to set, the trees became wonderful subjects for photos of this beautiful barrier island. With and abundance of pine cones and dead fall, a nice fire was started to give us some additional warmth as we ate a hot meal and listened to the waves crash near us.
Sunrise was not disappointing on Day 2 of our adventure. Again, tide pools were created in the shadow of once great trees, and starfish and sand dollars littered the beach. I made attempts to toss shriveling starfish into tide pools, to which they immediately responded. Hopefully, I bought them a few more hours before high tide arrived. Our plan for Day 2 was to paddle to Bull Island to the North, which is known for its shell collecting and boneyard beach. Abundant wildlife is also reported. A challenging surf launch was completed, only to be met with 2 foot swells and wind in our faces. The three mile paddle took us several hours, and by the time we beached I was worn-out and hungry. We enjoyed a nice lunch and the warm sun started to dry out our clothes (I had problem initially getting a good seal on my skirt, so I took on some water). After eating, I strolled along the beach, and was not disappointed with the number of shells strewn along the shore.
Heading back to Capers Island, the wind and sea were following, so we made short work of the paddle back to our site. This left ample time to further explore our island, and I found a couple of wonderful palm trees to hang a hammock and drift off in peaceful, afternoon slumber. Waking to the slight breeze, I checked my watch and knew that it was 5 o’clock – Just enough time for a cocktail and some sunset photos before dinner.
Fashioning a muddler out of piece of driftwood, Shannon and I sat down to enjoy some hand-crafted daiquiris with fresh limes, sugar cubes, and white rum. Once again, sunset was not disappointing, and the tides were perfect to find some reflections in the tide pools along the skeleton of trees. Dinner and another fire ensued, and a full moon lit up the site throughout out the night. Waking the next morning, the tide had removed out footprints near the camp, but a new set was now visible. A bobcat had investigated our site, but found nothing of interest and moved on. Such a wonderful area!
Planning again for correct tides, we pushed off from shore 3 hours before high tide, and again we made light work of the journey home. It is amazing how different your boat behaves without 3 gallons of drinking water on board (a little less than 25 lbs!). Route finding was pretty intuitive, but you can play around with some of the waterways. Boat traffic was pretty minimal, as it was still February. Our temperatures ranged from just above freezing in the mornings, to low 60’s in the afternoons. For me, it was the perfect time of year to explore the area, and we saw relatively few people. I highly recommend this itinerary, and look forward to exploring the area again the future.