Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Free For Now

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Edisto made it through a close call a few weeks ago with Florence. Parts of North Carolina and South Carolina are still ravaged by the floods from the torrents of rain the erratic storm brought with it. Watching Florence approach was nail-biting, the stress compounded by the mass media frenzy on our certain demise and every lazy-boy meteorologist on their smartphone. It was stressful and at times very confusing. The storm, never able to hold a steady path, had us guessing until the moment of landfall. The Governor of SC called for an evacuation early in the week as the storm wobbled back and forth in the projected path leaving spaghetti models flung everywhere, much to everyone's concern.

Lowcountry locals, normally firm on their steadfastness in hurricanes were even scratching their heads on this one. Many who stayed for Hugo were firm in their evacuation plans because of the enormous size of Florence-they were not going through that again. Many more refused to leave. My neighbor said he would rather “Dig out than have to dig his way back  in.”  That concept rolled over in my head and still is, to be honest. I’m am not a hurricane-hardened local- I evacuate. I know its not an easy decision to make and I don’t judge anyone for their choice either way. In the end, Charleston County got the least rainfall, with less than an inch. The impact, if any we will see from the flooding north of us is yet to be determined.

There was no digging out or digging in for us, not this time at least. Photographs that were shared of the Hugo damage on social media flash in my memory each time I consider the idea of digging out or digging in or the people north of us whose homes are flooded or are currently flooding. This type of devastation is heart-wrenching and my compassion for those dealing with it is deep. Weather prediction is a tough game, and the government did the right thing trying to protect its citizens. In the end, the decision to follow orders is a personal one.

A few days after being home from our “ Hurrication” I was listening to NPR and the guest, whose name and title I have forgotten, was discussing the storm and how the Hurricane Categories are given based on wind speed and that left out one major factor in a storm-the water. The wind is measurable in a hurricane but the amount of water pushed ashore from storm surges and dropped as rain is an undefinable factor. Florence was downgraded to a Category One Storm, but the amount of water the massive storm had carried inside it was beyond anyone's ability to predict or even imagine.  This was where the guest stated he felt like the storm ranking allowed for a false sense of hope when it came to hurricane predictions. People think the categorical rank is a correct projection of a storm’s forces as a whole, when in fact it is only the wind.

I too fell into the category of people he was referring to. Listening to this NPR interview left me more to ponder on and I kept thinking about the dig in or dig out. Or in my case, since I don’t own a tractor for said digging, living with my sister until it’s safe to come home. For now, I continue to hope and pray our luck stays, and we avoid any more storms no matter the size.

Stay informed the next time, listen to your authorities and make your decision based on the worst case scenario. No one really knows how each storm event could play out in the end. For now, go out and enjoy our beautiful beach and the fall sunshine and warm air. For the best part of Edisto is to come, the fall and winter with its cool evenings, oyster roasts, crunching leaves under our feet and empty shorelines. I know my favorite sweater is ready to come off of the shelf!

Eating Local on Edisto

May 9, 2014

Locavore [loh-kuh-vawr, -vohr]

Noun

A Person who makes an effort to eat food that is grown, raised, or produced locally, usually within 100 miles of home

 

  The local food movement didn't have to reach Edisto it was always here. Edisto is an island heavily dotted with family run farms.  Large and small operations, full time to hobby-farms the people of Edisto have to be the most resourceful and self-sufficient people I have ever been blessed to encounter.

 I made an early morning stop at our local markets Geechie Boy Mill and Kings Market to see what they were bringing in from the fields. What they have coming available is delightful.

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 Today was the opening day for the store at Geechie Boy Mill. They are starting the year off with a few new items most importantly homemade doughnuts. Don’t turn up your nose. These are not the saccharine sweet, grease, sugar, and preservative filled junk you are thinking of. These were simple, fresh, and hot just like grandma used to make. No syrup or glaze, just pure, homemade, and amazing.  (Getting off the doughnuts now)  The Johnsman’s (owners of the Geechie Boy) were bringing in fresh veggies and planting many more. They will have fresh eggs, local honey, jams and jellies, the doughnuts, fresh ice-cream, and of course GRITS. Their produce can and does vary given the fact that they plant the majority for chefs who special request certain produce, we luck out and get to buy the extra! If you haven’t stopped in their market before, make the effort. They have a great little store and are wonderful to talk to.

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 Kings Farmers Market is by far the more well know and popular market on the island. Owner Bonnie King was in this morning when I stopped by. She was getting the market ready by herself as the rest of the family was out rounding up their cattle. Yes, I said cattle. They are now proudly offering their own locally raised, grass fed beef. They are selling frozen ground beef and steaks. All their beef is antibiotic free and cared for by the King family on Edisto. I’ll be stopping in after work to pick up a few pounds. Kings Market is currently offering their U-Pick strawberries and Bonnie said their squash would be in soon. They had a lot to offer this morning by way of produce, fresh eggs, cheese, pies and baked goods. All in all it was quite exciting to see the farmers finally able to get their produce out of the fields. I know they are relived to be done with the crazy winter we all suffered through. Bonnie King did advise everything would be about two weeks behind its normal harvest schedule due to the late start planting this year.

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   Make sure to stop in and indulge in a little locavore, Edisto style. I’ll be hanging with the Fontaines at Edisto Seafood next week to see what they will be bringing in and to find out what this year’s shrimp season is expecting to look like!

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Bailey House

July 4, 2014

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Recently Explore Edisto was invited to spend the afternoon with the owners of the Bailey Plantation House on Point of Pines Rd. Current owners Ralph and Brenda Morris sat down with me to reveal the homes history, and their five year renovation of this well-known Edisto plantation home.

Built in 1799 by Sandiford Holmes, the Bailey House was the epicenter of commerce for Edisto until highway 174 was built. The Bailey family purchased the property around 1879 and operated a general store out of the main floor of the house. Store Creek runs behind the house, and in those days was a deep water passage that provided access from one side of the island to the next. In addition to the general store, there was a post office as well as a cotton gin that attracted workers and locals to the area. It was also well known to have the best well water on the island. For decades until the 1980’s, people from all over the island came to the Bailey House well for their drinking water.

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Purchased in 1983 and lovingly restored by Ralph and Brenda Morris, it’s hard to imagine that this beautiful home once stood empty for over 10 years. Ralph tells the story of their search for an elegant old Charleston home like the one he grew up in. When they found the Bailey House they purchased it without going inside. Ralph says it was the grand oak outback that sold him on the property. The renovations were extensive and done almost solely by Ralph, Brenda and Ralph’s brother Frank.

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It took a year of coming down on the weekends and clearing the lot before the couple could get safely inside. Five years later after spending every weekend and holiday working on the restoration, the Morris’ moved into their home. The care and detail they put into the home is very apparent. This isn't just a house for Ralph and Brenda, this is a lifestyle.

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They have enjoyed their home immensely and love sharing its beauty and history with family and friends. They even shared it with Barbara Streisand! Ralph came home one afternoon from work to find a woman enjoying the swing hanging from his oak tree. When he went to go ask her if she needed help he was intercepted by a producer of the film "Prince of Tides”. They had stopped at The Old Post Office restaurant for lunch and she asked the manager if she could go enjoy the view of the river from the swing. One never knows what they will find on Edisto!

Three years ago, Barbara along with Cassina Point Plantation owner Tecla Earnshaw, joined efforts to create Edisto Plantation Weddings and Events. Each family has loved hosting weddings, showers and other events at their grand homes’; they decided to provide the experience for everyone.  

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Explore Edisto goes Primal... sort of...

July 22, 2014

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Explore Edisto staff got their survival skills tuned up at the Environmental Learning Center. We are now (slightly more) ready to take on whatever the Edisto wilderness can throw at us…..

 S.T.O.P.  Stop, Think, Observe, Plan. This was the first lesson we learned during our Coastal Survival Class at the Education Learning Center on Edisto. Our instructor Ashby Gale, works for the park service, and was very enthusiastic and well versed in outdoor survival skills.  To be quite honest, I think the acronym for STOP works in all sticky situations in life. What good happens when you go off half-cocked and with no plan? It doesn't typically work out for the best, no matter where you are.

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 Our group of about 11 was a good mix of ages and everyone there seemed genuinely interested in survival skills and scenarios. The second lesson we learned was packing your daypack just in case you do get lost. In all my days of hiking, I have never packed a day pack. Good thing I never got lost. So allow me to give you a quick run-down of the recommended items that will make your survival much easier

 

•Poncho 

• Knife

• Flint and steel

• First Aid Kit with cotton balls and alcohol wipes

• Bug Spray

• Small Plastic Container

 Quickly note that bug spray and the alcohol wipes are highly flammable and thus very useful to create FIRE! A small plastic container such as a sandwich box could be used to create a solar still along with the poncho. It was surprisingly easy to make the solar still, but seems like it would take a long time to produce more than a gulp of water, so you better hope you get lost alone, or pack a lot of ponchos. All kidding aside, drinking the salty water around here is not a good idea. Ashby did tell us that you could tie baggies around leaves on the end of branches and harvest water that way as well.

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Next, we discussed some edible plants and sampled them. They were only just edible, but who can be picky when your survival is at stake? 

 About the food, which there will be almost none, you can survive three weeks without food. Three weeks! So let us go over the rule of 3’s

You can survive:

3 seconds without hope!! (Drama)

3 hours in extreme cold or heat without shelter (I disagree about the cold part, but what do I know)

3 days without water (assuming you are already well hydrated. Beer does NOT count)

3 weeks without food  (leaves and grubs, here we come)

3 months without entertainment or stimulation of the mind (I’m thinking that surviving in the wild for 3 months seems extremely stimulating to the mind)

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Now for the all-important FIRE!!

 Building fire from scratch is not a simple task. Due to time restrains we didn’t get to try to make fire ourselves but Ashby did give a great demonstration on two methods of producing fire. He also taught us the proper way to set up your sticks to create a lasting fire. Create tender using the cotton balls mentioned above inside a nest of pine straw or dried palm fronds. Key word, my fellow survivors, is dry. Ashby called his method of fire building the teepee style. Yes you put your sticks up like a teepee. Tiny finger length twigs on the interior, followed by finger sized twigs then wrist bone sized sticks. The teepee of sticks was very dense; he used a lot of sticks. He left a "door” for the tender nest in the front.

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I won’t try to transcribe creating fire with the bow friction method he demonstrated. It is a hard process but I think I am pretty dedicated to try it until I succeed at it. I’ll let you know how it goes.  In the end the flint and steel method provided the flame for our fire.

Overall the class was great fun and very enlightening. Preparation is key before starting out to enjoy the great outdoors.  We certainly learned how to do things that we, no doubt, would have never been able figured out on our own.  As we plan for future adventures exploring the island, care to better prepare, even for short trips will now be taken. If you are interested in joining on of the classes held at the Environmental Learning Center, visit their website at www.southcarolinastateparks.com and search Edisto. 

Snake Charmed Life

August 18, 2015

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Gators, and turtles, and cobras oh my!  Blending in with the Live Oaks and Spanish Moss on HWY 174, just a few miles from Edisto Beach, is the life’s work of Ted and Heyward Clamp. The Edisto Island Serpentarium and Gift Shop is one of only a few such places in America, a "zoo” for reptiles and serpents of all kinds. While snakes might not be for everyone, the Edisto Serpentarium presents its inhabitants in unique, open habitats that provide for optimal viewing and a wonderful learning experience for everyone. 

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 Four times throughout the day, a live snake presentation is given by Anne Clamp in the Serpentarium amphitheater. During the twenty minute program Anne, a herpetologist, educates the crowd about snake identification, characteristics and behavior. Well-rehearsed and gifted with a calming and crystal clear voice, Anne is as captivating as the serpents at her feet. She calmly uses her snake hook to retrieve a copperhead snake. Next followed an obese Water moccasin aka Cotton Mouth, and Anne dispelled the folk lore about it being a vicious snake that will chase humans.  Quite the contrary, the water moccasin, due to its hefty body type, is slow and clumsy. Its inability to get out of the way of crushing feet is the reason for its aggressive outlook on life.  A few more intimidating specimens came out and she closed the show with Wilson, a five foot python, who was very docile and accepted the touches and inquiring hugs of at least a dozen small children.  "Wilson feels like a fresh shucked corn cob!” is how one small fan described him, according to Anne. It’s a very accurate description. His very demeanor was pleasant and he seemed to enjoy absorbing his host’s body heat.

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 The day, even though it was drizzling and chilly, continued to provide surprise and excitement. Junior, the King Cobra was finally put on display in his new enclosure. Witnessing a seven foot Cobra settle in to unfamiliar surroundings is a chilling experience. His eyes are orbs of intense fury and intelligence. He would make an excellent super villain/ evil genius in any plot-line.

 It was in front of the Cobra enclosure our tour elevated in excitement with the addition of Michael Haug, head curator of the Serpentarium.  As equally excited about all things reptile as the Clamp family, Michael has been with the Serpentarium for many years. It was with great detail and enthusiasm that he answered all of our questions. He moved around the alligators, even while one was snapping at him, with smooth, calm grace and a pleasant smile on his face. You can’t help but want to compare him to what Steve Irwin might have been like at that age.

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The walls of the atrium are covered with stories, letters, photos, and relics of daring expeditions by the Clamp brothers. It’s clear this is a group of fearless and passionate individuals who have come together with a life goal to educate the public, and preserve and protect the reptilian world. They are also quietly helping to keep hospitals and clinics around the world supplied with anti-venom. As one of only six venom extraction labs in America, they stay busy. The extracted venom is sent away for processing to become the healing serum for snake bites.

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If the Serpentarium hasn't made your to-do list yet, or it’s been a while since your last visit, make a point to stop by. They are constantly adding new exhibits and updating their collection.

 If you enjoyed this blog post, stay tuned for more about the Clamps and their Serpentarium as we unfold more photos, videos, and interviews!












Bike Paths of Edisto

Originally published August 10, 2016

Oh glorious fall days, you have been teasing us with your cool breezes and non-deadly temperatures this past week.  Mornings have been a brisk 68 degrees in the days topping out at 87 degrees or so in the afternoon. It’s the perfect temperature to dust off the bike and go explore the Edisto bike trails.

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 If you didn’t bring your bike with you to Edisto, renting one is easy and inexpensive. Island Bikes and Outfitters or Edisto Essentials, both offer bike rentals by the day or week.  Even if it has been years since you have been on a bike, Edisto offers a wide safe path to get back into the groove of things.

 

 We started out on our trek on the shaded portion that runs between Myrtle Street and Palmetto Blvd. Cars are not allowed on this part of the trail and it’s secluded, shaded and delightful. Edisto bike paths cover many miles and goes all the way up HWY 174 to Botany Bay. The Edisto Beach State Park also offers many bike trails through the maritime forest and offers various points of interest to stop and enjoy..

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 If you are enjoying a couple of days on Edisto I suggest checking the map and exploring a new path every day. Make sure to take your camera and share your photos from your bike trip with us on our Facebook page! Thank you for joining us and keep Exploring Edisto! 

Pluff Mudd, Floods, and why we should love the stink!

August 10, 2016

Pluff Mud STINKS!! I know locals love it, but as a transplant from Atlanta, it was very hard for me to get used to the stench. I wanted to be the one rolling the windows down as I drove home over the big bridge, tossing my hair in the breeze, and deeply inhaling the smell of the marsh at low tide. At best I only made a stink face. Fast forward five years, and while it doesn’t make me gag anymore, I can say I LOVE pluff mud, but not necessarily the smell of it...

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What is Pluff Mud? I actually hear this question a lot. So let’s discuss why we have the pluff and what it’s good for in order to explain what itIS. The recent flooding of our great state of South Carolina is a tragedy. Huge amounts of rain dumped all over the state resulting in flash floods all over. Columbia, in the middle of the state, has practically dissolved. And while the surrounding metro areas around Edisto such as West Ashley, Charleston, North Charleston, Johns Island and James Island had flooding and homes were lost, we didn’t accrue as much damage as they did further inland. Even days after the floods when the evacuation warnings were sent out to homes along the Edisto River, Edisto Island it’s self didn’t flood…..What does this have to do with Pluff Mud? Pretty much everything.

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The marsh is a living breathing, water filtering, fish harboring, oyster hosting sanctuary of awesomeness. Our marshlands and tidal creeks are what kept our island and surrounding areas safe. Acting like a gigantic sponge they can absorbed massive amounts of water, essentially stopping the flood in its path as well as moving water on out to the creeks and rivers. The pluff mud is the waste from the many different filters the marsh uses. The marsh grass sucks in nutrients from the water and marsh beds, then it breaks down into the mud and water giving it that cloudy green look it has. The shrimp, fish, birds, algae, and oyster beds(plus thousands of other creatures I didn’t list) are all working to filter out the water for food and nutrients, and the by product is pluff mud. Yes, pluff mud is marsh poop. That is why it stinks.

 

Being surrounded by our wonderful marshland here on Edisto and surrounding areas helped us out a lot. Those marsh sponges soaked up millions of gallons of water, and while most of them spilled over, the sheer volume of water the marshlands could consume before springing a leak was awesome. The waters pouring out of the marshes at low tides had so much force behind it in some areas it looked like white water rapids, gushing out into the rivers on the way to the ocean. Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with, but her design skills are impeccable.

  

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This special ecosystem that surrounds us is truly one amazing place; The Ace Basin is the second most productive ecosystem in the world behind the rain forest. A fascinating world we must keep striving to protect from development, so it can keep protecting us. Each part of the wetlands, every creek bank, waterway, estuary, species of fish, all the mammals and reptiles, each and every tree, all the way down to the tiniest algae floating in the water, has a very big role to play in the survival of the marshlands. Like a vast functioning machine, the loss of even the tiniest gear could stop the whole thing.

So if you love the pluff, or don’t care for the stuff,you still must respect the mud. Are you interested in learning more about Pluff Mud and the Ace Basin surrounding Edisto? Stop by the Interpretive Learning Center at Edisto Beach State Park, or book an Eco Tour with Botany Bay Eco Tours. Meg Hoyle, owner and operator was a biologist with the state of South Carolina. Her tours are amazing and pretty much where I get all of my info. Tell her Explore Edisto says Hi! 

Kayaking and Birding with Lindsay Young of EWT

Originally published July 3rd, 2017

Kayaking the many creeks and rivers that surround Edisto Island is a passion best shared with others. Pulling my paddle quietly through the calm water, smelling the pluff mud and salt marsh and watching a sanderling run and peck along the creek's edge while pelicans and osprey soar overhead are just a few of the reasons I love to kayak. Exploring the beauty of this island while kayaking with friends is a great way to feel one with God, restore my soul and ease my mind. Whether paddling the winding creeks along the edge of a maritime forest, in a creek that cuts through the middle of a salt marsh or going across the sound to Otter or Pine Island, there are many great choices with lots of beauty and wildlife to enjoy.

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 There are also lots of rivers to explore within an hour's drive of Edisto. Paddling the ACE Basin (the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Rivers) is a great way to spend a sunny day with close friends, while enjoying the beauty of the outdoors, abundant with wildlife.

 Birdwatching goes hand in hand with kayaking, as does dolphin watching. Spotting an otter or a mink is an added bonus. In the summer months, manatee can be seen in the creeks, and lately some leatherback turtles have popped up near our kayaks.

 Having a pod of dolphins breach the surface next to your kayak and hearing them breathe is a spiritual experience that is always exciting, even after 25 years! Their practice of strand feeding (herding schools of fish next to the bank, then launching their body onto the shore) is also a memorable experience. This is a unique way for them to hunt and feed on the fish in shallow water.

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 These Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins can be seen mating when the water is warm. Just like when the dolphins are strand feeding, kayakers need to keep their distance (approximately 50 yards) so as not to disturb them.

 Birdwatching in this area is also very rewarding due to the diverse ecosystems. One can see wading birds, shorebirds, waterfowl and raptors, as well as neotropical migratory warblers. Bringing a nice pair of binoculars and a camera enhances the experience, especially for the avid or up-and-coming wildlife photographers. (Tip: Have a friend paddle you in a double kayak if you're bringing expensive camera equipment and want to concentrate fully on your photography.)

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 In addition, kayaking is a great way to exercise your upper body. A proper stroke involves stretching your arms as far forward as you can reach, turning your upper body as one unit (arms, shoulders, trunk, waist), then pulling your arms as far back as you can reach in a rhythmic motion. Your back should be straight and bent slightly at the waist. For a better workout, paddling against the current or on a windy day will make you work harder and burn more calories. Charleston County Parks and Recreation offers many kayaking classes so that you can learn the different types of strokes, how to rescue yourself or others, as well as advanced classes for instructors and leaders.

 The tides dictate what time of day to paddle and the direction (in or out with the tide) that we paddle due to the difference in the height of the water levels and the differences in the speed of the current. One of the best tools for kayakers is a free app called Tides Near Me. It gives not only the times of the two high tides and two low tides per day, it also gives a weekly schedule and the heights of the water levels at dead high and dead low. If a two-hour paddle is desired, then the best time to go would be within one hour before dead high or low. For example, if the tide is dead low at noon, then the paddle could be from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. The kayaker would go in the same direction as the current (out with the low, or ebb, tide) for approximately one hour, then turn back to paddle with the current (flood tide) when the tide is coming back in. There is approximately 30 minutes at the dead high or low when the current is not moving in either direction. Kayakers can also get the tides in local newspapers, on the Internet, or with yearly tide charts.

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 Other tools that are very helpful to kayakers are maps (my favorite is called Coastal Expeditions) and charts, usually sold at local bait-and-tackle shops or bookstores. One of the best books for kayaking in this area is called Kayak Charleston by Ralph Earhart. There are a few editions available, but all are very helpful for kayaking the creeks and rivers within an hour's drive of Edisto. Not only are drawings of each river given, but great suggestions are offered for the trip (where to put in and take out), tide differences, and the approximate length (time) of paddle.

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 Wearing a USCG-approved life jacket is important (the most comfortable ones are made specifically for kayaking) and a whistle is required on all boats. Taking your cell phone and letting someone know your itinerary is also important. You must also have a light on your boat if you're out before or after daylight. Sunscreen, visors/hats, water and snacks should also be packed. Appropriate clothing is recommended depending on the air and water temperatures. If you’re paddling in warm weather with warm water, beach attire is fine. However, if the weather and, especially, the water is cold, then layering can mean the difference in life and death. The 100-degree weather rule is this: if the air and water temperatures combine to 100 degrees or less, then a wet suit or dry suit should be worn. Old sneakers, neoprene wet suit booties or dedicated paddling shoes are best for your footwear. A simple rule to guide your clothing decision is called the ABC's of kayaking: Anything but Cotton!

 Kayaking Edisto and the surrounding area is a great way to spend a few hours with friends, enjoying the beauty of the Lowcountry and the birds and animals that call it home. Just remember to invest in the proper equipment and check the tides and flood stages to ensure that your paddle is fun and safe. Happy paddling and hope to see you on the water!

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Lindsey Young author and co-owner of Edisto Water Sports and Tackle