If you want to find me when we’ve retired…

(if we ever do, and if we’re retiring in Rocky), look here: Winking smile

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Cove Mountain Campground in Wears Valley, Tennessee.

I know, it’s not Hawaii or Fiji or very glamorous at all, but it’s near the mountains, it’s green, quiet, peaceful, misty, close enough to civilization, yet out in the country, and there’s plenty of wildlife and plants to keep this former biologist interested. (And it has great internet, to keep Chad happy—ha! Oh yeah, I forgot, he’s supposed to be retired in this scenario….)

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I’m feeling short on words and long on pictures today, so I’ll just post some pics, mostly from my early morning walks around the campground (so with my iPhone…not great quality, but I hope you’ll enjoy them!). We were here for 10 days from late July into August.

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Who is this strange person taking pictures of us so early in the morning?

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Which one do you like better? The one above or below? I couldn’t decide so I’ll post them both.

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The tortoise and the hare(s) live here!

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I hope you are enjoying a peaceful day wherever you are!

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Rescuing Our Kids

 

Ken Ham—Final Session of 2013 Answers in Genesis Mega Conference

 

There were so many wonderful speakers at the conference, but Ken’s final session was excellent. I’ve been sitting here trying to think of a way to adequately summarize, but I think the best thing would be to let him speak for himself! It’s about an hour long, but please watch if you can. These are important words to parents specifically, but to anyone who cares about where our society is heading.

If you would like an eye-opener into where our society IS heading (or has already arrived), here is his opening session:

Ken Ham—Opening Session 2013 AIG Mega Conference

It would have been good if he could have somehow combined the two talks, I think, because after the first one we were left a bit questioning what to do…how to love those around us without being judgmental and still do what is right, but he wrapped it up well at the end of the week (why I think it’s better to watch the one at top first).

I know not everyone agrees with all of his points, but I feel like he has an accurate perspective on many issues and he is able to back his statements up with the Bible.

I’ll be blogging more about our other favorite speakers soon.

Would love to hear what you think—is he on-target or off-base? Please leave your comments here or email me.

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Visitors!

I love having people over to our home in Colorado and I haven’t had the opportunity to host too many visitors in Rocky, so I was thrilled when our friends from Colorado Springs popped in for a couple of days with their adorable little one!

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We hiked with them on the trail to Grotto Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains.

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It was a beautiful trail with plenty of rocks and tree roots to maneuver.

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Getting behind the falls.

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Someone said something about that guy in the background being on Survivor, but I don’t think that’s very likely. Maybe I should have asked him for his autograph!

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We found out later that there are usually lots of salamanders around here—we didn’t see any.

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Sweet friends.

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I don’t know much about photography (would love to learn more someday!) and probably took this one all wrong, but I like the way it looks like the falls are pouring light into the water at the bottom.

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The “I’m falling off the rocks!” pose…always a good one.

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Happy hikers!

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Thanks for coming to visit us, friends!

I’ll have lots more to write about the Smokies—loved them!!

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There ARE Answers in Genesis!

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We stayed in Sevierville, TN, at the River Plantation Campground while we attended the Answers in Genesis Mega-Conference. We’ve become growing fans of AIG as we’ve delved into more of their materials and teaching and it’s really challenged and changed our faith. Last year we attended their Family Conference in Branson, MO and were excited to see what we would learn this year!

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The kids attended a VBS all week while the adults were in the main sessions. They had a really great time, and Sweet Pea made a good friend there.

One of the main messages AIG tries to promote is that worldview is so important, and to a Christian, the Gospel is everything! The scientific evidence all around us, what we see in nature, how we view others, all depends on the “glasses” (our worldview) we see life through. For a Christian, that should be the Bible. Everyone HAS a worldview of some sort, we all wear glasses–whether it’s humanism, atheism, me-ism, some other ism, or something without a name–and what that worldview is will determine how everything around us is interpreted.

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This was a walking, chomping, tail-swinging velociraptor on a leash!! SSSCCCCAARRRYY!!! (Don’t look too closely or you might see an extra pair of human-looking legs underneath Smile)

Why does AIG talk so much about dinosaurs (that’s not the only thing they talk about by far…)? Well, I don’t know what they would say, but I think it’s because dinosaurs are cool!! And, if you understand how all the scientific evidence surrounding dinosaurs, fossils, and natural selection actually point to a CREATOR, it can change your ability to trust the Bible as infallible and as a steady place to base your faith upon. Short version: if we can believe the Bible is accurate in its first 11 verses about how our world (and we!) were created, we can trust our God about everything else He says in His Word.

As I grew up attending church, and also had a strong interest in animals and science, I never knew whether to go along with all that I learned about dinosaurs, the fossil record, etc. in public school, because

the message I got in science class: “clearly, all the evidence PROVES evolution, therefore there is no creator and God doesn’t exist. Or if he does, he is uninvolved with life on earth” and “any educated person can’t deny the earth is millions (billions?—it never seemed to be the same) of years old, therefore the Bible is wrong”

OR,

the message I got in Sunday school or church (if it was ever discussed at all, and it usually wasn’t): “clearly the Bible teaches creation, therefore all natural selection doesn’t occur and dinosaurs never existed, the fossil record is a lie”

What an amazing sense of freedom to know that science and the Bible DO support each other!! I don’t have to choose either of these extremes. I am free to wholeheartedly believe what is written in Genesis and I don’t have to deny the scientific evidence to do it!

(I’ll be posting more about different issues brought up at the conference and what I’ve learned, but I don’t want this post to get too long. For now, I’ll just say I’ve learned some FASCINATING things, God is an amazing Creator, and believing that has changed my life!)

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The last day of the conference, all the kids got up front and sang a couple of the songs they had learned. Spunky Monkey was very unsure of doing this, so I had to laugh that he ended up front & center! (Steve Ham, Ken Ham’s brother is at the mic and Buddy Davis is on guitar on the right.) Looks like he got over his nervousness.

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This is only about half of the kids who were there—Sweet Pea was too far in back and to the right of this picture for me to get a good picture of her.

Thursday after the main part of the conference ended, AIG had a group attend Dixie Stampede. Sevierville is Dolly Parton’s hometown and there is Dolly stuff everywhere, including DollyWorld. We skipped that one. The kids visited some of the performers after the show.

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It was a fun show—beautiful horses, costumes, racing pigs and ostriches, fireworks, patriotism, and gobs of food! And no silverware to eat it with–Sweet Pea was very put out by that (I kind of was, too). And, take it from me, if you have the slightest horse allergy, dining in an enclosed space with LOTS of them running around for an hour and a half will certainly trigger said allergies!! I sniffled and sneezed for the next week. Sad smile

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Georgia on My Mind

After leaving Charleston, we headed to Georgia. But first, a couple stops along the way.

Back in Asheville, when leaving Mama Gertie’s, our tire-pressure monitoring system let us know we had a leak in one of the tires on the motorhome. Chad was able to fill the tire and we made it along like that okay, but knew we needed to get the valve stem replaced. So our first stop was at a Wingfoot Tire Shop at a Flying J truck stop along the interstate.

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Based on the price of motorhome tires (ouch—just bought six of them before we left home) we were nervous about what this would cost us. We were pleasantly surprised and amazed—$26 and less than an hour of our time! Now if we can keep the tire pressure monitor valves on the Mazda from being stolen again (replaced them after they were stolen off all four tires somewhere in Asheville) we hope to be in good shape with our tires for a while!

Next stop—washing off all of the sea salt residue from our time at the beach and near the coast in Charleston:

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Waiting in line with the big rigs at the Blue Beacon Truck Wash.

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We’d never seen a truck wash before! They wash by hand—about six guys did a very thorough job. Rocky was squeaky clean after this!

 

And of course, an hour later, by the time we reached Atlanta:

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Ah well. At least we had the salt off.

We stayed at the Stone Mountain Campground outside of Atlanta in, well, Stone Mountain, GA.

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It was pouring rain when we got there, in the dark, along with lightning and thunder (which we hadn’t had with the rains out east until this point), and we couldn’t get leveled in the back-in spot we were assigned to. We tried over and over, with the automatic levelers, manual leveling with me using a little level on the floor of Rocky while Chad adjusted the jacks, he tried pulling out and back in several times; nothing worked. We finally gave up and found a pull-in site nearby. We hadn’t had a pull-in site before, but this one was a much larger site, more private and super easy to level. So it worked out for the best!

The next day was beautifully sunny so we headed for the Stone Mountain Theme Park. We spent all morning on the Sky Hike ropes course. So fun and at times, scary! The kids were awesome and very brave. So were we, I might add. (You’ll have to look closely to find them in these photos.)

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Spunky Monkey is appropriately named—he just basically zoomed over most of the elements.

 

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This carving in the 825 foot high granite monolith near Atlanta was initiated as a tribute to the Confederacy. It features Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis and is larger overall than Mt. Rushmore—Robert E. Lee’s head (in the middle) is 12 feet tall! At one point in the carving process a dinner party with 12 guests was held on his shoulder! From the ground it is difficult to get a feel for the true size of the sculpture. Gutzon Borglum, a name you’ve heard if you’ve visited Rushmore, began the project and initially planned it to have a whole Confederate army on horseback following the generals. That never materialized, because Borglum couldn’t get along with the project planners and walked off the job. His work was blasted off the mountain and started over by Augustus Lukeman, who must have been easier to get along with—at least his work is there to stay.

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We took a train ride around the base of Stone Mountain.

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Here’s the backside. (Can a circle have a backside? I guess I should say this is the side away from the theme park.)

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The kids and I rode the sky tram to the top of the big rock.

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How is it she’s taller than me when she sits on my lap??!!

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He really needs to learn to relax….

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Waiting for the laser show to start.

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The sculpture was the backdrop for the laser show—the graphics were pretty impressive. At one point, they made it look like the sculpture was opening up and we all got a peek at what was inside the mountain—huge crystals one moment, then a bustling city with aircraft the next. A tribute to the South, including the Rocket Center we visited in Huntsville was fun.

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The patriotic portion and tribute to our troops had me tearing up, but that part always gets me anyway.

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The end-of-show fireworks were enhanced with the “boom” of the fireworks echoing off the rock.

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The next day, Chad and the kids went back for more part of the day, while I stayed around Rocky getting caught up on a few things and cleaning. They did more Sky-Hiking, mini-golf, butterfly pavilion and Geyser Tower. Fun! But all were worn out after. Time for a little down-time. We had planned on visiting Louie Giglio’s Passion City Church in Atlanta, where Chris Tomlin leads worship, but Sweet Pea wasn’t feeling well on Sunday, so we moved on up to Sevierville, TN.

Next stop—the Answers in Genesis Mega-Conference!

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Book Worth Reading

Visiting the Magnolia Plantation (see this post) has me very intrigued with the slave culture of the South. While we were there, I asked the tour guide what kept the slaves from escaping. She said it was the family culture. Occasionally, one of the girls would be sent away if a man on the plantation took an “unnatural interest” (the term she used) in her, but the family knew they would likely never see her again if they did send her away, so they were very reluctant to do so. The different families lived together, cooked together, helped each other raise their children, tended house together and of course, sang and worshipped together.  I didn’t have enough time on the tour to chat with the guide about all she had learned about this particular plantation’s slaves, but she did recommend this book for a firsthand account of slavery.

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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself, by Harriet Jacobs

 

It was free on Kindle and very affordable in paperback. I highly recommend it. My kids will be reading this as part of their history education (not quite yet, though, as there are some parts they aren’t quite ready for).

Within the first few paragraphs, I was struck with the quality of this woman’s writing—both her vocabulary and her style. And by the end I was completely captured by her strength, faith, determination and love for her family and God. Quite an amazing story–heart-wrenching and inspiring at the same time. Read it if you have the chance.

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Magnolia Plantation- Part 1

When I think of Charleston, I think of plantations. Chad was working, Spunky Monkey thought hanging out at Rocky (even with Chad working) would be more fun than visiting a plantation, so Sweet Pea and I had a day together, visiting Magnolia Plantation

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The entrance to the plantation:

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Sweet Pea took this while I was waiting in the amazingly hot, SLOW line to buy tickets…

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The main house. This is actually the third house that has been on the property. The first burned down after a lightning strike, the second was burned down by Union soldiers during the Civil War. The faithful head slave, after being freed, walked for five days to find his former master who had fled the war to the north. He told him what had happened and that he needed to return right away to claim his property. The owner did, and quickly moved a hunting shack from elsewhere on the property onto the foundation for this house. It didn’t fit, but apparently satisfied the requirements to claim the land. It was the left portion of the house below. The rest was added on later, to fit the original foundation and expand the home.

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A lovely porch view, I’d say! As lovely as the surrounding gardens, the oldest (since 1870!) public gardens in the country. The variety of scenery, from duckweed-covered ponds to meadows for grazing ponies, to manicured flowers, bridges and statues, was splendid. We spent hours wandering and talking (and sweating—it was so HOT and HUMID!!!).

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Monk’s knees!

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We really liked the “Zoo & Nature Center”.

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The goat looks pretty impressed…

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Then it was off to a Swamp Ride in a pontoon boat. In addition to hearing interesting facts (& some tales?) about the area, we saw this guy…

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He was 12 feet or so from the boat, and the tour guide estimated he was about 8-10 feet long, based on the distance between his eyes and the end of his snout. He just watched us go by…wonder what he was thinking….

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The swamp we floated through used to be a rice field. The rice was irrigated with the water from the adjacent Ashley River (named after Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury and chief Lord Proprietor of the Carolina Colony) that turns brackish when the tide rises in the nearby Charleston Harbor. In order to know when to turn off the water so the rice didn’t get all the saltwater, a slave would stand at the levy and taste the water with a spoon. As soon as he tasted salt, the water was turned off.

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An Anhinga drying its wings on a gator ramp.

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Magnolia Plantation- Part 2

While at the Magnolia Plantation we took a tour of the row of former slave homes. These five white “duplexes” are the remaining original homes of the slaves who worked on the plantation. Our very informed tour guide told us much about the slave culture at this particular plantation right before the Civil War. The Drayton family (direct descendants of whom still own the plantation, 300 years after it was established) relied heavily on slave labor to run their plantation, as did so much of the South. These were built to house 10-12 people on each side, with a shared chimney and little else. The family culture among the slaves was incredibly strong and loyalty, even to the plantation owners, was a priority. Unlike the chain gangs used elsewhere, this plantation used a system where a head slave (mentioned in my previous post) would delegate tasks based on another slave’s particular talents and maybe even interests. This hierarchy involved more trust and responsibility and allowed the slaves to acquire more skills.

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The homes were occupied, even after the slaves were freed, by servants and caretakers, some of whom are direct descendants of the slave who walked five days to find the master after the Union soldiers burned the plantation to the ground. They are being uniquely preserved, with one side being restored to one of five different time periods and the other merely preserved, so that visitors can see the originall, very old boards, bricks, etc. and then on the other side of the same building, see what it might have looked like when it was lived in. This was a restored side.

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This is the 300-year-old grandpa Live Oak tree. It was GIANT! We learned that many Revolutionary War ships were made from these live oak trees—the massive branches were used for the ship’s “ribs”.

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This is the slave school—I was surprised to learn that Mr. Drayton saw such value in education that he thought it was important that the slaves be taught to read and write, so he provided a school and tutors for them.

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Our last stop before we left the plantation—the Swamp!! (She wasn’t actually worried, just acting Smile.)

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The musicians for our tour…

The green stuff surrounding their “island” is called duckweed (looks like algae) and it completely covers the foot or two of water throughout the swamp.

 

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We saw this guy sunning himself, covered in green goo. There was only a flimsy wire mesh between us and the water he was in, but thankfully he was pretty far out there. No one around here seems worried about the gators, say they aren’t aggressive toward people, but when I heard they bite with 3000 pounds of force, can run 10 mph, and many points on the path there was nothing between us and the water, and almost no one else walking around the swamp, I did get a bit skittish.

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Apparently she did too. (Not really…again, acting. Smile)

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Back at the campground, it was time to sort all the shells we had acquired at the beach in order to pick the ONE we could each bring with us. It took until dark, and even then it was tough to part with them.

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We didn’t know what to do with all the shells. Throwing them away just seemed wrong. Leaving them there for the next campers didn’t seem quite right, and taking them with us just wasn’t an option. But—then we remembered that we had seen the front walk of the registration office at the campground was landscaped with seashells instead of rock. On our way out we checked at the office and they were happy to let us leave our shells with them to add to their landscaping. So if you are ever at the Oak Plantation Campground in Charleston, look for the seashells we brought there from Myrtle Beach! Winking smile

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Off to Georgia we are!

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Visiting Charleston

My blog-writing has been on hold lately. Not sure why (might be the downer of leaving the beach) , but I’m feeling ready to get back at it! Time to catch up!

In Charleston, we found a nice camping spot at Oak Plantation Campground. AFTER we drove over a couple bridges like this…kind of scary when you’re barreling ahead in a 20,000+ lb beast. I guess those cars on the other side are coming from SOMEWHERE!

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Here are some pictures of the campground. I’ll remember South Carolina for the Spanish moss hanging off the Live Oak trees, and swamps everywhere (we did learn the difference between a swamp and a marsh…a marsh has no trees!)

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I almost forgot to take a picture at this campground, so I snapped one quickly the night before we left! This was a great campground for riding bikes and jogging, except the trashcans were lined up along the main road leading in and out. With the heat and humidity, we had to learn to strategically hold our breath as we passed by!

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One of the first things we took in was a trip on this ferry to Fort Sumter, where the Civil War started. The fort is on a tiny island in the Charleston Harbor. The island was built up and the fort constructed on it for the War of 1812. By the time the Civil War was brewing, Union troops were stationed on it to quell the unrest taking place in the South. The first shot was fired here on April 12, 1861, by Confederates who quickly caused surrender of the Fort.

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My camera wasn’t working that day—no zoom—so not many great pictures.

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We enjoyed listening to a Ranger tell us all about the history of the Fort, and the kids earned another badge!

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Most of the bricks are original and were made by slave labor—more to come on what I’ve learned about slavery on this trip.

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A genuine Civil War canon!

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What the Fort used to look like—much of it was damaged during the Siege and since then, has weathered as well.

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You know how you used to go on field trips in school and you were assigned a “buddy” for the day? Spunky Monkey and I were buddies on this day. Sweet Pea and Daddy were buddies. It worked out well. Just the way things need to be sometimes…. Smile

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More to come on Charleston! Beautiful city!

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Gifts from God at the Ocean

1. Waking me up early to walk & jog & think on the nearly empty beach.

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Just God and me and the relentless waves—like Jesus’ love. Reminds me of this song:

O the deep, deep love of Jesus

2. A sweet companion who pleaded with me to wake her up early enough to watch the sunrise with me.

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3. Surprises to see—Got to watch a sea turtle’s nest being relocated further from the water. During the night, she had trudged up the beach, laid her eggs, and returned to the sea when the tide was further out.

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I found the folks from the North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol busy at work, searching for the nest. Once they located it by gently prodding the sand with a handled wooden dowel, they started digging.

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About 18” below the surface of the sand they found the first egg. The eggs are sized and shaped like ping-pong balls, and can easily be dented, so two of the volunteers carefully placed each egg into a bucket while the third started digging a new nest, further up in the dunes.

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At this point, I left to see if the kids were up so I could bring them back to watch. I didn’t realize how far down the beach I’d gotten, though, so by the time I got back, I didn’t think we’d be able to return before the move was complete. Later in the week, though, we did walk up that far, and saw the new home for the eggs:

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Turns out she laid 109 eggs in that hole! This article has more information and pictures (they even got me in one).

Another interesting find during my morning jog/walks was this horseshoe crab:

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I don’t know if he died and then was washed up, or if he came to the beach to die, but by his size he looked like he’d lived a good, long crab life.

Later that day, on our evening walk, we saw someone had made this:

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One more treasure:

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4. And the fourth gift at the ocean…Just joy…

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Spunky Monkey has a way of expressing how we all feel about the ocean.

What do you love about the ocean? Or if you’ve never been, why do you want to go?

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