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After soaking up Friday morning’s gift of a sunrise, I set out to see a couple of nearby “touristy” things before I had to make the 4.5 hour drive to pick up my daughter.

My first stop was the Angel Oak.

Words do not do justice to this wonder of nature. I would have really loved to just sit in silence for a few hours beneath the limbs of this gorgeous giantess, but time was in short supply.

There were a lot of people visiting the Oak that morning, but I’m kind of glad they’re in my pictures. It helps give contrast so you can see just how enormous this tree actually is, in person.

The Angel Oak is estimated to be between 400 and 500 years old. More information here.

Reagan had a book when she was a smaller child….The Oak Inside the Acorn by Max Lucado. Lucado has always been one of my favorite inspirational authors and his storytelling has a way of giving me goosebumps on my heart. This tree reminded me of that little story I used to read to her. The potential that lies within all of us if we will accept ourselves, embrace our own unique qualities, and become who we were meant to be…..

The morning was soon over and giving way to lunchtime so I grabbed a drive thru meal and headed to my next destination.

I actually made my way through part of downtown Charleston to reach my next stop and it definitely whetted my appetite enough to want to go back and spend some time there. It appears to be quite unique and the bits and pieces I got to see from the road looked very inviting.

The only downside to traveling alone, that I can find, is that there were lots of things that it would have been handy to have a second person around to photograph. I crossed this monstrosity of a bridge and SO WISHED somebody had been there to snap a few photos. It was spectacular!

When I got into Mt. Pleasant, I made the short drive over to Boone Hall Plantation.

My reasons for wanting to visit this particular site were simple: it was in several movies including the North and South miniseries and The Notebook.

I didn’t really care for The Notebook, but I have a sort of guilty pleasure love of North and South because I’ve been in love with Patrick Swayze since forever. To this day, he’s one of only 2 celebrities I’ve ever dreamed about. (He rescued me from a burning house, btw, so, we are close like that.)

Anyway, giddy schoolgirl crushes aside, this still-operational farm is a beautiful estate.

The Avenue of Oaks leading up to the house canopy the driveway and immediately set this place apart from any other historic home I’ve seen.

The house itself is the 4th one to stand on the property, and was built in 1935. So, it’s not as “antibellum” as one would think upon first glance. The first house, which burned, was built in the 1600s and the last farmhouse to stand on the property before the current structure was a “simple” 3,000 sq. ft. home that was demolished in 1935 to make way for the home I toured.

Oak flooring from the original house was used in this home, as well as some of the paneling for the walls. The bricks used for the house and walls were recycled bricks, made on the once 4,100 acre plantation.

As tours go, this wasn’t one of the better ones I’ve experienced. But the beauty of the grounds made up for it. I always think of Julia Sugarbaker talking about the rude guests touring her home on Designing Women, with their “overflowin’ rubber thongs, Big Gulps, Slurpies, Misties, and Frosties!”

I saw a few of those on this tour, but there were a few snobs from Ole Miss there also, superiority radiating from them like heat. I saw another fellow Mississippian NOT dressed up like they were visiting the Kentucky Derby try and speak to the two couples from Ole Miss and watched as the wives exchanged disapproving glances at what the young woman was wearing. So much for state pride solidarity when traveling. I just watched in amusement and made my way toward the beautiful gardens beside the house after the tour ended.

The tour guide told us to pay attention to one of the pine trees when we left the driveway as there was a Bald Eagle nesting there for the 2nd year in a row. If you look closely, you can see the nest in this photo:

That Avenue of Oaks though….THAT was my favorite part of the entire place. So what? I drove to SC to see the beach, the ocean, and some Oak trees. Don’t judge.

I left Mt. Pleasant about 1:30 and arrived in Asheville about 5:30, but traffic stalled out and I didn’t get to hug my baby girl until after 6 p.m.

My ex advised me to not travel to Chattanooga (our stop for the night) through Knoxville. I listened because, (1) he travels that way more than I do and (2) they’ve been doing road work in Knoxville since God was a baby.

The “shortcut” took us through Nantahala Gorge, which was fine since it was still daylightish. I was glad to not have to drive it at night, though. I’d love to go back and explore the National Forest and the scenery throughout North Carolina was nothing short of beautiful.

We drove on. And on. And on. And then, approaching 9 p.m. and pitch blackness, we entered more, and unexpected, winding mountain roads. Reagan kept saying, “I don’t think that was all of the curvy roads we usually take….” but she is directionally challenged so I ignored her. Turns out, she was right, and the timesaving directions her Dad had given me included more mountain travel. Hairpin after hairpin IN THE DARK, not knowing if I veered off the road whether I would hit a bubblling stream or plummet down the side of a ravine and RACING FAST DRIVERS riding my bumper, PASSING ME….y’all, it was harrowing.

But at 10:00 p.m. I pulled up the Hampton Inn, made the sign of the cross, and parked my GMC for a nice, long, deserved rest.

Reagan and I slept in the next morning and, after brunch at Cracker Barrel, headed over to McKay’s books in Chattanooga. We visited back in December and fell in love with the place. Row after row of used books, movies, games, collectibles. We spent over an hour perusing the shelves and ended up with two sackfuls of happiness for our troubles.

I think there was a bit of a recurring theme to my selections….

The trip home was uneventful, but quite beautiful. The mountains are still not quite ready to put off their full spring plumage, but the Dogwoods, Bradford Pears, and especially the Redbuds along the road, and up in the rocky terrains were very pretty.

I wish I had some photos of them to share, but my co-pilot was battling heavy seasonal allergy symptoms and slept a good portion of the ride home.

What a whirlwind trip! Facing fears. Seeing some spectacular scenes of nature. Going to new places, both literally and figuratively.

I’m exhausted.

And I can’t wait to do it again.