(This article first appeared in the July/August, 2018 issue of Playlist Magazine and is re-published here with their permission)
Story by Gray Bostick / Original photography by Judy Quick Sharon
It nearly overwhelms.
The first bright rays of the morning sun break thru the post-storm clouds unveiling patches of azure skies, revealing the promise of a beautiful, warm Spring day ahead, while the warm gentle breeze ripples the waters and rustles the reeds, spreading the scent of salt marsh and pluff mud across one’s grateful nose, while waves lap against the bow of the boat in a steady but low clap of applause as a squadron of pelicans soars past in formation, attended to by wing-men of terns and gulls, all in a bliss-inducing, mesmerizing shore-side scene that has existed as long as men have traveled to the sea.
“Almost Heaven, ain’t it?” our personable tour guide, Doug Grainger noted with a smile, stirring me from my coastal coma. And he could not have been more correct.
The occasion was a kayak outing offered by by Trailblaze Adventure of Myrtle Beach, and it is indeed about as peaceful an experience as one can get this side of the Pearly Gates, presenting guests with opportunities that often lead to memories that last a lifetime.
“Our goal is to make each and every guest feel that we made their day special, made our experience on the water the highlight of their vacation,” Grainger states. “We enjoy large parties and groups, of course, but we really like to be able to spend time with each individual, to be sure they get the experience they are looking for, fulfill any special wishes they might have.”
And with the “Wish List” Mother Nature has offered up from which they may choose, Trailblaze makes it simple, offering two options on kayak tours, both of which originate from the Cherry Grove public boat ramp on House Creek, located off 53rd Avenue, and all of which offer boaters a variety of kayaks – even clear. The more common tour, which lasts approximately two hours and is popular with many, involves a Discovery Cruise in, through, and around the Cherry Grove Salt Marsh and Inlet, where one might encounter any number of shore birds or inshore activity.
But it is the Waites Island Sand Dollar and Shelling Tour, which departs with the outgoing tide so that kayakers will be tidally-assisted with the approximately 30-minute paddle out to the island, and lasts approximately three hours, that provides boaters with the most sights and scenes – and serenity – for their time.
Located just across the mouth of the Cherry Grove Inlet north of Cherry Grove Beach, 1,062-acre Waites Island is an amazing piece of land, an undeveloped, nearly-pristine, barrier island – one of South Carolina’s few remaining, and it’s most northern-most – almost completely untouched by human hands, leaving a vast expanse of beach basically bare of human activity. But not it’s skies or waters or sands, which are likely to be filled with brown pelicans, gulls, terns, pipers, or plovers, or perhaps even a bald eagle, or dolphins chasing dinner in the channel or playing in the surf while a loggerhead turtle prepares for nesting or departs after laying eggs, with ghost crabs or other crustaceans darting about along the beach. It’s also known for exceptional shelling and a prevalence of sand dollars.
And it’s obvious that Grainger, a North Myrtle Beach High graduate with an extensive knowledge of local waters and area history, who camped on Waites as youth in Boy Scouts and has volunteered as a Peer Counselor with The Little River Methodist Youth Group and as a Counselor with the Rainbow Family Youth Camp – and even kayaks and camps with his wife and four kids on his days off – is passionate about his job. And his home.
“We’re very proud of the Grand Strand,” he notes. “We’re very lucky to be able to enjoy our natural world every day, and we want to pass along our love for the beauty of this area to our guests. We love to share that with people.”
A sentiment shared by Trailblaze Adventure Operations Manager Chris Wilkinson, who, along with his wife, Bailey, who were married earlier this year, co-owns the business, as well as two Grand Strand-area “Wine & Design” franchises.
“Foremost, we’re very fortunate to have good guides and people like Doug and others who have such deep local knowledge, plus such a willingness and desire to share that with our guests,” Wilkinson says. “The key to any business is having caring employees, and we have the very best. They go above and beyond for our customers, and that is what any successful business has to be built upon: customer satisfaction.”
And much like the “Paint It Forward” program that “Wine & Design” utilizes throughout their chain to raise funds for or increase awareness of a cause, Wilkinson and his wife, both of whom have local backgrounds and degrees from Coastal Carolina University – he in business and finance, she in art — are also looking to get more deeply involved in community affairs and aid in supporting community causes through Trailblaze Adventure, where they are currently exploring creation of a tentatively-named “Kayaking for a Cause” program in order to give back to their neighbors in need.
“We value our role in our community just as much as we value our role in providing top-quality experiences for our guests,” Wilkinson points out. “We think one goes hand-in-hand with the other, and that one can’t exist without the other.”
“We are committed to providing guests with the highest quality kayak tours in the North Myrtle Beach area,” Wilkinson concludes. ”That means we’ll go the extra mile in delivering exceptional customer service with convenient online and phone reservations, responding to email and social media inquires in a timely manner, ensuring we have knowledgeable and friendly guides, and providing top-quality choices of kayaks for our guests to enjoy out on the water. We seek and value feedback and strive to be the best by continuously making improvements. We encourage guests to join us for an exciting Trailblaze Adventure and experience the thrill of kayaking in our area’s most beautiful kayaking destinations.”
Trailblaze Adventures – where the adventure starts with YOU. And the adventure awaits.
Trailblaze Adventure Kayak Tours operates tours daily as schedules and weather allows. Please note that some tours are tightly scheduled according to tidal flows. For specific details about scheduling or for more details about tours, or for booking of private tours or group outings, Trailblaze may be contacted at 843-256-4276, or by visiting their website at www.trailblazeadventure.com. “Like” them on Facebook at Trailblaze Adventure – Kayak Tours Myrtle Beach.