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Photos: Lost on Bull Island

An Easter expedition to a wild barrier island



On Friday, the Weekend Round-up directed us all to get outside, dammit. So, we did, embarking on an adventure that’s a little bit off the grid.

On Saturday morning, we rallied the troops, packed a picnic, and piled in the car toward Awendaw. Our agenda was exploring the Cape Romain National Refuge. We figured we’d take the ferry to Bull Island, an unspoiled barrier island that has 16 miles of walking trails and the must-see Boneyard Beach. The ferry runs every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, leaving at 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and returning at noon and 4 p.m. They recommend a full-day trip, so you have time to explore and see everything without rushing. Because we weren’t able to get up and at ’em before 9 a.m. this particular Saturday, we only had a few hours to walk the many miles to Boneyard Beach and back. Next time we’ll make the earlier ferry trip because we ran out of time.

Coastal Expeditions runs the ferry service. During the 30-minute ride to the island, naturalist Ian Sanchez educated us about estuaries, endangered species, loggerhead turtles, and the like. He also walked with the group about a half-mile into the island, telling us about the flora and fauna along the path like yaupon holly, red bay, and Confederate jasmine.

Bull Island has restrooms and picnic tables, so it’s not completely rustic, but once you head out, you won’t see much but the wild island. We made straight for the beach and walked toward Boneyard, where the bleached carcasses of ancient trees have crashed into the surf looking very much like giant skeletons. Along the way, we found huge sand dollars, horseshoe crabs, whelks, and a couple of starfish. The weather was glorious, and the dolphin and pelicans were feeding just beyond the waves.

At about 2:30, we started looking for the path back. Unfortunately, we got a bit turned around and came off the beach much farther out than we thought. At 3 p.m. we were probably three-and-a-half miles away from the ferry landing. We hustled as fast as we could through the center of the island, but at 4 p.m. we were still about three-quarters of a mile from the ferry. Luckily, the Captain hopped in the van and came to find us. Good news, because my kids were a little freaked about being left behind and killed by the smoke monster (yes, they watch Lost).

If your local beach experiences stop at Folly or Sullivan’s, you need to take a trip to a barrier island like Bull or Capers. These places provide a glimpse into our environmental past and let you get an up-close look at wildlife in its natural habitat. For more information, visit this site.

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