Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Cumberland Island National Seashore Part I

Crooked River State Park
Site #6
St. Mary's, Georgia

The trip to Cumberland Island National Seashore was so fantastic that I'm going to break it up into two parts so you don't have to look at SO many pictures in one post.

We left the rig at 8:00 to drive into St. Mary'and get our ferry tickets.  It is $17 per adult for the consessionaire run ferry.  No discounts apply.  But if you have a National Parks Senior Pass they waive the $4 park fee.  Tickets in hand we boarded the boat for a 9:00 departure for the Island.   It is located 8 miles east of St. Marys and from reading blogs of folks who've paddled over there, it is clear that it is a great trip that can be done with EXCELLENT planning and attention to the tides.  But as you can probably undestand, that wasn't how I wanted to get there this time.   So we boarded the Cumberland Lady with two school groups and a number of other folks for the trip out. 

It was a chilly 51 degrees when we sailed away from the harbor.

So we elected to sit inside the heated cabin space.  Everyone was smiling and cheerful.  Remember this for the return trip pictures.  :-)

We disembarked at the first docking on the island which is at the Ice House Museum dock.  This lower section of the island is largely an area in which Revolutionary War hero Nathaniel Greene and his wife  Catherine built a house they named Dungeness.  Green died 3 years after purchasing the island and the house was finished by Catherine and her second husband. Their plantation was not profitable, the family moved away, the house deteriorated and burned in 1866.  In 1880 Thomas Carnegie, brother and partner of Andrew, bought the land and he and his wife Lucy built a mansion on the Dungeness foundation.    Thomas died a few years later and Lucy finished the house and raised her 9 children on the island.  (Doesn't look like an encouraging place for longevity for the men)  :-)   

There is no transportation on the island other than feet and rental one speed bicycles.  You cannot bring your own bikes on the ferry.  At 17 miles long, you obviously can't cover it in one 6 hour trip.  We took the park walking tour which left from the Carnegie's ice house (they had blocks brought in from the North) and walked down the gorgeous Live Oak lined drive to the ruins of their home Dungeness whose burning has an interesting local twist which I'll leave you to find out when you visit.

It was a beautiful approach to the ruins of Carnegie's Dungeness, a 59-room Scottish castle which on its grounds also had 40 smaller buildings to house the 200 servants who worked at the mansion. It had a golf course and a "recreation building" with a swimming pool and tennis courts.  The last time Dungeness was used was for the 1929 wedding of a Carnegie daughter. The Carnegie family owned 90% of the island and Lucy built 4 other homes there for her children when they grew up and married.

The tour was primarily cultural and about the history of the buildings.  I was much more interested in the natural history.  So after it was over, we set off for the beach.  Along the way we ran into a couple of the members of the estimated 200 wild horse herd on the island.  Hanging around with them was a fair sized flock of turkeys.  We saw armidillos...how did they get there? Do they swim?  We were told there were also wild pigs, bobcats and coyotes...boy those guys get around.

I guess this guy was looking for a drink of something but salt water.  In short supply here for sure.  He actually stuck his head all the way into this pipe.  If I didn't already have too many pictures to show you I would have posted that one too.  But this one better shows his gorgeous tail feathers.  Click any of the pictures to enlarge them.

I wandered down a short enticing path

and came to this lovely wetlands view.  The western side of the island is salt marsh and the eastern is the Atlantic.

 The Nathaniel Greene family cemetary overlooks the salt marsh and looked to me like a great spot to spend eternity

Seems Light-horse Harry Lee died at Dungeness and was buried here until the Virgina General Assembly had other ideas having to do I suspect with Washington and Lee College at that time University now.  This is for all my hometown readers.  :-)

 Further on down the path

At that point we followed the arrow under a sign that said BEACH
And came to this sign  that said Salt Marsh Boardwalk

So we took a side trip over this lovely boardwalk

with these great views.  The island has three eco-communities.  The Salt Marsh, the Maritime Forest and the Ocean beach community.  We hoped to be able to see some of all three even though we only had 6 hours on the island.  It was a 45 minute trip over and the boat back left at 4:30.

At the end of the Salt Marsh boardwalk the path turned left toward the beach.  I thought these trees in the area between the marsh and the ocean were interesting.  There was just one section of what appeared to be a dead forest.

There were some live trees as we moved more toward the water including this one with these great yellow puff flowers and mimosa like leaves.  There was only one and I wondered how it lived in this difficult environment.

And then we were in the dunes which meant the ocean was on the other side.

I was also suprised to see what we in Virginia always considered a pest plant, a yucca, but again there was only one plant and it looked lovely among the sea oats.

There are some Carnegie heirs who still have residence rights on the island and I asusme this beach driving note is directed at anyone else although, how would you get a car over here?  But the better sign is the one below which indicates this is a sea turtle nesting site.  At the end of our day we went to a ranger program on their successful hatching season this year.  Really glad to hear that since the statsitics we learned are that only 1 and 10,000 make it to adulthood and they do not start laying eggs until they are 24 years old.

And then there it was.  17 miles of uninhabited beach.  One of the most beautiful things in the world to me oceanlover that I am.  I've had a great time paddling in the gulf, in the swamp, on the Suwannee and even on the first half of the Crooked River :-)   but there is no water like the ocean.

Nothing but beach for as far as you could see, no buildings, no lights just nature.  I was in heaven.

Here are some of the beauties we saw as we walked along

a pen shell

A moon shell with barnacles

And a beautiful star fish.  Shells are the only things you are allowed to take off of the island and of all the shells we saw, I took only pictures except of this one.  I brought it back with me as my one treasure from this perfect beach.  

I'll leave you with those treasures and finish up this 6 hour over 8 mile hike tomorrow.  See you then

1 comment:

  1. Love you pics. Looks like ya'll have no problems finding the cool places!! I live on coastal Georgia and appreciate it when others do as well.

    Joe Marshall


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