Starting Mileage: 1675.5
No big surprise here but I slept in. Considering we were up until almost 2:00 am it really shouldn’t be surprising. I had a busy day planned (thanks to BringFido.com) so we went for a short walk, the pups were offered their breakfasts, and into the car we went. This day was a day for the dogs.
I decided to skip a hotel breakfast for the sake of getting on the road and with a quick check on Yelp, I found a place that was on the way to our first stop for coffee. I was following the directions and the farther we went, the more I wondered where the phone was sending me as it was looking more and more industrial. I was about to stop and make sure that I was going the right way when we turned down Montague Street and I found an oasis in North Charleston: the street was lined on both sides with squat buildings, brightly painted with colourful signs, even an historic-looking clock on the sidewalk. I was all smiles as I popped into The Orange Spot Coffeehouse. The shop itself is small and there isn’t much in the way for seating outside, but the picnic table that was there was really all I needed. I asked if they have a house speciality and was met with confused looks before they told me they make their own flavour syrups. Neat. I ordered an iced coffee with a shot of vanilla syrup. As I was waiting I eyed the baked goods and decided on a morning glory muffin. With no need for sugar or cream, I took my purchase and rejoined my pups waiting at the picnic table. I was tempted to share since it was one of the best muffins I have ever had, moist and flavourful, but since morning glory muffins have dried fruit in them, I wasn’t sure if raisins were one of those fruits and I’m not taking that chance. I watched the steady stream of people walking into the coffee shop and noticed that they were not what you would expect to be the kind of people going into a specialty coffee shop with tattoos and rough clothes coming out with lattes and biscotti. I love it.
We walked up and down the street while I finished my coffee, grinning like a fool at this hidden gem of an area. An elderly gentleman asked me if I wanted another brindle dog since his dog was too high-energy for him. I’m not going to lie but I briefly (VERY briefly) thought about it before politely declining and continuing on to the car for our next stop of the day.
In no time, we pulled into Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. I picked this spot because it allows you to walk your dogs around the gardens and from the reviews that I had read, it was a great place to visit. From the minute I turned down the driveway, I was blown away by how beautiful everything was. I had never seen spanish moss before except in craft stores and movies but as I crept down the drive, sheets of moss hung from the trees.
I parked the car, making sure I had a big bottle of water and the dog’s bowl as it was already quite warm out. As soon as we joined the line-up to buy tickets, the dogs were getting all kinds of attention which they were more than happy to put up with.
Having the dogs with me meant that I could not ride the tram or go into any of the buildings but it was so nice out that wasn’t a concern. There are also several other gardens to visit with the purchase of additional tickets. I decided to stick with the general admission of $15.00 and if we wanted to do anything else, I would deal with that later.
If you are anywhere near Charleston this is a place you have to visit. It was GORGEOUS! There were hidden pockets off the trails with statues, magnolias and azaleas rising high overhead, spanish moss draping from tall live oaks, a peaceful and (dare I say it Zen-like) bamboo garden. Two days ago I had scraped snow off my windshield and now here I was walking among flowering trees and shrubs.
We slowly walked through the shady path, stopping frequently for photos. There were several ponds and rivers with bridges arching over them. Jack especially wanted to go swimming in the water but I knew that alligators lived in the area and the many signs posted warning people not to approach or feed them (which really shouldn’t need a warning but…) confirmed it.
We were walking along the nature trail when I looked out over some water and had to stop for a double take. There, sunning itself barely a bus-length away, was a gator. As I was pulling out my camera, I noticed another one. And another. Suddenly I became a lot more alert with that scene from Jurassic Park popping into my head. You know the scene (“clever girl”). Fortunately with the heat, the gators were more interested in laying there and not us. But I’m sure they knew we were there since Jack was panting away and he sounds like a train chugging along.
We kept walking around the various gardens and I don’t think I looked at my watch once the entire time. Even though there were plenty of other people, we felt like we were the only ones for stretches of time but the few encounters we did have, they were special. I had posed the dogs for a photo in a spot off the main path when a group walked by. One woman looked at us then broke away and walked over. As she came closer I saw she wore a name tag with “Make-A-Wish” on it. I could see that she was fixated on Leo and asked if she could pet him. Of course I said she could and when she knelt down I watched tears stream down her cheeks. She explained that she had just lost the Boston Terrier that she had owned for 14 years and she missed her so much. She apologized when she stood up and explained they were at the plantation planning a fundraiser. She seemed to be embarrassed and apologized for holding us up and all I could say was that if she sees us again, she can snuggle with him as long as she wants. After she left, I knelt down and gave them all a hug for being so wonderful.
A little while later I had sat the dogs for a photo when a woman came up and asked if I wanted a picture with them. How could I say no? Of course she got in a few snuggles before she left.
We were almost back to the lot and walking down a path next to a pond. I had stopped to take photos of a statue on a little hummock in the pond when I noticed something in the water. It wasn’t moving and but I had the feeling that it was coming closer. There was a branch sticking out of the water and with that for reference I was able to tell that yes it was indeed getting closer. It was a smaller alligator than the ones I had seen sunning themselves but this one actually cared that we were there. It never got close enough that I was worried about it but I sure was careful to keep the dogs away from the edge of the water. There were some girls that were walking towards me and seemed irritated that I was just standing on the path. When I pointed out the gator, they squealed and hustled away.
Convinced that I was burned crispy since I hadn’t thought to wear, never mind bring, sunblock we went back to the car. The dogs were hot and after they finished their drinks (they had had been offered tons during our walk even though they would have rather gone for a swim in the ponds) we left for another spot. And this spot was just for them. After a quick stop for me.
Another place that I had heard about from “Feasting on Asphalt” was on our way. Apparently Jack’s Cosmic Dogs is a local institution so I had to check it out. Jack’s is not a fancy place but what would you expect from a hot dog joint? With a menu considerably more extensive than ketchup, mustard, and relish, it took me a while to finally settled on a blue galatic dog: a hot dog topped with chili, cheddar cheese, blue cheese slaw, and sweet potato mustard. Then on a lark I also ordered an astro dog which is just a hot dog with ketchup and mustard. The food was ready by the time I brought the dogs out of the car. I poured them a bowl of ice water which they ignored to stare at me. I think I had higher expectations for the hot dogs but in the end they were just hot dogs in nice soft buns. It’s the toppings that made these tasty. And yes the dogs got some of the astro dog. Of course they did. And then back in the car.
Now I had expected that my map would take me to a parking lot. But once it told me I had arrived, all I saw were signs on the street that said “No parking”. I slowly wound my way down streets and even the signs that did say “Parking” did not appear to be anywhere near a spot to park. Finally I found a spot and pulled in behind another car. I brought the dogs out of the car and pulled off my shoes before we walked across the street and down a narrow track towards Isle of Palms beach. The beach has off-leash times and we just happened to be right on time.
As soon as we emerged from the vegetation, Leo dropped onto the sand and rolled his way down the dune, wriggling his way to the bottom before he jumped up and ran as far as the leash would allow back up the dune before he rolled again. It took me a while to grab him to unclip the leash but eventually I was able to free them all. The first thing they did was run straight to the water and began to splash in the water. They ran and rolled and splashed and played. We walked up the beach for a while until the dogs stopped running and were content to stroll around next to me.
It made my heart melt as I watched them. I struggled to think of a way to put how I was feeling into words and I just can’t. Words alone cannot express the sheer joy of watching them.
With coats soaked and full of sand, especially Leo, we made our way back to the car. I’m glad I had brought a towel and dried them off as much as I could before loading them back into the car. We had one more stop to make.
Page’s Okra Grill is a dog-friendly restaurant and we were soon seated on the patio next to a tiny puppy and across from a chow chow. As we were seated near the exit, there was plenty of attention given to my pooped out puppies. I wanted the true southern experience so I put myself at the mercy of my server. Soon a plate of shrimp and grits with andouille cream sauce was placed in front of me followed by a quartet of sides: sweet potatoes, collard greens, fried okra, and succotash with some biscuits. On a side note: I LOVE FRIED OKRA. The food was so good and so filling I was too stuffed to even think about dessert.
It was well after dark by the time we got back to the hotel room and I had briefly thought about giving the dogs a bath to get the last of the sand out of their coats but I was so tired I basically passed out as soon as I sat down.