Sunday, May 25, 2008

05/14/2008 Cumberland Island

From Fernandina Beach we cross Cumberland Sound to visit Cumberland Island. If you remember our trip South we were scanning the shores for wild horses. Guess spring weather is the charm because we see them grazing along the shore as we sail by the island to anchor near Dungeness.
Along the shore trees that have fallen into the water
We pass one of the passenger ferry boats that brings visitors to the island.
Gleam, a boat from St Augustine has anchored near the ranger station
we do likewise

We go ashore and find Bill and Twyla off their boat Gleam and just lounging in rockers on the ranger station porch. We joined them and have to say that just rocking on the porch in such beautiful surroundings was one of the most relaxing things we've done on this trip!

The rangers give scheduled tours, however we missed todays. Bill is a frequent visitor to the island so he shared his history knowledge with us as we hiked some of the trails.

We find most of the trail sort of mystical

Example of typical huts of early inhabitants.

We began to notice dead leaves on the bay trees and later questioned a ranger regarding this. It seems a beetle (not native) is infesting and killing the trees. They don't know if they will be able to stop it. The oaks don't seem to be affected yet, but some of the magnolias are.

We were exchanging childhood stories that involved trees that come to life when sure enough there appeared such a tree. We were certain that at any moment it would speak to us, and we were a little anxious about turning our backs on it.

This once was an ice house and has now been turned
into a very interesting historical museum of the island.

Near the buildings there is usually a clearing.
This one has a beautiful stand of palms.

At times the path became a road and we came upon
an almost magical entrance to the mansion Dungeness.

with wild horses grazing on the lawn

The mansion was destroyed by fire twice. It was not restored after the fire in 1959. Today work is being done on the ruins to stop their deterioration so that we can have a glimpse of what once was.

Look carefully to the left.
You'll see old cars that appear to have rusted where they were parked

We saw many wild turkeys roaming the grounds.

One of the cemeteries on the island with quite a view.

The island has many wild, feral horses
called "marsh tacky" by the colonial planters.

Cattle egrets hanging around with the horses

No one paid much attention to us except the little fellow. I'm sure he will soon become accustomed to visitors. I say accustomed because the rangers warn everyone that although the horses are comfortable with us at a distance, they are wild and one should respect that. We were told that occasionally someone intrudes to closely and has been injured. We happily sat on a nearby wall to watch and admire.

This group wandered to one side of the field and grazed.
Soon what appeared to be the stallion in charge came over and herded the group till he got them all standing in a row facing away from us.

And that's how they stood while he returned to the field,
sniffed around and kicked his heels up a bit.

When we left they were migrating to the shady spot
that the mother of the youngest had chosen for his nap.
She had refused to be herded to stand in the sun with the other group.

We returned to our boats for a rest from the heat of the day, dinner and to just enjoy the scenery around us. The next morning we returned to take a trail to the beach.
and just generally enjoy ourselves.
We got a little wet as we enjoyed the great temp of the water and wandered about looking for just the right shells to make Twyla a bracelet. This beautiful whelk still had an occupant so he was returned to the water.
We were not the only people looking for exciting things in the water.
This school group was having a great time.

This blue crab wasn't to thrilled about being the star of the show. Don't worry, she (notice the red patch of eggs) was soon back in the water doing what crabs do and the excited group of kids had received valuable lessons.
There was yet another group of school children all dressed in pink T's and rushing about on the beach. We walked over to see what they were doing. The ranger had one group collecting items from the beach and another making barrier islands in the sand. Then using the items collected they made dwellings on the ocean side, atop the island, or on the side sheltered by the dunes.
Using a pail of water the ranger created tidal surges on each type of development. Want to guess which one survived the best?

The weather is changing. We are not in a good spot for the winds,
so we pull up anchor and follow Gleam to St Marys harbor.

If we were looking for a mooring, there were some pretty good size one's!

We chose to anchor and take the dinghy ashore
for shrimp dinner "All You Can Eat" - of course everyone eats too many!!

The next day Twyla and I take to town and the shops.
We didn't just shop, we also visited a local history museum . Then a local book store where I purchased "Cumberland Island, Strong Women, Wild Horses" by Charles Seabrook. ( back cover... From the days of Caty Greene, the widow of Revolutionary War hero Nathanael Greene, to Abette, the slave mistress of Cumberland's largest landholder before the Civil War, to Lucy Carnegie, the widow of Thomas Carnegie, to Carol Ruckdeschel, a naturalist once profiled in the New Yorker, and Janet "Gogo" Ferguson, who played an integral role in the planning of Carolyn Bessette and John F Kennedy, Jr's secret wedding on the island, we watch as these women strive to protect the island they love.)
We stopped at a great little tea house next to what is called the French Quarters for lunch. Since we would only have this one opportunity to eat there and the menu was so varied we asked for a suggestion. There was a sampler choice that was recommended and we got to choose 1/2 a sandwich, small salad, scone (in heart shape) & jam with your choice of tea. Ok, that was good but that still left choices. The waitress was very patient and lunch was terrific, too bad we were leaving so soon. If you are ever in St Marys, you must put this on your things to do list. Such fun and good tasting too. I had to get 2 scones to go for the boat!!

Hakuna Matata left St Mary's and returned to the Cumberland Island National Seashore.
There was so much more to see and do there.

Once ashore again we took a boardwalk path across a marsh and sand dunes to the beach.
We were very surprised at how the marsh suddenly turned into sand dunes. For a short distance we were allowed to walk on the dunes that had no vegetation on them. After just a few steps you felt you were in a desert in the Sahara, were hoping you hadn't taken a wrong turn and developed a great thirst. We've learned to take the back pack along on these ventures and pack as if we had a toddler with us... plenty of water, snacks, suntan lotion, bug repellent and a towel for when you get wet. Those toddlers know their stuff.
Down side - hey, it gets pretty heavy. We weren't the only ones on the beach.

While strolling the beach we kept an eye out for the beacons that marked the path back to the dock at the ranger station. We passed many campers along the way.
This fern is called resurrection fern as it goes dormant and looks dead during a dry spell and springs back to life after rain. The first days we walked the fern was brown...a little rain and sure enough it was vibrant green.

We returned to the boat to relax and enjoy another beautiful sunset.

Our way is very windy
Plum Orchard is just around the first bend in the river.
We anchor and go ashore...

Imagine what it would have been like to be picked up at the dock and driven up this road through majestic oak trees laiden with moss to a clearing with a beautiful mansion.
We did.
Then we walked up and knocked on the front door.

No one was home so we just peeked in through the space in the drapes for a glimpse inside. Plum Orchard has funding and is being restored. Hopefully one day we can visit her as she once was.
For now we just walked around the grounds.
Magnolia trees were just starting to bloom

Butterflies joined us as we strolled the grounds.

Armadillos scampered off...well sort of

Then we sat on the porch just looking out for a while

soon to return once more to our yellow boat for the evening.

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