Thursday, June 4, 2015

Backpacking from the MYR Airport to Myrtle Beach State Park

Last year, I had the fun adventure of taking a trip to Myrtle Beach with my husband, Eric. It was a beach I had heard of often, but had never actually spent any time visiting. Spirit Airlines was offering a deeply discounted price for round trip tickets so my husband Eric and I decided to take a weekend trip. With lots of budgets keeping tight reign on our finances, we decided we could walk the couple of miles from the airport to a campground right off the ocean. We saved a bundle of money by not having to rent a car or paying for an expensive hotel room - besides we were looking for adventure. As good travelers, we made our reservations a few weeks in advance and took the time to get a few extra camping items.

Fast forward to the morning of... was telling us that the first tropical storm of the season was hitting Myrtle Beach but should move up the coast by the time we arrived. The weather was warm and rain wouldn't hurt us so we slung our backpacks over our shoulders and headed for the airport. 

I wish I could remember the name of our flight attendant on the way down because he was a real comedian. We hit several bouts of turbulence but he had the whole plane laughing with his hilarious take on the circumstances. The whole plane clapped when he welcomed us to Myrtle Beach. We enjoyed his addition to the beginning of our weekend. When we walked into the baggage area of the small airport, we were surprised to see just how windy and rainy it was, realizing that we really couldn't walk out into it with any degree of self respect. Eric was quick to come up with the solution of taking a free shuttle to a local hotel. We enjoyed the shelter from the storm and view of the ocean as we waited for a respite from the heavy rain before we set out on foot for the campground.

Of course, as fate often has it, as soon as we headed out, the rain started gusting again so we tried walking from one awning to another as we headed south. Then we decided to get a bite to eat for lunch, hoping to give the storm a little extra time to move away. Being soaking wet with a heavy backpack is not pleasant at all and after lunch, the rain started again. We found a little store that sold beach supplies and bought large white plastic ponchos to wear, covering our bodies and our backpacks. What a sight we were walking down the street with only a small circle of our faces showing and huge humpback white orbs for bodies. The directions told us that the campground was right off the beach so we walked along the sand for about half a mile, glad the sand was wet and hard. 

The campground was just over the dunes and such a welcome sight for our tired feet. Maybe we only walked three miles but the combination of rain, wind and heavy backpacks made the trek feel like ten miles.

The folks at the camp office were very pleasant but were a little perplexed as we had no car or camper. The rain had stopped so we were quick to set up our tent and head out to the closest grocery store, Food Lion, so we could stock up on some grub for dinner and maybe a bottle of wine for dessert. Of course, the rain came back, but we had our ponchos and the store was only a mile away. We bought only what Eric could carry in his pack, and headed out to the liquor store only to find it closed on Sundays in South Carolina. If we had only slowed down a little in our shopping, we might have noticed that the grocery store carried beer and wine, but that realization came the next day.

The campfire was our next conquest. The woods were dripping wet and the rain kept coming in intervals so Eric decided to buy some dry wood from the camp office. After a few tries, we had a fire going and for the rest of the camping experience, Eric found logs from all over the campground to keep it blazing until we left, despite the rain. Supper consisted of rotisserie chicken and potato chips eaten with our fingers as we stood by the fire.

As the area darkened, we were only too happy to crawl into our little tent with the air mattresses set up and ready for us. The campgrounds offered free wifi so we rigged up a way to hang an iPad from the ceiling of the tent and we ate chocolate and watched movies as the rain danced on the thin fabric over our heads. We had no problem sleeping...until one air mattress deflated. After trying to sleep sideways so we could both have the inflated mattress under our chests, I made the sacrifice to let Eric have the whole good mattress and I took the ground. I figured that he was the strength of our team and I needed him to get a good rest, besides, I had more padding on my bones than he did.

Breakfast was delicious leftovers. The fire was waiting for us and we walked up to the camp office to get coffee. Thankfully, the storm was mostly over and the sun came out for a few hours. We strung a clothesline and hung our damp clothes and ponchos up to dry. Like most campgrounds, there were hot showers just a short walk from our site. Most of the other campers were living in the luxury of large campers or trailers and we only saw one other fire as we walked around the circles.

Even though the rain came back again every few hours, we really had a fun time. We walked to the beach and checked out the long fishing pier where folks were fishing about a hundred feet up from the water. We saw a young woman trying to catch something on the beach and found out they were baby flounder which she then would use for bait. The second time we went to the beach, a thundercloud rolled in and we had to sit low by the sand dunes to stay out of the lightning until we were tired of being rained on. But the beach was so beautiful; long stretches of empty sand and crashing waves with almost no one in sight.

On our second night, supper was better as we had beer to enjoy while cooking and then wine later, but there is something to be said for cooking in the open air. We had the most delicious burgers that night. Our air mattress patch didn't hold but the leak was much slower so Eric slept on it, pumping it back up every few hours. By morning, everything was feeling damp and dirty and we were ready to pack up and head for the airport. Seemingly, the word had traveled around the campground that we were backpackers with no car and folks would slowly walk past our spot watching us, once even mentioning that they were sorry that we were rained out at the beach. We found it refreshing to be able to roll up our bedding and tent, pop it into our packs and walk out with no car or mess to clean up.

But we still had to walk to the airport. Our smartphones directed us to walk through the woods on a paved path, onto King's Highway and then into the airport.  By that time, the sun had come out in full force and we felt the heat of the South Carolina sun. We found a spot to get some lunch (K&W Cafeterias) as we were quite hungry and wanted to take a break from walking and enjoy ourselves. The airport was only a short distance from the restaurant, but we found ourselves lagging in energy in the full heat of the day and with heavy backpacks weighing us down. 

We were quite happy to drop our backpacks into the checked baggage area. Going through security was a little funny. We were both pulled aside and patted down as they noticed the backs of our shirts were wet, but they quickly realized we were not hiding anything other than sweat! Our car was waiting for us when we returned to our hometown airport of BWI (Baltimore Washington International), of course.

You might ask what my favorite part of camping is and I think I would say it's sleeping outside, My least favorite part of camping...having to climb out of the tent and find a bathroom in the middle of the night.

We enjoyed getting home and cleaning up our gear, but within two weeks we were back out there camping again. Stay tuned....