Travel Story: Three Days in Wilmington

Downtown Wilmington, North Carolina straddles a line that lies somewhere between the urban luster of downtown Charlotte, and its well-heeled, Old-Money South Carolina neighbor, Charleston. It’s decidedly scrappier than either city, yet possesses the allure of the Coast and the emergent culture of a city coming into its own as a destination. The Chef and I are still drawn to it, maybe someday as more than a mere summer getaway: time will tell. For now, that is all Wilmington holds for us. Our time there was brief, three-ish days and two nights at a peaceful bed and breakfast in the historic district, two fun mornings breaking bread with perfectly delightful strangers and a pair of generous hosts from Wisconsin (Scoutie stretched out comfortably under the table—they bent the rules for us, a little). This was our vacation caboose: a bit of relaxation as our vacation wound down.

Whatever fantasy we, or I, anyway, entertained about an Atlantic Ocean adventure at nearby Carolina Beach with Scout-the-Labish was undermined in short order by the intensity of midday sun in July: even a shaded spot under a pier held no sway over a dog who found the heat insufferable and the unpredictable surf entirely unnerving. We should have known better.

And here is a truth: there are dog rules at the beach during the summer tourist season, and in this case that means you can have your doggie Over There, but not Over Here. And when you go over there, you may find yourself thrust cheek to jowl with other vacationers whose idea of fun does not mesh with your own. I am being diplomatic here.

When you go to all that trouble, to find the ‘dog friendly’ beach, and to pack all your supplies—your cooler filled with ice and drinks and a delectable picnic lunch, your towels and sunscreen—and convince your compliant dog-who-has-traveled-so-well that this day will be fun, it is incumbent upon you to make it worth your while, and his, after all. We found sanctuary at Greenfield Lake not far from downtown Wilmington.

I missed the Spanish moss earlier in Charleston. Actually, I photographed it but there was not enough light and I could not coax it out later when I went back to edit. I am obsessed with this mysterious organic thing, rather like a bit of unruly hair, which I learned after poking around the ‘net is neither a moss nor a lichen, but indeed an actual plant. It loves to grow on certain species of trees, including the southern live oak and bald cypress, but also the crepe myrtle, which we found in abundance at Greenfield: it is the essential Southern tree, second only to the magnolia, which we also found. Chef David finds Spanish moss merely creepy, although I am certain his opinion might be swayed in another direction were there a way to sauté and serve it on a plate. And one can forgive him because he is a (shhhh) Yankee. Give me my Spanish moss, I beseech thee.

We also found turtles, lots of ‘em. In spite of signs posted all over the park forbidding visitors to feed the wildlife, these turtles seemed pretty dang accustomed to being fed, equally disappointed we had nothing for them.

The elusive Not-Turtle

Well, hey yourself.

We took shelter beneath the canopy of the trees during an afternoon downpour—it cooled us off—a far cry from the earlier oven-baked heat at Carolina Beach.

Looky at that little hanger-on.

Our afternoon at Greenfield Lake, aside from saving the day, made me open my eyes wider in our home state of Vermont, where beauty is right outside the door in our own back yard. One’s destination is never a new place, but always a new way of seeing things, said one Henry Miller. Maybe he was right. I’m hanging my hat on that notion  for the time being, right here at home.

Our Own Back Yard (yes, really)

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