I had a friend who used to tell tall tales before the advent of Google search. He’d get so animated and detailed that you just wanted to believe him. I haven’t seen him in a while, but I hope he hasn’t been discouraged by people whipping out their cell phones mid-story to fact-check his tales.
One that I never fact-checked, but makes me think of every time I see a South Carolina license plate, was when he said “The South Carolina palm is revered for helping protect Charlestonians from canon fire coming from the port during the Civil War. Its fronds so strong that it could slow and even stop a soaring canon ball.”
When Alex and I visited that beautiful old city and stood on the water’s edge looking back at all the palms between us and the centuries old buildings, I smiled.
Old towns like Charleston seem to hold so many tales and untold stories, some which you want to drill down to facts, and others that you just want to experience your own way.
The Angel Oak was one of those personal experiences. We drove a good hour outside of Charleston, through tunnels of trees, past little houses and little churches where the landscape opened slightly. There seemed to be no long views from the road. We turned at a gas station intersection and drove for a minute and then the natural light seemed to change to a shimmery glow and there it was: an oak that is purported to cover almost a half-acre of land with its limbs. It was as if we were looking at an alien lifeform.
Fortunately, we had the place almost to ourselves for about ten minutes and Alex snapped some otherworldly shots before a bus pulled up with a group full of seniors. I was wrangled into snapping shots of the whole bus group under the tree with about ten of their cameras and phones.
Another of those personal Charleston-area experiences was Boneyard Beach. It took us another half hour by car, and through an almost unmarked dirt road cocooned by old oaks. We found a small gravel parking area that was nearly empty. A good half-mile walk through some marshy land and we came upon white sand dotted with the smooth remains of leafless trees that somehow still stood on the beach and even out in the Atlantic Ocean well after their time had come.
Of course there’s the market in the middle of town that’s a big draw, and the pretty row of different colored houses, and even the historical tours, but for me Charleston will be remembered by its trees. Trees that have probably been there longer than the city itself… but don’t fact-check me on that.