Saturday, April 29, 2017

Nature preserve compact, a quick visit

When we checked into our hotel at North Myrtle Beach on March 20, I had my Canon 6D slung around my shoulder. I'd made a point to carry it with me as much as possible when I was out of the car, to protect against theft but also so I wouldn't miss unexpected shots.

The concierge noticed the camera and asked if I was a photography enthusiast. When I said yes, he mentioned a place up the highway (U.S. 17) that he thought I'd like to check out for pictures. His description of the place was vague -- he said something about it being scenic, but never mentioned that the area actually had a formal name. When I looked on the map and saw the place he was talking about was near a point where House Creek funnels into the Atlantic Ocean. I figured it could be worth exploring. So, the next day, Lee Ann and I checked it out.

It turned out that the the area does have a name -- the Heritage Shores Nature Preserve -- and that it's almost adjacent to the Cherry Grove Boat Landing. In fact, you have to drive into the boat landing area (and parking lot) to get to the preserve, then walk about two blocks to reach the entrance to the preserve. If I had to quibble about the attraction, I had two beefs: 1) It's very compact (you can walk the circular trail -- and see most everything designed to be seen -- in less than an hour), and there were few moments when you weren't reminded that civilization was not very far away; 2) the boat landing signage is almost entirely devoted to the boat landing. There is very little to inform and/or help visitors who come just to tour the nature preserve).

It also turned out that you aren't able to get close to the confluence of House Creek and the Atlantic Ocean from the preserve as I had hoped. I could see the confluence from afar at the eastern-most point of the preserve, but none of my photos of the confluence -- even using the maximum 300 millimeters of my zoom lens -- did it justice. The photo leading off the post is one the best (in my opinion) of showing the confluence, which -- if you can't tell for sure -- is in the center of the photo where sky meets water.

What photos I did get you see in this post. As usual, to view a larger, sharper version of a photo, just click on the image. To see a full gallery of my photos from the nature preserve, visit the gallery at my site at

Photo geek stuff: I shot everything you see here with a Canon 6D equipped with a Tamron 28-300 f/3.5-6.3 Di VZD VC lens using a polarizing filter. I bracketed all shots for three exposures, melding a good number of all three for each composition in post-processing using Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software, using a fixed aperture (8.0) and adjusting my ISO and shutter speed where needed, which only happened in very dense shade.

The most significant "find" we came across in the preserve were these cactus plants, which I did not expect to see anywhere on the East Coast. The one below was obvious to me, but Lee Ann told me that the small ones above are red and orange because they are new (as if all green ones start off in these odd colors). I'm no cactus expert, and I couldn't confirm that what she said is true (i.e., that green cactus plants start out as red or orange). What I did find out when I went hunting around on the Internet is that there are red and orange colored cactus plants, and I did see starts of green cactus plants that were, indeed, green. So perhaps Lee Ann was trying to pull a fast one on me. I suppose I'll hear about that when she reads this post. Hey, we're always looking to find new things to talk about ... 

The preserve's size is so compact, we were always reminded that civilization was close at hand. If it wasn't the large, noisy water vessel (above) chugging past the nearby neighborhoods, then it was a couple work crews on House Creek (below) hauling large pipes in the direction of the ocean, "destination unknown," to quote Conrad Aiken, who I mentioned in a previous travel post about Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah.

Above: The preserve has lots of ponds and streams, so there are ample bridges along the trail system. This is the longest, and it is near the entrance, which from this view is on the far end.

Above and next three below: Composing images using water as the focal point was a logical strategy in the limited-acreage preserve. 

Above: A portion of the path we followed and some of the wooded area along it.  

Above: This water fowl was one of the few species we saw in our whole time in the preserve, but the preserve is such a contained, modest-sized area, we weren't there for very long -- doing a leisurely stroll, we spent perhaps an hour and a half, possibly two, there.

Above: I suppose I was getting desperate for something creative when I thought to take this picture, but ... the branches caught my eye momentarily, and I pressed the shutter, and ....

Above and below: We had exited the preserve and were walking back to our car in the boat landing parking when I came upon these people fishing off the piers along House Creek.  

Above: A moment of reflection while following the trails in the preserve.

Next Up: The East Coast trip reviewed in food and beverage

Previous posts in this series:

Part I: Savannah's Forsyth Square

Part II: Savannah's old-city neighborhoods 

Part III: Savannah's Riverwalk

Part IV: Savannah's Bonaventure Cemetery

Part V: Tybee Island, Ga.

Part VI: Revisiting Charleston, SC, and its charms

Part VII: Nature's splendor can be found at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston

Part VIII: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens' swamp preserve a photographer's delight

Part IX: North Myrtle Beach: Chills along the water

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