The Naturalist's Corner: Ridin’ the tideWritten by Don Hendershot
On a recent trip to Isle of Palms, South Carolina, we had access to a sea kayak and decided to take advantage. There’s a pretty dramatic tide at Isle of Palms with currents to match so you have to plan your trip accordingly. We weren’t heading anywhere in particular so we just waited for high tide and spent a couple of hours exploring the nearby marsh.
There was a small island in the marsh between where we were staying and the Intracoastal Waterway – it looked to be about .2 of a mile away. I pulled a coastal map up online and saw that the channel from the end of our pier passed right by the island. So the girls (Izzy, age 9 and Maddie, age 5) and I decided we would go island exploring.
We launched during slack tide after the high tide had come in. It was a nice, easy paddle to the island and we found a good spot to beach our kayak. We strode ashore the island, which was maybe 150 yards long and 15 yards across at the widest point.
It seems “possession” must be hard-wired in the human psyche. We hadn’t been on the island five minutes when the first order of business became naming “our” island. After about five minutes of heated sibling debate, we declared the island Sister Island. But as long as we were naming things, it became apparent that the sea-worthy vessel that brought us to Sister Island also required a name. After another five-minute debate between Isabella and Madelyn, our vessel was christened Mad Bella. Now we were set to explore.
Believe it or not, there was a lot to explore on that 150-yard spit of terra firma and the only thing shorter than attention spans was the distance to the next discovery. I think that palmetto tree may have finally been acknowledged and substituted for palm tree. However, I’m pretty sure that “Krumholz effect” blew in one ear and out the other faster than the prevailing wind that shaped all the woody vegetation on Sister Island.
Izzy did discover deer tracks but I’m not sure she believed her dad when he told her the dog poop with the bits of shell in it was actually from otters. There were small depressions – maybe 2 1/2 feet in diameter – at both ends of the island that were apparently otter “haul-out” sites and/or bedding sites. You could see faint tracks. They didn’t appear really fresh but that could have been because of the compacted soil above high tide. There were a few empty crab shells scattered around – evidence of an otter picnic – that made great “treasures.”
Of course there was also evidence of pirate activity. But the girls couldn’t come up with an explanation for how Blackbeard’s crew came by Bud Light in a can.
There were enough broken off “tree statues” for climbing and enough treasures to be found that our loop around Sister Island took up the larger part of an hour.
By the time we got back to Mad Bella and launched her for our voyage home the tide was ebbing. Fortunately, it was just beginning to ebb and Izzy was a much stronger paddler than I expected. We cruised back home easily against the tide. Mad Bella was overflowing from all the loot from Sister Island and Maddy, who was a little reluctant at the beginning of the trip looked back and said, “Dad, I’m glad I came kayaking.”