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Ascent of Sandy Island High Point on 2013-11-11

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Monday, November 11, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Sandy Island High Point
    Location:USA-South Carolina
    Elevation:75 ft / 22 m

Ascent Trip Report

The four points on Sandy Island are among eight candidates for the Georgetown County HP. Charlie Zerphey and I visited as part of a three-day trip that included 25 COHP locations in 12 counties.

We were prepared to spend a day on Sandy Island, but by noon we had accomplished our mission and visited all four contenders there.

Charlie called Tours de Sandy Island and made arrangements with Rommy Pyatt, who ferried us across the Waccamaw River on a pontoon boat and then drove us to the Nature Conservancy property. This spared us several miles of road walking and also possible trespass issues.

Sandy Island is a neat destination. It is an "inland island" between the Pee Dee and Waccamaw rivers, north of Georgetown. Back in the 1980s, developers tried to build a bridge to the 12,000-acre island to develop it into the next Hilton Head. Thanks to concerted public and private efforts, the island has been preserved, and 9,000 acres are open to the public.

About 70 people live on the southern end of Sandy Island, using boats to go to work and stores. Kids take the state’s only school-boat. This is a Gullah community similar to the one on Daufuskie Island portrayed in Pat Conroy's book "The Water is Wide" and Jon Voight's movie "Conrack."

You are only a few miles from the resorts at Pawleys Island, Litchfield Beach, and Brookgreen Gardens, so you will have good cellphone coverage on the island. Yet in another sense, the water is indeed wide, and you feel like you’ve stepped into another world.

Rommy grew up on the island and takes great pride in showing visitors the cultural and natural highlights. He expressed interest in highpointing and walked with us to the likely HP. His price is reasonable, his service is excellent, and Charlie and I highly recommend him. Call him at 843-408-7187 or go to toursdesandyisland.com.

Here is a story on Rommy and Sandy island.

Many of the islanders live in a settlement called Mount Rena, which is where we docked. The island roads are unpaved, unsigned, and in some cases unmapped. Technically, there’s not even a public right-of-way, so Rommy drove us two miles to the public land, which is near the east-west road across the waist of the island.

From there, we walked 4.6 miles, though we explored a good bit and you could probably cover all four HP candidates in less than 4 miles. You'll need GPS, as there are no trail maps, signs, or blazes.

First we went to the spot elevation 75, which is what the islanders consider to be the highpoint. It's in a forest of longleaf pine where the undergrowth has been thinned by a controlled burn, so it is like walking in a park. For a coastal highpoint, this one is distinct and charming. This is marked as Area 8 on cohp.org (Areas 1-4 are on the mainland).

From Point 75, we walked the ridgeline southwest to return to the east-west road. This road is also the route of the power line that serves the homes on the island. When this road ends in a T on the west side, the power line goes north, but we went south to reach the other three locations.

These are smaller contours but should not be neglected. They are surprisingly hilly, and our altimeter readings were almost the same as at Point 75. Areas 6 and 7 are on opposite sides of this road and are nearly equal in height. Area 5 is a little farther off the road and appears to be lower. On this side of the island, instead of pine we were treated to live oak, azalea, and Spanish moss.

From Area 6 and 7, the topo shows a straight road going southeast across the island. This "road" is no longer driven but is not hard to follow back to the island church, about a mile from Mount Rena. Trust your GPS and stay on the old route even when the main road veers off to the south. Rommy picked us up at the church and gave us a ride back to the island dock and then by boat to the mainland.
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