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Doggin’ the Carolina Coasts – 10 Cool Things to See With Your Dog on Coastal Carolina Trails
“If your dog is fat,” goes the old saying, “you’re not getting enough exercise.” But walking the dog doesn’t have to be just a little exercise. Here are 10 amazing things you can see on the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina while walking the dog.
1. PLACES YOU’VE SEEN ON THE SILVER SCREEN
Wilmington is often called “Hollywood East” and film productions have made extensive use of the Carolina coastal landscape. The Vietnam scenes of Forest Gump were filmed in Hunting Beach State Park. The trees come right down to the beach and the lush, tropical feel of the vegetation does give off the aura of a jungle. A trail leads along the length of an inland lagoon where Forrest rescued Lieutenant Dan. A few years later, Hunting Island doubled for Quang Tri Province in Vietnam when Samuel Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones appeared for Rules of Engagement. In 1982, Louis Jordan was a mad scientist trying to create new species at Magnolia Plantation’s Swamp Garden in Swamp Thing. And if you walk your dog along the Sugarloaf Trail in Carolina Beach State Park, you might recognize a few spots where the dead Terry Kiser did some water skiing on Weekend at Bernie’s.
2. MYSTERIOUS OYSTER HEAPS
One of the most unique destinations of any road on the Carolina coast is the 12-foot tall pile of oyster shells at Edisto Beach State Park on the Spanish Mountain Trail. The oyster cluster, known as a shell midden, is typical of Native American rings found throughout the coastal islands. The Spanish Mountain is estimated to be 4,000 years old, the second oldest known in South Carolina. These heaps of bleached shells may have been built for ceremonies or perhaps they are just ancient rubbish heaps.
3. HIGHEST SANDS ON THE EAST MARKET
It’s one giant sandbox for your dog at Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks, whose 90-foot dunes are the tallest along the East Coast. Trails are laid out across the sand. On the mainland the Sugarloaf Trail in Carolina Beach State Park leads to a 50-foot sandbar that was often used as a navigational aid in years past.
4. FAMOUS RESIDENCES
Archer Huntington designed his Moorish castle, Atalaya, in Murrells Inlet from memory after a trip to Spain. It can be seen today in Huntington State Park. The most spectacular home ever built on the Outer Banks was Edward Kinght’s Corolla Island. He spent $400,000 on the Beaux Arts display case in 1925 and it was restored to its original splendor in Currituck Heritage Park. But the most visited home on the Carolina shores may be a World War II bunker in the dunes of Fort Fisher State Recreation Area. For 17 years the “Fort Fisher Hermit”, Robert Herrill lived here. When word of Herrill’s lifestyle spread, so many people came to hear his philosophies of life that North Carolina officials named him the state’s second largest tourist attraction behind only the battleship North Carolina.
5. 900 MISCELLANEOUS CAMELIAS
The extremely dog-friendly Magnolia Plantation gives your dog a rare opportunity to walk through a formal garden, one of America’s oldest. In addition to the 900 types of camellias on display the Charleston garden is planted with more than 250 types of azaleas.
6. PREHISTORIC KNOBS
Over the years 29 prehistoric Algonquin Indian canoes have been discovered in Pettigrew State Park’s Lake Phelps, preserved in the shallow waters. The canoes were formed by burning straight cypress logs over a slow fire and scraping off the charred sections. They were stored for the winter in the mud of the lake. Two are displayed in the park – one from 380 AD and the other 1440 AD
7. SPECTACULAR LIGHTS
There are five lighthouses on the Outer Banks that your dog can visit – three in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The oldest operating lighthouse in North Carolina is the 75-foot tower on Ocracoke Island and the 150-foot Bodie Island Lighthouse dates to 1872. The most famous, and America’s tallest at 208 feet, is the black-and-white swirl-striped Cape. Hatteras Lighthouse. In South Carolina your dog can jog around the only public light in the Palmetto State at Hunting Island State Park.
8. ANIMAL FOOD PLANTS
At several locations along the Carolina coast, your dog can walk through the unique habitats of pocosins, swamps called the Indian term for “swamp on a hill.” Plants living in these nutrient poor soils have evolved to trap insects and digest them in deadly juices. Such killers as Venus’ Fly Traps, blatterworts and sundews can be seen in North Carolina in Carolina Beach State Park and in South Carolina in the Audubon-Newhall Preserve, among others.
9. STRENGTHS, STRENGTHS AND STRENGTHS
Beginning with the first English earthworks in the New World at Fort Raleigh, the defense of coastal Carolina has always been a military priority. Your dog can examine the defensive grounds at Moores Creek, site of a critical American victory during the Revolution, and walk through the Civil War masonry bastion at Fort Macon. Or the more primitive Civil War earthworks at Fort Lamar. For a look at a modern fort, take the dog to Battery Jasper at Fort Moultrie – but don’t be disappointed if he’s more interested in the beach.
10. OLD MINES
The low country was once an ancient seabed, a vast graveyard for millions of years of sea creatures. These marine deposits near the soil surface contain phosphate and calcium, minerals valuable in cement making and for fertilizing fields. The minerals were enthusiastically mined in the 1800s and phosphate mines brought prosperity to towns devastated by the Civil War. The Edisto Nature Trail leads to an old mine and processing plant where phosphate was loaded onto barges and shipped downriver to Charleston.
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