beaches

American Samoa – Travel Logistics

We struggled to find a lot of information on visiting American Samoa, so in an effort to help other people who also plan to make the journey to this remote place, we are happy to share some travel logistics here.

Flights — Flights to American Samoa are limited, departing the U.S. only a couple of times each week.  We flew American/Hawaiian Air from Los Angeles [LAX] to Honolulu [HNL] to Pago Pago [PPG].  We chose to spend a full week here but would have happily stayed longer if our schedule had permitted.  Given our limited time, we got to the island of ‘Aunu’u — more about this below — but we didn’t have the time to venture to the islands further away.  It should be noted that visits to these really remote islands are dependent on the local plane at PPG being operational, which was not the case when we were there, so in the end I’m rather glad we hadn’t booked lodging on Ta’ū or Ofu!

View from our balcony at Sadie's by the Sea
View from our balcony at Sadie’s by the Sea

Lodging — There are only a couple of hotels on the island.  We chose Sadie’s by the Sea because of its beautiful location next to the harbor and the additional amenities we saw on the website, and we were very happy with our decision.  Hosts Tee & Tom were incredibly kind, gracious and accommodating, making suggestions for us and helping us get to places we otherwise wouldn’t have known to visit.  The little lagoon was a wonderful place to swim and relax, and the swimming pool was nice, as well.  From here it was an easy walk into town [2k; about 20 minutes] which we made pretty much daily.

Tom & Tee also own and operate the Sadie Thompson Inn which offers lower priced rooms but doesn’t have the amenities of Sadie’s by the Sea.  This hotel is a few minutes closer to the town area, but it’s not on the water which is what we wanted.  The Tradewinds Hotel appeared newer and fancier and convenient to the airport, but this area is a 25-minute drive from what we wanted to do and see and I’m glad we didn’t choose that one.

Meals — We ate most of our meals at the restaurant at Sadie’s — the Goat Island Cafe — where we enjoyed delicious food (fresh tuna & fruit to die for!) and drinks and wonderful island service.  Another popular place is the DDW Beach Cafe which an easy 5-minute walk from the hotel and we had a nice lunch there one day.  The Sadie Thompson Inn does house Sadie’s Restaurant, arguably the best restaurant in the whole of the region, and dinner here one evening was a delicious treat.  There are a few other restaurants on the island [including two McDonalds which we did not frequent] but we were quite happy with Goat Island Cafe for the views, flavors, variety, hospitality and convenience, so didn’t feel the need to go find something else.

 

Tisa’s Barefoot Bar — This place deserves a special shout out because it’s such a wonderfully cool place.  If we had a car we would likely have frequented it every day, but because it’s 12k east of Pago Pago and the harbor — it’s in the little village of Alega — it took a fair amount of effort to get to.  Still, as the photos show, this place is dreamy and relaxing; Gilligan’s Island has nothing on Tisa’s!

 

Tisa’s Umu – An umu is an earth oven, and this is the traditional island way to cook.  Tisa’s Barefoot Bar features a Samoan feast cooked in an umu once a week and it is not to be missed!  Once you get to the island, find out what night Tisa’s Umu is and make your reservation to be treated to delicious food in an idyllic setting on an evening you won’t soon forget.

 

‘Aunu’u [ow-NOO-oo] — About a mile southeast of Tutuila’s eastern tip is the volcanic island of ‘Aunu’u, the smallest inhabited island of American Samoa.  A chance meeting of Pica “Peter” Taliva’a in the barber shop lead to an invitation for us to join him and his family at his home on ‘Aunu’u where we had the honor of sharing the morning with him, his son Sam, and a few other members of his family.  Peter is the chief of his village so the experience we had with him showing us his island and preparing us local foods in an umu (our second umu experience of the week) was uniquely special; one we still think about and cherish.

 

Navigating the Island —  As there is really only one primary road [Route 1] that winds east-west and sticks mostly to the southern edge of the island, navigating the island of Tutuila isn’t too difficult.  The airport is about one third of the way in from the western end of the island; the city center of Pago Pago and the National Park are about two thirds in; you access ‘Aunu’u from the eastern end — check out a Google Map.  There are a few other inward roads [Route 5, Route 6] that lead up into more remote little villages up from the coastal road, but these felt almost private and there was really no good reason to go up into them other than to see what life in those little villages is like — i.e. no cafes, shops, restaurants anywhere other than along Route 1.  We are walkers so found the ~2k|20-minute walk into Pago Pago very easy from our hotel.  Sadie’s has a shuttle van that took us to/from the airport, and when available (which it mostly was), to other destinations like the park’s trail head and some coastline destinations.

Aigas are the little buses that help islanders get around the island.  They are not really buses as we know them; they’re actually locally-converted trucks with a cab & some seats atop the truck bed area, but they’re great fun and island visitors need to experience at least one ride in them.  Some aigas are fancier and nicer than others, but all will take you “somewhere” on the island.  There’s no printed schedule or map of where each goes — just the village name on the front windshield [but that didn’t really help us as we had no idea of where these small villages were!] — and it didn’t appear that they were on a set time schedule.  We’d simply go stand by the sign that indicated a stop, and when a bus pulled over that was heading in the general direction of where we were going (basically east-ish on Route 1 or west-ish on Route 1), we’d pay the nominal fee and hop on.  We felt very safe on the few we took, if not all that entirely comfortable as some of them were pretty old and didn’t have much padding!  But they were, indeed, fun, and everyone was very nice to us and helped us get to our destination, for we clearly stood out as tourists!  Aigas were a really fun way to observe the locals riding with us.

 

Overall — We really enjoyed our time in American Samoa!  We researched in advance as best as we could, but unlike many of our other JollyOutThere adventures, we didn’t have very many of our logistics nailed down when we arrived at this far-away place.  But from the moment we were greeted by our driver following a very long flight and late-night arrival at the airport to the time we were dropped off to fly back a week later, we had a most wonderful experience.  We enjoyed the laid-back island atmosphere.  We always felt safe.  We enjoyed meeting and interacting with all those who were helping us enjoy their island.  We appreciated the kind hospitality of everyone, particularly Tee and Tom of Sadie’s, the NPS rangers, and Pica/ Peter a village chief on ‘Aunu’u.  We loved the food and the weather and the views and the hiking and the island tales and everything else.  We approached our stay with a sense of adventure and with an “explorer’s spirit” as instructed, and because of this we were most genuinely rewarded with an awesome experience!

 

National Park of American Samoa

National Park of American Samoa our 59th and final national park!
Receiving our 59th park certificates from NPS Ranger Pua Tuaua

Our 59th and final park!If we didn’t save the best for last, we certainly saved one of the best for last!  Nearly two-and-a-half years after we began our journey to visit all of the national parks, we have finally visited our last one — The National Park of American Samoa.

This was our last park primarily because it was the most difficult to get to.  It is south of the equator in the South Pacific Ocean; closer to Australia than to the United States.  Hawaiian Airlines flies there just twice a week from Honolulu, so our routing took us from Los Angeles to Honolulu for an overnight, and then on to Pago Pago [pronounced PAHNG-oh PAHNG-oh] the next day.  Elapsed travel time to reach this island chain was just over 24 hours for us, 12 of which were in the air.  Clearly, traveling to this national park requires commitment!

Because we had some difficulty trying to find out how to best visit this final park, I am going to provide more logistical details in this post for those readers who plan to tackle American Samoa at some point.  In fact, I will write two separate posts — this first one will focus on the geography and our experience in the park itself; the second one will share more of the fun, cultural things we did during our week-long stay in American Samoa, and provide some hopefully helpful information and links for travelers who plan to make the trip here themselves in their own quests to visit all 59 [at the time of this blog post] of our incredible national parks.

Samoa IslandsHistory and Geography — The Samoan Islands are part of Polynesia, and while they have been populated for over 3,000 years, they have only been known to the western world for a little more than two centuries.  Samoa is referred to as the Heart of the South Pacific, and it is believed to be where all Polynesian people originated.

The Samoan archipelago includes the independent nation of Samoa (formerly called Western Samoa) and American Samoa, a US territory approximately 60 miles to the east.  While both share a common language and culture, each has distinct natural features, and fun fact: because the international dateline separates these two nations, American Samoa is one hour earlier than Hawaii and Samoa is one entire day earlier.

Matafao Peak, at 2,142 feet, is the tallest peak on Tutuila
Matafao Peak, at 2,142 feet, is the tallest peak on Tutuila

American Samoa consists of seven primary islands: five rugged, highly eroded volcanic remnants and two uninhabited coral atolls.  Visitors fly in to Pago Pago [airport code PPG] which is located on Tutuila [too-too-EE-lah], the main island, and this is where most of the 70,000 residents of American Samoa make their homes.

The view from atop Mount Alava of Pago Pago Harbor
Pago Pago harbor and the villages of Pago Pago and Fagatogo as seen from the top of Mount Alava (which we climbed!)

Pago Pago Harbor is a collapsed volcanic caldera and it is one of the largest natural harbors in the South Pacific.  A steep mountainous spine runs the 20-mile length of the island with a few notable peaks including Tutuila’s tallest mountain, Matafao Peak (2,142′); Rainmaker Mountain (1,718′); and Mount ‘Alava (1,610’) looming over the harbor.  There are a couple of main villages with hotels (just four on Tutuila), restaurants (maybe a dozen, including two McDonalds that, like in mainland U.S., are a favorite of all the children), markets, office buildings, banks, etc., around the harbor, and then many smaller, more primitive villages scattered around the perimeter of the island.

National Park of American Samoa — The National Park of American Samoa consists of 9,500 acres, virtually all of which is rainforest, on three islands.  Tutuila is where the Visitor Center and the largest tract of park land can be found.  Ta’ū (tah-OO) and Ofu (OH-foo), 60 miles east of Tutuila, are sparsely populated islands where a couple of villages have only a few hundred people.  American Samoa’s tallest peak, Lata Mountain (3,170′) can be found on Ta’ū, and Ofu features sand beaches and coral reefs with a mountain backdrop.  In addition to the steep cliffs and rainforest area, another 4,000 acres of the park are offshore and under water.

Visitors to the National Park of American Samoa see land that is largely undeveloped, and the facilities found in most national parks are lacking here.  A few park information kiosks and placards can be found, but by and large, this park is enjoyed “with a bit of the explorer’s spirit” as the park brochure suggests.

NP of American Samoa Visitor Center
The Visitor Center – closed on this day, but we posed with the poster I made and came back on another day

As is always the case when we visit national parks, we attempted to make the Visitor Center our first stop, but after walking a mile from our hotel (in temperatures in the high 80’s and with lots of humidity) we saw the sign on the door that they were only open Mon-Fri from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  But not to worry, we took photos of ourselves by the front door, then using our “explorer’s spirit” meandered around the town some and hopped on one of the “aigas” — the unscheduled buses (more about these in my second post) — to go explore around the town.

A couple of days later when we came back to the Visitor Center, we were very impressed with the educational content on display, and very pleased that a school with 5th – 8th graders had come on this day to learn more about the park on their island.  We engaged a bit with the students, and the teacher,  Faia’i Vaeao, and made a plan to stay in contact with all of them at the Peteli Academy.  And as a very nice surprise, once the rangers knew that this was our 59th park, they asked us if we could come back the next day as they would have something for us.  We obliged and were absolutely thrilled when Rangers Pua Tuaua and Pai Aukuso-Reopoamo presented us with special certificates proclaiming that we had been to all of the national parks!

I’ll conclude this first post by sharing some of the photos we took while hiking on one of the few trails in the park area; this one took us 3-1/2 miles up through the rainforest and along the ridge line to the top of Mount ‘Alava where we enjoyed incredible views of the island before hiking the 3-1/2 miles back down.  We were joined by several new friends we made at our hotel, Sadie’s By The Sea — I’ll be writing more about that in my next post; this one is long enough!

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

Jolly bear viewing
The coastal brown bears seen behind us were some of the dozen-plus that we saw multiple times during our stay here on the shores of the Cook Inlet in Lake Clark NP

Lake Clark National Park & Preserve is another one of the 10 National Park System areas that was established by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) in 1980.  This roadless area between the Aleutian and Alaska ranges has seen constant change over many tens of thousands of years.  Between gouging glaciers, shifting tectonic plates, and volcanic eruptions, these dynamic forces have shaped Lake Clark into the wild and scenic place that it is today.

The Park sets aside nearly 2.6 million acres and the Preserve adds another 1.4 million acres, and together they protect features that are the very best of rugged Alaska — active volcanic peaks shouldering giant glaciers, alpine lakes, boreal forests, wild rivers, vast stretches of tundra, coastal rainforests, shallow bays, outwash plains, coastal beaches, offshore reefs, and much more, and all of this supports a variety of large land and marine animals, fish and birds that we know and think about when we picture Alaska.

Photographers at the ready
Fred (red coat) and his fellow photographers positioned to get the action shots

Iris, Fred, Kase and Brian going out for more bear photography
Iris and Kees from the Netherlands, Fred, and our awesome guide, Brian, heading out to view and photograph the bears

Fred has already posted some terrific bear photos that aren’t to be missed.  But while he was shooting the bears with his various cameras and lenses, I was taking some little videos of them.  Below are a few of the fun clips I captured.  Most are less than a minute in length, but they certainly give some personality to the bear ‘families’ we were lucky enough to see during our stay here on the shores of the Cook Inlet at the edge of the park.

I must state that while we were allowed very close access, our guides were always mindful of where the bears appeared to be moving to, and we would flank and move to give them plenty of space to move around and not feel threatened or trapped by us.  This worked very well.  The bears here get used to humans being present, but with professional guides understanding and operating in this way, the bears stay very wild.

This is a pretty blonde mama bear and her two second-season cubs (they were born around February 2014 when mama was still in her den hibernating, so they’re about 1-1/2 years old at this point; still with mama for this season learning how to be a bear and survive) with another third-season cub (now abandoned and on his/her own for the first summer) trailing them, but this one isn’t threatening to them.  This exchange that I captured happened within 15 minutes of us arriving at the Silver Salmon Creek beach.  Mama is bringing them very close to camp which is rare, but she likes to scratch on the carved bear scratching pole.  She’s almost there, then she encounters another bear who she deems threatening (just to the right of the camera; bushes are in the way and you can’t see the threatening bear) — you can hear them hiss and huff at one another before mama scares the threat off, but not before the babies hit the road!  Note the tap-taping sound (sounds like a typewriter) are various camera shutters snapping away at this incredible scene.Mama & second-year cubs meet up with another aggressor bear that frightens the cubs away

This is the same mama and second-season cubs having some afternoon play time in the grassy meadow between the shore and the woods.  Note the little guy who’s out of the water first as he rolls on his back and scratches with his legs flailing all around — too cute!Afternoon play time

Here’s a mama with her spring cubs (born in winter 2015 — around February in mama’s den) venturing out to the beach during low tide.  Note these little ones are smaller and still very dark at just six months old.  Mama is ever mindful of what’s around her, especially with really young cubs; the larger bears and nearby moose would certainly find an unsuspecting little cub to be fair game.
Mama & her spring cubsThese are third season cubs who are on their own now.  They are still figuring things out and spend a lot of time playing, including this little exchange that ran right in front of a group of photographers who were staying at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge with us.  Yes, we got this close to these wild, beautiful, playful creatures!
Third-season cubs on their own now playing close to the photography groupHere are the same two siblings finding the SSCL brand new boat to be an object of their curiosity.  Note the boat is resting on the sands during what is now low tide.  At this particular time of the lunar month, the delta between low and high tides is over 19 feet which will easily put this boat in the water within a couple of hours.   Curious little ones!

This gal shows us all the technique a bear uses to go clamming.  She spots the air bubbles in the sand, then her quick digging allows her to bring the razor clam (about 6″ long) up and out onto the sand… she looks around, and then expertly uses her claws and paws to pry apart the clam shell, pick off the meat, and have herself a little razor clam snack.  Bears are actively fishing for salmon for the high amounts of protein they need to build up their food stores for the coming winter.  They need to gain approximately one-third of their early summer weight to make it through their long winter nap.
Clamming close-up  Bear tracks

What a privilege and a treat it was to be in this unique place watching these special animals in their natural habitats.  For four days and three nights we got to be voyeurs into these wild bears’ lives.  I came away with a special serenity having seen what I saw….

Olympic National Park

Olympic NPOlympic National Park is one of the last unspoiled and untamed places in the United States.  Its landscape of rugged peaks, steep cliffs, dense forests, and wild rivers made it difficult to navigate and settle back when the European Americans were first on the scene here in the late 1800s, although Native American hunter-gatherer tribes had lived off this land and its rich resources for thousands of years.  Visitors to the park today find it largely a wilderness area, and only a few roads penetrate into the park for short distances.  This is just the kind of park the Jollys like, and happy were we to stay in a couple different places so we could visit all areas of the park and enjoy it over a leisurely eight days.

Fred & Laura at Olympic NP - Mt. Olympus in the background

There are three main ecosystems in Olympic NP.  The first features high mountains with subalpine forests and alpine meadows.  Visiting the Hurricane Ridge area and hiking 11 miles of trails in this section of the park, we were treated to high-point views of the Olympic Mountains and the 7,980-foot glacier-topped Mount Olympus.  Below are some photos of our most spectacular hiking in this area:

If you click on a photo, you can see a larger version of it.  You can also use the arrows at the bottom (click on the photo if they disappear on you) to scroll through all the photos in this album.  To close the album, click on the ‘X’ in the top right corner.


While staying north of the park at Elwha [outside of Port Angeles where the main Visitor Center is located], we also took a day to visit the Crescent Lake and Sol Duc hot springs areas which are on the north side of Olympic.  We chose a good 8-mile round-trip hike out to Deer Lake which started out easy enough with a fairly level 0.8-mile trek through some really nice old growth trees to the lovely but sadly anemic [due to the severe drought throughout the Pacific Northwest] Sol Duc Falls.  But then the party was over and up we had to go on a steep and rocky path for another 3+ miles up to Deer Lake.  We ate our lunch beside this beautiful, serene lake nestled in a grassy bowl in the mountains [at 3,550′] with forest all around – talk about a dreamy day!  Along the hike back down, we met and talked with fellow avid hikers, Patti and Joe, and lucky them, this is practically their back yard!  They gave us lots of good suggestions for enjoying our remaining time in this area; always a welcomed and appreciated gesture, especially from people who really know the area and seemingly like to enjoy it the way we do.

 

Ruby Beach in Olympic NP
Ruby Beach in Olympic NP

A second area of the park / ecosystem is the coastline that is in some parts sandy, in some parts rocky, but in all parts quietly rugged and beautiful.  This non-connected strip of Olympic NP runs nearly 75 miles along the Pacific Ocean, next to and around several remaining Indian Reservations.

Kalaloch NP CG
Kalaloch NP Campground – we spent four nights here along the coastline

After four nights up north, we came over to the ocean and dry camped (no water or power hook-ups) for four more nights in Kalaloch Campground, one of the National Park Service’s several campgrounds in the park.  We used this site to visit the western parts of the park.


As mentioned in a previous post, we hiked 3.1 miles along a coastal trail out to Cape Alava, the westernmost point in the Contiguous U.S. [see Westernmost Point post], and also found ourselves enjoying the quiet beauty of the stacks, driftwood, and rocks at Ruby Beach.

The third section of the park is on the western side of the mountains and is primarily a rain forest.  Lush ferns cover the ground where the shrubs and tall trees haven’t already taken space.  Mosses hang off the huge trees, and it’s truly spectacular to walk through this forest primeval.


This section of Olympic NP, the area around the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, was Fred’s favorite part, and he’s posted some cool photos of this section already — see Fred’s Olympic NP post just below this one.

Wild goats - a mama, year-old kid, and couple-of-weeks old kid
A wild mama mountain goat leads her year-old kid and a baby kid just a couple of weeks old

I could go on and on with photos and stories and cool things we saw and did in Olympic National Park, but I’ll close this post with the mountain goats.  We ran into a few wild ones along the beautiful Klahhane Ridge Trail, and while they were very neat to see, they are unwanted creatures in the park.  Not native to this part of the state, they were introduced here in the 1920s and have been causing problems ever since, including one of them going rogue and impaling a hiker with his horn a couple of years ago.  The National Park Service is currently evaluating options for addressing the goat situation, for they now number over 1,000 in the park, they’re becoming more aggressive with humans, and they continue to damage the indigenous plant life.

A Vacation from our Vacation

Stan, Pam, Laura & Fred enjoying our reunion
The Butlers and The Jollys at Anna Maria Island

Two weeks ago we left our RV, Charley, in a campground in Salt Lake City, hopped a flight bound for Florida, and took a vacation from our lifestyle that, if we’re being truthful, is pretty much a full-time vacation anyway – indeed, we are blessed to live such a remarkable life!

And in case you hadn’t noticed, I took a vacation from blogging, too – it’s quite a lot of work keeping at this every few days! – and while I hadn’t actually planned the blogging hiatus, I do think I needed a break from writing and was pleased to actually read a couple of books during my vacation.  Besides, we were having so much fun with our friends that there simply wasn’t any time to write about it; we were too busy living it!

The boys bellying up at the Blue MarlinLaura & Pam getting fancySo this ‘vacation from our vacation’ came about because our dear friends in Vermont, Pam and Stan, invited us to join them on one of their annual vacations – a week at a beach house on Anna Maria Island, just west of Sarasota, Florida.  How could we turn that down?… we couldn’t!!

The Vermont crewWe had such a marvelous time with Stan and Pam, as well as with Dana and Linda, and Peter and Kathleen; two other Vermont couples who were also happy to be escaping the snow that was still on the ground up in New England as of last week.  We all enjoyed beach time, dinners out and in, shopping (just the girls), biking, morning donut runs, and, of course, happy hours featuring Stan’s renowned Stantinis!  And as Fred’s Navy buddy, Perry, and his wife, Dee Dee, live in nearby Tampa, we got to see them, too, both at their place and down at the beach – it was fun and friends all around!

Sheila, Fran, Alicia and Carol - the newly crowned (cupped?) Women's 40+ Hockey Champions!
Sheila, Fran, Alicia and Carol, National Hockey Champions!!!

Another highlight of our vacation time was getting to know and party with some great ladies who happen to be accomplished hockey players.  This group of crazy-fun women are friends with the Vermont group, and as timing would have it, the national championship hockey tournament was taking place down here the same time we were all down here on vacation.  While we didn’t see any of their games, we sure enjoyed partying with them because THEY WON!  And boy could they party!!  These women are the Women’s Over-40 National Hockey Champions!

So at the risk of boring my readers with vacation pictures, I’m including a slideshow, below, with some photo highlights from our beach vacation.  I’m doing this primarily to share them with the Anna Maria Island party people who are responsible for us having so much fun – they wanted access to my photos.  If you’d like to see them, too, hover your cursor over the photo, below, then use the arrows to scroll through our vacation photos:  

We can’t thank Pam and Stan enough for including us in what was a fabulous, fun-filled, sun-filled, sand-filled, booze-filled week in sunny Florida.  We’re already trying to figure out where our next vacation with them will be, but no matter where it is, it’s sure to be wonderful, just as this one was….

Sunset at the beach

Island Time

Trunk Bay overlook
Overlooking Trunk Bay – we snorkeled around those little islands in front of that beautiful white sandy beach

January 10, 2015 — We have been on island time for the past week, and in keeping with how the locals do it, I have been really laid back as far as blogging goes… in part because I was uncertain how Verizon would treat connecting to the Internet and using a hotspot down in the U.S. Virgin Islands (I didn’t want to incur International phone charges and rates!)… but in larger part because we really enjoyed simply chillin’ on and around St John – snorkeling in several of the many bays around the island, hiking in the Virgin Islands National Park, lounging and reading by the pool (I read Unbroken – fabulously incredible!), imbibing on rum punch and Painkillers** during nightly happy hour which began around 4 p.m. each afternoon… it was like a vacation!

We also island hopped one day to do some more incredible snorkeling and go to the British Virgin Islands.  Worth noting on that trip was a stop on Cooper Island in the B.V.I. where we had lunch, and as a bonus got a famous celebrity sighting!  No, it wasn’t my fantasy of seeing Kenny Chesney, even though he loves St John and has a house here.  We saw The Captain!  Not from the Love Boat – baseball’s beloved Derek Jeter!!  We can report that he’s looking fine, and that retirement seems to be agreeing with him as he and several friends dined at the table right next to us – frosting on the cake of one of our fabulous days down in the islands….

I will catch you all up on our Virgin Islands National Park activities in another post, but I figured I’d better get a little post out here lest you think I’ve ceased my musings.  I’ve also included, from their website, the “secret” recipe for the infamous Pusser’s [Rum] Painkillers – a new favorite cocktail of ours, for sure!

View from our balcony at Lavender Hill
View from our condo balcony at Lavender Hill

Cooper Island, B.V.I.
Cooper Island, B.V.I. — site of a lunch spot and also a famous celebrity siting!

**The infamous Pusser’s Painkiller®—the drink we are known for throughout the West Indies, in the U.S. and many parts of Europe!

The Painkiller® is a blend of Pusser’s Rum with 4 parts pineapple juice, 1 part cream of coconut and 1 part orange juice served over the rocks with a generous amount of fresh nutmeg on top. You have a choice of numbers 2, 3 or 4, which designate the amount of Pusser’s Rum! Cheers!

Painkiller #2 … 2 parts Pusser’s Rum
Painkiller #3 … 3 parts Pusser’s Rum
Painkiller #4 … 4 parts Pusser’s Rum

Kara & Kyle say “I do”

Kara & KyleDecember 28th — It was the destination wedding we all looked forward to, and it was finally here!  Nearly 100 guests joined Fred’s brother, Jeff, and sister-in-law, Debbie, as they hosted the wonderful wedding celebration of their daughter, Kara, to her beau, Kyle.  The immediate Jolly clan, 22 in number if I counted right, plus lots of other friends and family members took over many rooms at the beachfront hotel, not to mention a couple of party rooms at different times for other parties held in the days leading up to the big wedding day, and we all had a fabulous time living it up in the sunshine in Ft. Myers Beach!

The wedding day was a perfectly sunny one, and many beach goers took a pause when we all began to gather in the beachfront wedding area in the late afternoon.  As Kara began walking down the sandy aisle, made extra special with the flower petals her two sweetheart nieces, Lauren & Kaelin, tossed out right before her entrance, the crowd erupted in loud applause – it was spontaneously awesome!

Wedding fan/programsThe ceremony was officiated by a local officiant, Miss Betty, with beautiful musical accompaniment from cousins, Mike & Karin, and their girls.  Nine lovely bridesmaids, including sisters, cousins, and friends, and six groomsmen with two ushers, including a brother and brother-in-law, more cousins, and friends, donned blue and green wedding attire which was absolutely perfect for the beach wedding.  Careful planning and attention to detail ensured the day went off without a hitch – indeed, it was a lovely day in every way!

Hover your cursor over the photo, below, and click on the arrows to see pictures of the beachfront wedding celebration:

Note no pictures are being shared from the post-wedding reception and party.  Suffice it to say, it was another wonderful part of the destination wedding experience, complete with delicious food, funny and touching speeches (you were really in jail, Kara?!?) a first-rate DJ who kept us dancing for hours on the dance floor, and a bar tab that would do any wedding party proud!  If this wasn’t enough, rumor has it that the 20-something- / 30-something-age cousins and an I’m-not-revealing-his-age older uncle (Tom) all found their way across the street to a taco stand, then to another bar, then the beach, and that bed checks around 4:30 a.m. found that not everyone was back in them at that late, or rather very early, hour of the next morning!  A JOLLY day and night, indeed…!

So CONGRATULATIONS, Kara & Kyle!  It’s going to be difficult to top this Jolly wedding…!!!

And to all the rest of our Jolly family out there, we love you!  We are all so blessed to be part of this big, happy family….

Hunting Island, South Carolina

View Toad, Charley, and we awoke to in Hunting Island State Park CampgroundThis is the view that greeted us when we woke up at the Hunting Island State Park Campground on the morning of December 17th.  How could we not have seen this when we pulled into our campsite last night?!?  Because it was dark is the reason; very dark with no streetlights.  We could hear the ocean waves and knew it was nearby, but boy-oh-boy were we surprised when we saw this long, unspoiled beach and knew this would be our view for a couple of days (that’s the top of Toad in the foreground) – we were so excited!

Our campsite at Hunting Island State Park Campground

Hunting Island is about 15 miles south and east of Beaufort (BYOO-firt).  It’s one of the few remaining undeveloped sea islands in Lowcountry.  Bridges offer the only access to this wild, marshland paradise.  Just off the beach strands, forests of palmettos and live oaks that are draped with Spanish Moss which, incidentally, is neither Spanish nor moss; it’s an air plant full of biting bugs.  This sand island is laced with sleepy tidal creeks that offers premium shelling for the few beachcombers we encountered during our walk.  The whole sea island is a state park, and our campground was right on the pristine beach strand.

The campground is right on the ocean

The ocean is reclaiming part of the landAs we walked southward down the beach, we came upon a most unusual site.  It seems that surf and ocean waves have reclaimed some of the island as hers.  What stands behind where there once were big oaks and palms is an eerie yet beautiful graveyard of dead trees.

Dead trees on a stretch of Hunting Island where the ocean is reclaiming part of the island

Hunting Island one of the few remaining undeveloped sea islands in the Lowcountry

And much further down, past the 19th-century lighthouse, visitor center, and nature center in the park, is a lone house on stilts out in the surf.  Er… make that a former house.  In researching this queer site, we learned that sometime around 1980, erosion destroyed a portion of the highway and some homes along the then oceanfront, and the frame of the house in the below photo is all that remains.  Erosion is constant on a barrier island like Hunting Island, and up to 15 feet of land is lost each year if sand isn’t pumped back to re-nourish the beach area.

Remains of a house reclaimed by the seaWe really enjoyed the quiet beauty of Hunting Island, and would have loved to camp here longer, but alas, our schedule marches us on south….

Our parade of dead Horseshoe crabsHorseshoe crabs remains we found along the beach and made into a little serpentine.

Wind patterns in the sand at Hunting BeachWind patterns in the shifting sands.