October 2008

CH2 Retreat to Palm Key

Author: Lindsey Hawkins

More often than not, the fast paced lives we chew on day in and day out make us regurgitate over and over the notion of “getting away” or “taking a weekend”—even those of us who live on this rumored island of relaxation called Hilton Head.

We should bask in el sol on the beaches and putt our way to self-esteem on the golf courses; but those of us who work here struggle to take advantage of the natural amenities surrounding our days off. Where can we go to get away from it all and rehabilitate for real?

Why not take a 45-minute drive to Palm Key in Ridgeland, where you can really isolate yourself from your busy routine, but still bring along your favorite friends. No television, no telephones, no traffic, no shirt, no shoes, no problem!

This nature getaway is the perfect location for a low-key all inclusive retreat. We’re talking three fresh, home-cooked meals per day and a list of outdoor/indoor activities to participate in or not participate in, depending on your preference. Kayaking, yoga, nature walks, botanical gardens, glass art infusion, jewelry making and more are at your fingertips. Or you can just read books on the plantation-style porch of your five-bedroom cottage with breathtaking views of Knowles Island marshlands and eat oysters and s’mores by the nightly bonfire. Palm Key is like a buffet of relaxation at your fingertips.

In fact, if you feel like you need rehab but don’t have an addiction or 30 spare days, Palm Key is the perfect a la carte hideaway to laugh and release. The fully-staffed nature-based resort community can also be utilized for much more than a personal getaway. The cottages have designer furnishings and kitchens with modern appliances and large living areas that open out onto large southern, furnished porches. Accommodations are ideal for student leadership programs, team building, corporate conferences and church retreats. And, of course, a CH2 magazine staff weekend getaway!

The CH2 staff recently stayed at Palm Key to see for ourselves what relaxation really means. Upon our arrival at the almost-too-desolate universe of the yoga-bound in-touch-with-Mother Nature environment, the Palm Key staff greeted us with warm smiles and a feast of rosemary chicken salad with mixed greens, fresh cheeses, French baguettes with herbed oils and of course good ol’ southern peach cobbler and vanilla ice cream. This was not our last delicious visit to the retreat dining hall, Smax, where you would typically expect cafeteria/camp food but receive detailed cuisine. Palm Key was turning out to be camp for those who also like some of the comforts of a resort.

After lunch, we headed to our five-bedroom, two-story cottage with waterfront view, where we stocked the kitchen with a few guilty pleasures from home including Cheetos, Cheez-Its, cubes of cheese, grapes for cheese, crackers for cheese, and left-over birthday cake from the CH2 birthday party. We also brought a few beverages of choice and quickly changed for kayaking.

Typically, kayaking with our guide Lisa would be an educational, serene journey along the Broad River; and it was, but with a few extra laughs and mishaps. Let’s just say not all of our staff members are super outdoorsy, and a few of us got momentarily trapped in the beautiful surrounding marsh grass. One of us learned that you shouldn’t lean too far over one side of your kayak while in the water. One of us got tired and had to be towed for an hour; and all of us had the giggles as we told stories, paddled and believe or not had a few breaths of fresh air and relaxation.

After our afternoon workout, we hung out on our porch and watched the sunset while a Lowcountry boil was prepared for us. Dinner at Smax included large local shrimp, corn on the cob, oysters roasted over the bonfire and let’s not forget roasted marshmallows and making s’mores. If you ever thought you saw a starry night on the beach in Hilton Head, you might want to consider watching one at Palm Key. The word stunning comes to mind, but do bring your bug spray or you might end up with a few constellations of your own in the morning!

After an early rise the next day, some of us actually watched the sun rise, and all of us drank coffee and laughed about the night before for a good hour before breakfast at, you guessed it, Smax! Again another feast was prepared for us consisting of scrambled eggs, cheese grits, bacon, homemade oatmeal with fresh fruit, blueberry pancakes, homemade cinnamon rolls and fruit turnovers, fresh squeezed orange juice and freshly brewed coffee. Lucky for us, with all the activities we were doing, we once again indulged in retreat dining!

After breakfast it was off to our glass art infusion class where we traveled a short distance to a local artist’s home to cut and fire glass creations. Once again it was relaxing, educational, and included lots of giggles and jokes because those of us who are creative on paper aren’t always so creative in glass firing. Well, some of us were, but the majority, tried really hard! Let’s just say Tony Stewart and Go Gators were inspiration for some and nature and love the inspiration for others.

Just walking around the trails and site of Palm Key is a great way to forget the everyday stressors of life. At Palm Key, you really do feel as if you are on the set of Dirty Dancing, and Patrick Swayze is going to come twirling out of one of the bungalows to wisp you away to a fallen log and teach you how to balance. Realistically, Palm Key has yoga class for balance, but I know there had to be a fallen log somewhere on that island.

The most valued convenience about Palm Key is that it really is all inclusive. You are worry free for as long or short a time as you have to get away.

Art On the Porches
If you would like to experience Palm Key for just a day to see what all of this laid-back talk is about, join them Saturday, October 11, for the 6th Annual Art on the Porches display. Admission is free for the viewing of talented local artists’ fare, live porch pickin’ music, beer tasting, barbeque, silent auction and arts and crafts.

For more information visit www.palmkeyinstitute.com or call 843.726.3277.

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