Cast & Blast

Was it this hot in the SC Lowcountry back in the day? Hot tips for cool times outdoors

Summer exploring: You might even see roseate spoonbills!
Summer exploring: You might even see roseate spoonbills!

For some unknown reason, this brutally hot part of summer almost always has me racking my brain about summers as I was growing up here.

Front and center is, “Was it this hot back then?”

It seems I remember more late afternoon showers that would cool things off a bit. Almost like clockwork, thunder boomers would pop up around 4 in the afternoon and they might not hit everywhere, but if they were anywhere close, the temperature would drop a few degrees.

Then again, maybe it’s my age that is making me go into what I call the “Latin mode.” Having lived in Puerto Rico while working for Sea Pines at its Palmas Del Mar development in the early ‘70s, the workers there had the right idea.

My job was making all the wood signs for this new development, while at the same time teaching a native Puerto Rican, who spoke very little English, the art of wood sign making. My Spanish was fairly fluent back then, making that period a dream job for an 18-year-old like myself.

Getting back to the point I was trying to make about the “Latin mode,” each and every day around 11 a.m. work would stop and out came thermos jugs of coffee mixed with milk and huge quantities of sugar. Then again around 2 p.m., it was siesta time. It didn’t matter if they were pouring cement or any other time-sensitive project, everyone would find a shady spot and, almost like programmed robots, they would be asleep in moments, complete with snoring and such. Then back to work when the temperature would drop.

As hot as it has been this summer, I have taken this page out of my memory book and when I wake from one of these power naps I am raring to go.

Compared to now, there was but a fraction of visitors on Hilton Head Island on vacation when I was young. Most of the island remained undeveloped so, other than fishing, exploring took second place as my favorite summer activity.

One area in particular was amazing. On the south end of the island, where South Beach Marina and the Salty Dog are today, were huge rolling sand dunes with a large, flat plateau smack dab in the middle. Year after year shore birds used that plateau as a nesting site and thousands upon thousands of various shorebirds laid their eggs there.

As soon as I would crest the last dune before the plateau, anxious mothers would take flight dive-bombing me over and over. The noise was deafening and, other than wearing a football helmet for protection, each step had to be taken with great care. Eggs of every description lay on the open sand, along with just-born baby birds. Sea gulls, plovers, pelicans, oyster catchers … the variety was incredible.

Nowadays, the largest nesting site I know of is on what is called “Bird Island” between Daufuskie Island and the Savannah River entrance. It was created when they deposited sand dredged from the Savannah River, and during this time of year it is wall to wall nesting parents.

A word of warning, though. Besides being extremely noisy when disturbed, the smell from all their poop is overwhelming. I wouldn’t suggest walking around on this nesting site because when you get home your spouse will probably insist on hosing you off outside before you are allowed back in the house.

Another favorite summer haunt was Bull Island.

All sorts of animals were allowed to roam free on the island, including donkeys, or maybe they were burros. Because so few people stepped on the shores of Bull Island, these animals didn’t seem to be afraid of people. Often when courting young ladies visiting Hilton Head, I would take them there and it was like being on an African safari.

Young and dumb and loaded with testosterone, I would often try to impress these gals with, “You wanna see me try and ride one?” Without going into too much detail, it wasn’t my smartest move. They might not be fearful of humans, but they sure as heck took on a different attitude when I would try and hop on one. I was bitten, stomped on and worst of all, kicked in the you-know-what, where the only thing I rode for days afterward was an ice pack.

As much as I miss those days, I can still find places to explore without too much effort.

All you need is a small boat that can get into shallow water. Within minutes after leaving a boat landing, I explore places with nary a human footprint to be seen.

If you plan on giving this summer activity a go, it is best to get an early start. Take water, binoculars, a camera, a few snacks — but most importantly, be back around noon. Why? It’s the beginning of siesta time, silly!