Now that we are proud Park Passport owners, our family can get into ANY state park in the state of South Carolina for free. YAHOO. I really thought I was getting an all access pass to Myrtle Beach State Park, but was very excited to learn I can use it all 40+ state parks. Something else I learned over the weekend: if you visit every single state park, and get a stamp in your book at every single one, you will receive a t-shirt that is not available for purchase. Road trip?
I’ve never visited Huntington Beach State Park, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought it would be a lot like Myrtle Beach State Park – campgrounds, shelters, playgrounds, beach access. It’s very different – and I was very happy with my new discovery. Huntington Beach State Park does have shelters and beach accesses (no playgrounds that I found) – but it also has gorgeous marshlands, nature walks, and viewing areas. Thomas wanted to see an alligator. Me too!
So we stopped and headed to a viewing area. Here is where we encountered my first surprise. A large, slithering snake obstructing the path to the alligator viewing area. I had my zoom lens and I cropped this photo – I can promise you that I was very far away from this snake.
Thomas? He just wanted to see the alligators. He was not happy that I would not run past the snake. Instead, I made him wait while we inched closer to the snake, forcing it to slither up the board walk away from us. I wish I had taken a video of it wrapping its way around the bars and into the tree. As much as I fear snakes… I also think they are fascinating and like to observe at a very safe distance. It crawled into the trees, and I picked Thomas up and sprinted around the corner. Have you ever seen Snakes on a Plane? I envisioned a scene out of the movie, and was very relieved that it did not fly out of the tree and latch it’s fangs on top of my head as I flew around the corner.
When we got to the viewing area, I looked around and was disappointed not to see any alligators until my much more observant 3 year old pointed out, “there’s an alligator!” and it was just relaxing in the middle of the marsh. Success!
We turned around and headed back. I saw another viewing area and thought maybe we could find more alligators down there, so we hiked down the road until I saw a nature walk path. We headed into the forest. Since there are lots of trees, there are also lots of sticks. This was TONS OF FUN and thankfully, we only ended up with three sticks after the excursion. At the end of the trail before the viewing area, we discovered a Horse Tree! Yay!
This tree sits in the path just before the boardwalk to the observing deck, and is a fun surprise as you round the path. Very pretty!
After that little hike… we did not see any alligators, but on the way back, Thomas stopped. I thought he wanted me to pick him up (again) and I asked him what he was doing. And he said “looking at a big spider!!!” Panicked, and feeling like I failed as a parent for not hovering over him, protecting him from creatures and large spiders, I said calmly in a voice a little louder than my normal tone “DO NOT TOUCH IT!” and I came over to inspect. Right at his height a few feet away was a gigantic spider that I totally missed. I was looking ahead to the end of the path. I’m sure I could go off on some meaningful tangent about different perspectives and different observations and missing things that other people see… but I’m just going to share this photo with you. Also, I would like to quell any judgement that my son was in danger. Thomas was no where close to this spider and I was only a few feet in front of him… he actually stayed a safe distance. He also made a point later to tell daddy that he saw the spider, not mommy. My creature radar was clearly not on full alert!
Photographing it was a little challenging – I had to point the lens with the autofocus point directly on the spider or it missed the web and huge insect and focused on the leaves behind it, making the spider invisible in the viewfinder. It surprised me! Usually I’m focusing on a three year old… this was something new.
Moving on. We played a little corn hole and then walked back to the car. We were both ready to go home after such excitement. I wanted to check out the park, so I drove around – he opted not to tour Atalaya but promised he’d come back with me to see it – but we did get out for another nature walk. This is a big boardwalk that stretches through the marshlands. Beautiful!
We were walking along, when movement caught my eye. I looked over in the mud – and saw crabs! When you catch them by surprise, they all move very fast for a few seconds and then stand still.
Tom Tom decided he was over nature walks and wanted to get back in the car, so we headed back and I was looking straight ahead and not towards the ground, when I saw a bright green snake slither very very quickly into the trees. I pointed it out to Thomas, and started to set him down so we could look at it when … I nearly placed my son on top of another bright green slithering snake. Apparently they were a couple. My scream was so loud I’m sure people thought I was getting eaten by an alligator. Thomas, thankfully, was not scared by my display of terror and just wanted to look at the snake. The sidewalk was clear of snakes at this point so I set him down. The snake knew we were staring at it and didn’t move.
That was a very exciting end to our first visit to Huntington Beach State Park.
I was expecting playgrounds and possibly a pier. Instead we saw a black snake, alligator, a huge spider, crabs, and 2 bright green snakes. It was a very fun afternoon – and if you are in the area, I definitely recommend the visit. It is gorgeous.