It’s get long
It’s a long-ish drive from Charleston southwest to John’s Island to visit this gorgeous tree. Experts argue it is the largest live oak known and say it is five hundred years old. The surrounding woods are dense and dark, with Spanish Moss hanging like fog. I looked out for bodies.
As Seattle expats living in the deepish South, we’re always looking for things to do or see. Next on the list are the Carolina rice farms. Did you know South Carolina was once the rice basket of America?
But Angel Oak? Man. If you love nature or beauty or anything that leaves you with your mouth hanging open, this is the drive.
As is often true in the South, you drive and drive and there it is. Following directions, we turned off the highway onto a red clay road and worried when the tree didn’t immediately appear. I like being lost in the woods, but my wife does not. Capital letters: DOES NOT. And, truth be told, getting stuck in the clay an hour from civilization with a couple of ten-year-old girls didn’t sound like a big time. To me, anyway.
We trod on, past the ancient-looking white clapboard church that may or may not be in use. We couldn’t tell. Rolling past the church, we saw a sign like something from a Daffy Duck cartoon: a painted arrow on a stake, hammered into the ground. Maybe into an anthill where the pushing is easier? Angel Oak, it said, pointing. We turned a few more lefts and rights and then saw cars ahead, parked willy-nilly along the road. Relief. Edging closer, the trees opened to reveal an opening filled with…beauty? Awesomeness? It’s hard to put into words. As an old biologist and collector of almost anything, I could only stand and stare at the thing. It was as monstrous as it was beautiful.
We parked and grabbed hold of the kids, who ran to the tree. No Climbing, another sign said. It looked like no tree I’d seen before, being from the land of sky-scraping firs and cedars. It was like a stop-motion photo of Grandma’s ball of yarn exploding. I expected an oak tree, but not the tentacles.
What I didn’t expect was the gift shop. We bought water colored postcards for the girls to hang in their bedroom and some local food staples sold to eager foreigners like us. What I really didn’t expect were the Twainshish figurines of Black children smoking corncobs and eating watermelon. There ya go. It’s South Carolina.
Definitely worth the drive and the time. A real treat.
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