Walking the streets, I marveled how different everything was from my home town of Nederland, Colorado.
The brick homes punctuated with gothic columns and verandas off every window. Narrow streets teeming with magnolia and lush vegetation. Churches with steeples that climbed sharply ever higher into the sky.
But what captivated me most was the tree. The tree with spider web type limbs, massive in their girth looking like octopus tentacles reaching out over the street. I had never seen a tree like that. Truth be told, our trees around our mountain home are kind of boring. Aspen, pines, spruces and firs. Nothing with the odd shape of this tree who branches seemed to be extending all over the historic district of Charleston. I had never seen anything quite like it.
“Excuse me. Are you a local?”
“Localish. Can I help you with something?”
“We’re from out of town and I’m wondering what kind of tree is this?”
“It’s a Live Oak. They’re quite fantastic, aren’t they? Do you have a car? You really need to go to St. John’s Island and see the Angel Oak. They say it’s at least 500 years old.”
“Wow, that’s amazing. Well thank you so much — have a nice day.”
I stood surveying this beast of a tree. It wasn’t it’s overall height, or even the size of its trunk, but the method of growth which sent these branches growing hither and yon out from its base. It really did provide such a contrast to my home in Colorado.
The truth is the entire town of Charleston is about as different as could be from Colorado. Charm just oozes out of every alley, every store front, every church, and especially along the water. Quaint is personified through the brick streets, the shutters and verandas, and the local businesses with a friendly, “Where are you visiting from ya’ll?” I feel the sense of history at every turn, whether it’s looking across the water to nearby Fort Sumter, where the civil war began, or gazing upon plantation-like homes along The Battery.
Climate-wise, the differences couldn’t be starker. I can literally smell the humidity — even in our hotel room, that faint smell of dampness permeates. Snowfall — Charleston is lucky to see .5 inch of measurable snow in one year. Compare that to the 150 inches that regularly fall each winter in Nederland. During what seems like a pleasant fall day, locals complain how cold it is with a high around 60. We had a funny conversation with a local that personified that.
“We don’t have air conditioning at home.”
“Oh, gosh, I’m so sorry, that must be awful in the summertime.”
“No, we don’t need air conditioning. We live in the mountains at 8,200 feet. The lows are usually in the 40s and 50s and we rarely get hotter than 80 during the day. In fact, it’s snowing at our house right now and is about 20 degrees.”
“That’s crazy. I couldn’t live somewhere like that!”
Yet, manners and friendliness are clearly in vogue here. They are big on welcoming hospitality to the many tourists who populate the area as well. From the hotel staff to wait staff to those just giving us directions, everyone greeted us with a smile.
I can’t get enough of the food either — seafood abounds with shrimp and fish being served fresh each day. Biscuits and grits are a staple of breakfast, and I even got to sample some crepes, which I probably haven’t eaten in 20 years.
I love the mountains of Colorado and can’t imagine living anywhere else, but sometime it’s nice to visit a place so completely different, reminding me of other ways of life in this big country of ours.