In 1976, when I first drove my coach into the Southland, I was captivated by the live oak trees and the beautiful magnolias that appeared along the road as I drove into the Carolinas. The approach to Charleston, SC on this trip, was south from Florence, SC, and as we motored along, we began to drive through overhanging branches of huge live oaks (called oak allees).
It seems impossible that the outstretched limbs can support the tremendous weight of solid oak, but there they are…reaching out for the sunshine….and old!
I remember consulting an AAA Tourbook of the area, and described therein, was a listing for a point of interest called The Angel Oak. It was out-of-the-way, on Johns Island, south of the city of Charleston. We camped at a small campground called Oak Plantation, and the name said it all. We were one of less than five other RVs staying among the big trees. Roaming free at this site was a small herd of cattle!
Route US 17 (The Ocean Highway) was little developed in this area at the time. The next morning, after departing the campground, I inquired at a small convenience store just down the road about The Angel Oak. Sure enough, the proprietor knew of it, and directed me down the adjacent road, and after a few miles of travel east, we came upon a small park, and before us was this TREMENDOUS behomouth of a tree, the likes of which were simply hard to imagine. It was one tree, not several trunks together, and it spread its branches a good 60 to 70 yards.
We took a lot of pictures that day, so long ago. It was damp and rainy and cold. This was late January, but we were astounded by this huge living thing. A rustic sign indicated that it was old enough to have been growing at the time Jesus lived. I doubted that it could be that old, but who knew?
Last year, as I was traveling down US 17, I passed the Oak Plantation Camping Resort. It has become a very popular place to stop, with a gatehouse/office just off the highway….and no more cows. I wondered about our little diversion almost 35 years before, and on a whim, I took the next left turn at at traffic light. It was Main Road. The convenience store had become a large gas station with a market. I was pretty sure it had been this turn I took in 1976.
A few miles down the road (a well-paved two-lane, now) I came upon the Angel Oak Shopping Center. This must be the place, I thought…duh. A sign just past this intersection pointed to the big tree. It is now surrounded by a chain-link fence, and there is a small attended store on the premises. Nothing else has changed. The Angel Oak (named for a family that once owned the property), spread out before me, and I was again humbled by this natural specimen. The picture above really does not do it justice…if there had been another visitor there, he could have stood near the trunk, and he would have been dwarfed by the height and girth of the bole. If he had lain on the ground,and if he was tall, he might be long enough to stretch across its width.
Now that it is protected, I suspect it will be still more immense in 30 more years. I hope you will stop to marvel at this sight.