Tuesday, June 16, 2009

One Particular Island

Yesterday we spent the day exploring Cumberland Island, GA and let me tell you, it is one very kewl island!!! Originally discovered, developed and inhabited by the Carnegie family (more particularly Thomas Carnegie (brother of the more famous Andrew) and his wife Lucy and their children - OK, I know the Indians were there first but that should go without saying...), the island is now a National Seashore and is administered by the National Park Service. We dinghied into the main park service dock and started our hike from there - we headed south to see the ruins at Dungeness (the former great home of the Carnegie parents which had been uninhabited since around 1916 and which largely burned to the ground in the 1950's).

The trail south was spectacular with towering spanish moss covered oak trees making a canopy across the path and contrasting greatly with the numerous palmettos that lined the trail. The huge gnarled oak trees looked like something straight out of Harry Potter with the moss hanging down and vines climbing up and through the branches blocking out much of the sun and sky - the Forbidden Forrest had nothing on this place except for maybe centaurs, unicorns and Aragog!!!
It was completely wild and pretty freaky - very quiet with the oak overhang except for the buzzing of tons of (mostly) unseen bugs and the call of birds circling overhead. Before too long though we broke out into a field where there were at least a dozen wild horses - very pastoral looking with a green grassy field the horses were happily munching as they flicked their tails to dislodge the mosquitos (later on we even saw several newborn colts!).

Near the field was a ranger station and a dock that harbored a very precocious white heron who loved to have his photo taken

- from the dock we could look back to our anchorage making sure that September Song and Gypsies were still where we left them - given the ripping current in our anchorage that was good to know!!

There was a museum about the island in the old ice house complete with pottery and weapons dating back to the time of the indians and an extensive photo collection of all the grand homes on the island built for the Carnegies and their children (it seems that as each one married, they got a piece of land on which to build a home - one seemingly larger and more grand than the next!!)

From the museum we walked along a dirt road lined with towering oak trees that had obviously been planted long ago - it truly looked like the entrance to Tara or every other southern plantation depicted in the movies - you could just picture ladies all dressed in their finery riding in a colorful carriage to go calling on their neighbors for afternoon tea.

Instead - we saw two dung beetles pushing a clod of dung (which I have to admit was pretty cool - ingenius little buggers as they proved when we erected barriers in their way which after a slight pause they overcame) - amazing to me that I now find dung beetles interesting...I don't want any snide comments now!!!

We arrived at the wrought iron gate (still standing) to the entrance of Dungeness and the ruins of the main house spread out before us - if you closed your eyes, you could just picture what a magnificent structure it had to be!!

Even the ruins conveyed a majesty with stonework covering the brick and the huge chimneys where cozy fireplaces once stood. Walking around the grounds we got a taste of the grandeur that must have existed back then - there was a pergola where spectacular gardens once stood and a stone fountain in the back yard leading down from the wide veranda to the marshy overlook where the view was unfettered out to the sea!! From there we wandered past towering magnolia trees and sprawling oaks around carriage houses (where there was quite a collection of very old rusted out cars!! - can you say Studebaker?)

and other related buildings until we found the cemetery which was dedicated to Thomas Carnegie and had a stone for General Henry Lee whose remains were supposedly removed years ago and taken to Lexington, VA.

View From the Cemetery

Then it was on to the Dungeness Beach - if there's a beach, guarantee you we'll find it and given that this was a national seashore, we had to see it!! Believe me the path to the beach was no easy, sand filled trail - we hiked through first woods

and then dunes like none I've ever seen before - usually you crest a sand dune and the beach sprawls out before you but no...not here.

We crested a dune only to see more dunes ahead of us - it was a cross between the lunar landscape and a desert - blisteringly hot, no water in sight and where are the camels when you need them??? It was truly spectacular and like no place I've ever been before - wild nature at its finest.

Finally we came to the beach - a long expanse of hard sand with tons of terns, gulls and a lone heron hanging out staring at us as we invaded their territory.

A couple ghost crabs tried to play dead with us until we came to close and then they boogied out of there!!

The tidal pools held water that was downright hot leading us to think we could just dive into the ocean - but not only was the water much cooler, it was an unappetizing brown color (I guess the Bahamas really spoiled us!!!) Cassie (one of the September Song boat dogs) would have had a field day chasing after the birds and the tiny fish that got caught in the tidal pools - she might have even cuaght one of them!! Next time girls!!

We walked back along the ocean to a path that would take us back to the ranger station and our dink - not only did we largely avoid the mosquitos but we got to walk with our feet in the water thereby beating the heat! The path at Sea Camp Beach was a boardwalk that cut through more exotic dunes and then opened up onto the wildest forest I've ever seen. Huge sprawling, gnarled oak trees with the Harry Potter looking spanish moss and vines hanging down and branches sprouting every whichaway. These trees were a kids playground - one tree could have entertained 10 kids for a day climbing among its branches - being little kids ourselves, Doug and I had to try it out!! Very Kewl!!!

The only downer to this enchanted forest were the mosquitos who appeared to be the size of the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz - I kid you not!! Even with bug spray we needed to make a hasty retreat once the requisite pictures were snapped - I'm not sure how the campers stand it although if they make it through dusk, I'm sure they have unbelievably good ghost stories to tell in that spooky setting at night!!!

Click here to see a Google map of our Cumberland Island location.

Back on the boat after an amazing day, we had a quiet evening (much better than the night before - no thunderstorms or gale force wind or anything!!). This morning we set off bright and early to head north running on the outside - depending on how far we felt like traveling we had a couple alternative plans. But as usual, when you're cruising you usually need to improvise - we are now sitting anchored off of St. Simons Island while Doug and Bob fix a fan belt on Gypsies - we anchored and September Song rafted up to us so we wouldn't have to drop a dink. Bloggus interruptus....

All fixed (at least for now) and we set off again to at least make some progress north - we headed up the ICW since going outside would have taken too long to get out of the St. Simon's Inlet and we steamed for several more hours. It is high tide which is good since the ICW in Georgia can be real skinny - in fact we traveled up the Little Mud River which had some depths of 8 feet (given that there is a 6 foot tide here, that would be very shallow at low tide especially since we have a 5.3 foot draft!!!!) But all is well - we are anchored in the Duplin River all by ourselves - it is truly quite beautiful and peaceful with marsh on either side of us and no houses in sight (there is a small ferry dock which runs God only knows where but we are well out of its way so no worries mon!!!!) A few coldies on the flybridge and we feel almost human after a long day of steaming. Think tonight will be an early night since we want to make Bob and Stephanie's home by tomorrow - they have a dock long enough for both of us to tie up and we will be able to provision, go see Savannah and also visit one of their favorite anchorages - Blackbeard Island - yippee!!!

Click here to see a Google map of our Duplin River location.

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