‘Staycation,’ just a little bit longer

Frank Wooten/Staff Colorful spring inspiration bursts forth at Hampton Park.

Charleston’s charms peak into full bloom each spring.

So do the psyche-restoration rewards of a local “staycation”— if you’re savvy enough to stick around here during your spring time off.

That’s a location-location-location blessing if you’re lucky enough to be not just a tri-county resident but one who can take time off at this naturally glorious time of the year.

A two-week respite from the working grind reconfirmed that benefit of living in this community.

That pleasure of place, routinely taken for granted by so many who live here, extends throughout the Charleston area.

Then again, my staycation ended much too soon on Monday.

Or did it?

For while tasty restaurants, big-time entertainment, historic architecture, award-winning politeness and other often-indoor attractions draw visitors from around the world, this freshly appreciative Charleston native recommends getting outside while the getting’s still good — with or without paid leave.

That is, before rising ranks of bugs and climbing temperatures turn sweet spring into suffering summer.

Thus, take a break, even a short one, to bask in the mood-elevating enchantments of:

Hampton Park: The funky old zoo’s long (more than four decades) gone. Yet intriguing critters, including ducks, geese, more exotic birds, squirrels, dogs and some usually friendly homo sapiens, still abound.

So does beautiful horticulture, including the red-and-white flowering tree shown with this column in an exclusive image captured by this photojournalist 12 days ago.

And like so many Charleston places, Hampton Park has a fascinating past.

From the Preservation Society of Charleston’s website:

“From 1792 until 1882, the Washington Race Course, a one-mile loop around today’s Hampton Park, featured the finest horse racing in the South.”

The site also featured the first Memorial Day ceremony on May 31, 1865, as freshly freed slaves paid tribute to the Union soldiers who died while being held prisoner there.

In a typical twist of Holy City irony, a statue of slave rebellion leader Denmark Vesey was dedicated two years ago at the park named for a Confederate general, Wade Hampton, who later became governor.

But Hampton Park has lately been marred by oversized power poles and lines.

The park is better off without that antiquated, far from humane zoo, too.

After all, long ago, an emotionally unstable monkey there relieved himself on an innocent lad — me.

Charles Towne Landing: It does have a zoo of sorts — the Animal Forest. This sprawling slice of Lowcountry landscape also has epic history of its own as South Carolina’s first permanent European settlement (1670). And it has dandy, scenic walking trails through woods alongside marshes.

Breach Inlet: The waterway separating the Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island offers up-close perspectives on dolphins and anglers. It has warning signs about treacherous swimming conditions.

The inlet also delivers compelling evidence of the folly (and not just at Folly Beach) of building houses (especially big ones) too close to the briny deep. Too bad so many more such structures have been built on that weak and shifting sand in recent decades.

Palmetto Islands County Park: A rambling creekside expanse of unspoiled property near Long Point Road in Mount Pleasant, it has a water park, fishing and crabbing docks, and a “Nature Island” where a deer bounded across my forward path just 20 yards or so away a few years ago.

The Pitt Street Bridge: Another East Cooper treasure, nearly up to the Intracoastal Waterway separating Mount Pleasant from Sullivan’s Island, this is a popular fishing/crabbing spot. But its best catch is a panorama of the harbor, including Fort Sumter, Morris Island, James Island and downtown Charleston.

So are you bummed out about your dead-end job, your lack of a job, our intensifying traffic, bike-lane disputes, unseemly presidential politics, road-funding woes and/or Sunday night’s “No Holds Barred Street Fight” defeat of the dynamic Dean Ambrose (aka “Lunatic Fringe”) by big bully Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 32 before a crowd of 101,763 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas?

Park that fruitless fretting someplace else and get out and about in these wonderful parts.

And if you’re embarrassed to know that nearly 27,000 vigorous folks (counting walkers) finished the Cooper River Bridge Run while you didn’t even try, try walking the grand Ravenel’s pedestrian lane.

You can ascend to a heck of a viewpoint — regardless of season.

You might even take your first step toward participating in next year’s Bridge Run — or at least the Walk.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.