By Bill Derby
Edisto Island south of Charleston is a beautiful, out of the way barrier island. It’s historic and we have visited the island a number of times. Our first trip to the island wasn’t so great.
Judy and I were newly married and planned to spend our very first vacation week at Edisto Beach State Park camping along the ocean with balmy breezes, sun, sand and surf. I had borrowed my uncle’s old pop-up camper. Unfortunately, we got to the park late on Saturday. The only camping spot left was next to the swamp, the dismal swamp. It was hot, damp and clammy.
Judy sat in our car waiting for me to erect the old foldout camper. I finally got the relic put together, chased out the spiders and opened the door for my bride. The mattresses were old and stinky. They quickly soaked up more of the dampness of the swamp. Spanish moss hung from the palms. It looked like we were camping beside “The Creature From The Black Lagoon’s” favorite pond.
I fixed a lukewarm dinner of hot dogs and Campbell’s pork n’ beans, still not Judy’s favorite meal. After eating, Judy quickly went to her damp bed. I stayed outside as the sun sank behind dark clouds.
Suddenly, I felt sharp pin-pricks in my back through my tee shirt. There were hundreds hitting me all at once. I heard a constant buzzing. I was being eaten alive by hundreds of bloodthirsty mosquitoes. I quickly started thrashing about trying to escape.
I yelled, “Judy, I’m being attacked by thousands of mosquitoes. Hurry, open the camper door!”
I made it inside with only a few of the winged demons still attached. I understood why our campsite had been vacant.
During the night we enjoyed a bellowing of swamp music from creepy, crawly animals and who knows what else. Later the wind started to pick up. The camper would occasionally catch a gust and shake. I dared not look in Judy’s direction for I knew she was staring daggers at me. She was attuned to more lavish accommodations with bathrooms and swimming pools.
As morning broke, low clouds boiled in from the ocean. Angry waves crashed ashore. There was no sun. And, for sure, we weren’t having fun. Since it was 1969 there was no long-range weather forecasting available that came over the radio. I tuned the car radio to the local Charleston station.
The weather announcer said, “This is a tropical storm warning. For the next two days expect high winds, dangerous surf conditions, eight inches of rain and fierce lightning. Stay indoors and don’t go outside unless it is absolutely necessary. By all means, do not go camping at or near Edisto State Park. This will be one of the worst and first tropical storms of the season.”
He was right. We were smack dab in the middle of almost a hurricane. I never thought about the weather at the beach. It was always sunny before. The wind got stronger. The rain found all the little holes in our canvas roof. Drip, drip, and drip right into our beds. At least the mosquitoes weren’t flying except for the ones captured in our camper.
We huddled in our shaking camper as the storm center passed over. We were damp, sticky and tired. I kept waiting for the sun to come out.
After blowing for three days the storm finally passed and left us with a couple of days of nice weather. We got camping at the ocean out of our system early and I never asked Judy to go camping by the seashore again. We stuck to camping in the mountains from then on.
We’ve traveled to Edisto many times since that day and have enjoyed each trip. Every time we pass by the State Park campground Judy and I look at one another and exclaim, “Do you remember the time we spent there in a tropical storm in a broken down camper?”