Within minutes Judy responded to our request. Yes, she could show us the island, and, yes, she’d meet us at the 11:00 ferry.
Judy greeted us like an old friend in her six-seater golf cart. “Hop in,” she said, her eyes bright with the twinkle of adventure. I felt like I was hopping onto Santa’s sleigh with no clear idea of what I was about to see.
Judy pointed to the only visible structure, the Landings Building at the other end of the dock. “Inside there we have an interpretive nature center, with live turtles, an alligator skeleton, fun stuff like that. The kids love it. Down below is where residents get their mail and packages,” she said.
She stopped the cart in the middle of the sandy road and gave us an overview of the island—the two and a half miles of private beach, the turtle team, the educational programs for kids, the nature conservancy, the ladies coffee hour, the arts council, … but her words faded into garble the second I spotted a shock of pink to my right.
At first, I thought I was witnessing a flock of flamingoes in an inlet across from a larger impoundment. But then I noticed these birds had long, flat platypus bills, bald heads, and red eyes. The kind of creature you’d find in a Dr. Seuss story.
“Those are roseate spoonbills,” said Judy. “Every season we seem to have more.”
Turns out, Judy’s not only a real estate agent but a master naturalist of South Carolina. Ask her about any living thing you see, and she’ll tell you all about it, right down to its binomial nomenclature. Clearly, I’d died and gone to the Good Place.
Here we were, not even one hundred yards from the ferry dock, and already I knew I’d found my winter home. As we carted through the pristine maritime forest of palms, oaks, and Spanish moss, reality morphed even more.
How could we be a mere eleven miles north of downtown Charleston, yet surrounded by alligators, egrets, coyotes, loggerhead turtles, nesting bald eagles, and bucks with big racks? Not to mention the scent of sea air and the trill of songbirds everywhere we went. I half expected to run into Gilligan or, judging by the size of some homes hidden in the trees, Thurston Howell III.
“This kind of place isn’t for everyone,” Judy said. “There’s no shopping, no restaurants, no grocery stores. If you’re making dinner and realize you forgot to buy an ingredient, it’s easier to borrow it from a neighbor than to take the ferry back to town. But you get to know your neighbors that way. We all help each other out. Honestly, it’s not the most convenient lifestyle, but it’s well worth the trade-off if you value living with nature.”
“It’s like summer camp for a certain kind of grownup,” I said. “And I’m one of them! All we have to do is find a house.”
Which we did. It took some time, and a few more visits, but we found a house with Chris’s view of the ocean. We call it Plan Sea (our Montana yurt and cabin being Plans A and B). Now that we’re here six months out of the year, it’s time to find out what this tiny island is all about.
Is it too good to be true? Let’s find out …