“There are no strangers here. Only friends you haven’t yet met.”~~William Butler Yeats
Between the two of us, Bob is that person who truly knows no strangers. Within a few moments of a conversation with Bob, the person will be telling him their life story or will be hearing about ours~~ everywhere we have lived and camped as well as all about our 6 adult children. Our recent camping trip at Skidaway State Park near Savannah, GA was no exception. The park was filled with a wide variety of people from many different states as well as countries and every time Bob and Jasper went for a walk around the campground, they would meet campers with interesting lives and stories to tell. He met one couple not far from our site who was traveling on their motorcycles. They were originally from New York and Savannah was the southern most point for their trip. Bob also met a group from Germany that included several adults and their young children. This large group was traveling together around the country in a single motor home that they rented from Cruise America. Another interesting couple were in the campsite across from us and we are now Facebook friends with Mony and Carol. Mony, a retired Marine, and his wife Carol were traveling all over the country with their RV. For this trip, they were camping at Skidaway and then driving over to Tybee Island to spend time with their children and grandchildren.
Bob even finds new friends while out on the river. One morning, while he and I were paddling on the Skidaway River which borders the park on the north side, we came across a couple who were hiking along the shoreline. Bob paddled over to talk with them and ended up taking their photo. While he was taking the photo, a boat went by and Bob’s kayak was a bit swamped by a wave from the boat. Mike, also a photographer, took Bob’s picture and emailed it to him. What fun~~ two photographers taking each other’s photo!
Bob and I also enjoy exploring the local culture and history of the localities where we camp. Skidaway State Park, near Savannah, GA, is located near the Georgia and South Carolina Sea Islands, home to the Gullah and Geechee people. As described by The Discover Hilton Head Island website, “Gullah people are African Americans who live in the Low Country of South Carolina and Georgia. The Gullah Culture is unique to these African-Americans of the Sea Islands in this region. Gullah refers to several things: people, language and culture.” Since we were in the area near the Sea Islands I wanted to find a restaurant that served Gullah recipes. The interest was partly motivated by the fact that when I was offered Cajun Gumbo in a Georgia restaurant my reaction was ” How about some Gullah or Low Country Gumbo?” After seeing Cajun Gumbo on several menus, I decided that we needed to find Gullah food. From some quick Google research, I found the Serious Eats website’s article entitled–The Real Story of Gumbo, Okra, and File, that explained that most likely okra was brought to America by the enslaved West Africans and was called ki ngombo, or, in its shortened form- gombo. We were also able to find the Gullah Grub restaurant, located in Saint Helena, SC, from our internet search and decided it was time to drive up Highway 17 to find the restaurant and to further explore the Sea Islands of Georgia and South Carolina.
William “Bill” Green is the chef and owner of Gullah Grub and he adheres to his family’s Gullah traditions and recipes for this restaurant. We ordered a sampling of items from the menu, including a cup of Gumbo, smoked ribs and fried shark. Bill came out to talk with us and explained that the families of the Sea Islands used local and in- season food that was found on the islands. A critical part of Gullah recipes is time- time to cook slowly, time for the ingredients to blend together and time for the families to enjoy eating the meals together. The gumbo was delicious and seasoned well, although not spicy as you would experience with a Cajun Gumbo. Chef Bill has several online videos that demonstrates how to prepare Gullah Recipes– I will definitely watch these videos to learn more about the recipes.
Continuing our exploration of the Gullah/Geechee culture, we went to the Pin Point Heritage Museum. This historical site is located on the road that leads to Skidaway Island from Savannah and commemorates the history of African Americans that owned, and still own, the land on Pin Point Island. This island is one of the last Sea Islands that is still owned by the original families that first settled there after the Civil War. This museum provides a very interesting and educational tour of the oyster and crab processing factory that provided a living for the Pin Point residents. We were surprised to learn that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was born on Pin Point Island and is part of the wonderful video that you view as part of the museum tour. We highly recommend that you take time to visit the Pin Point Heritage Museum if you are visiting the Savannah area, but please remember that it is only opened a couple days a week so you need to check with their website for the schedule.
Bob and I truly enjoy camping in state parks and we have decided that Skidaway is exceptional. Every campsite was large and situated well for all types of camping- tent, trailer and motor coach. The trails are well developed and provide great views of the woods and waterway around Skidaway Island. Although there is not an access point within the park to launch a kayak, you can use the boat landing on the other side of the bridge that is within a couple miles of the park. The park landscape abounds with live oak trees draped with shimmery and silver Spanish moss, all creating wonderful shade while lovely sea breezes cool the air. The other advantage to Skidaway was that because it is so close to Savannah, you can spend time in this wonderful city as well as the surrounding area and then head back to your special, comfortable campsite. This park definitely goes on our list of campgrounds that we will visit again.