My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thankful on Cumberland Island

 Heat up that cup of coffee before starting this - it's another long post. But it's hard to condense 10 miles  of walking and taking pictures into a short post.

Thanksgiving morning found me standing in line at The Cumberland Island Visitor Center to check in for a forty-five minute ferry ride to Cumberland Island. The big winter storm had passed through, leaving chilly air behind but dragging the clouds away.  People in line were in a strange mix of summer clothes - short and sandals - and winter clothes - heavy socks, hats, tights or long pants. I had on long underwear tops and bottoms with a fleece top plus a wind breaker, my new wool hat I'd bought for my souvenir from the Boundary Waters, and my left glove.  (I needed a glove-less hand to take pictures.)

Click here to see a full sized map of the island

While  passengers streamed onto the ferry and into the closed cabin, I asked if I could go up on top.  "Of course", replied the ranger.  The sign said the limit on top was 40 people but I was only joined by two other people for part of the trip. I enjoyed trying to catch pictures of the gulls following the ship and of  views along the way. I even got to get my first view of Cumberland's wild horses from the ferry.

Waiting ferry

Ferry followers

I decided my best course was to get off at the first stop, the dock by the ice-house museum, explore to the south, then east and north and eventually arrive back at the Sea Camp Ranger Station Dock  After seeing the horses, south of of the dock, I wanted to get close enough to get some pictures.  So I immediately headed south.  The tide was out so I could walk  in areas that would be under water later.  The group of  ponies were grazing in the marsh grass.

Ice house museum dock

Landscape near Dungeness Ruins - these oaks were important in ship building

The horse that came down my back trail

 I worked slowly and carefully to get close enough to get a picture without spooking them. Suddenly a pony walked out of the brush behind me and the continued right past me, about twenty feet away, totally ignoring me. Then a father and daughter walked so close to the other group of ponies that, in my long lens, they looked to be almost touching the ponies. So while he horses are feral, they are not very wild. I played around in this area for over an hour, then started to enjoy some of the Dungeness Ruins.

This particular version was built by Thomas M Carnegie, brother of Andrew Carnegie, and his wife, Lucy.  Thomas died before it was completed but Lucy and her nine children lived here, and had lots of important visitors.  There is an entire village of buildings that supported this mansion, including a recreational building, servants quarters, a coach house, greenhouses, and other buildings. For an interesting discussion on the history of this site, click here. Unskilled workers made fifty cents a day, while skilled workers earned a dollar per day.

Dugenesss Ruins
You can use your phone here and at the other remains and listen to  an audio discussion by the NPR.  I listened to a couple of the talks but was way more interested in seeing more of the island, so I continued east, to a where the trail branched to a boardwalk over the marsh, before connecting back up with the trail to the Atlantic side of the island.

First view of the back side of the dunes on the Atlantic side

The boardwalk over a marsh

A view of the marsh from the boardwalk, looking back to the Georgia coast

Some of the many tree skeletons.  The beach is moving south east at the rate of an inch per year.  That may be what  killed these trees.

A boardwalk across the dunes to the beach

The dunes flattening out to become the beach
The Atlantic side was much colder and I was walking into a north wind.  The tide was starting to come in and birds were starting to feed at various spots along the way.  Other birds were closer to the dunes, probably to avoid the wind. The views into the dunes were often stunning and I also did some diversions into the dunes to get out of the cold wind.  I followed pony trails and saw several more of the feral horses.

Horseshoe crab shell remains

A more recently dead crab

Some of a mixed flock of birds

This ring billed gull got its dinner
By about 12:30 P.M., I had gotten up to the turn to Sea Camp. The campsites there are in little openings under the live oaks with a thick growh of palmettos under them. I investigated a few camps and spoke to a few of the campers.  Soon I was at the ranger station.  Of interest to me were the cars parked there and covered with tarps. I found out that the landowners who gave up their land for the park,kept their right to drive on the island.  These are their vehicles.

The most beautiful horse I saw - she was in the dunes along the Atlantic side

A natural sand sculpture

The last flower still blooming

A camp site tucked under the live oakes and surrounded by the palmettos

Some of the rental bikes

If you have trouble walking, just bring your pusher

Haul your gear to camp in one of these carts/wagons

I visited the ranger station but it had very little in the way of displays.  But it did have several rocking chairs on the porch - I enjoyed a little snooze in one of them while waiting to board the ferry. 

Since I still had a few hours of time left, I continued up Parallel Trail  toward Stafford Beach.  When I found a  road out to the beach, I took it and did some more walking out in the open.  (The trail is through a dense forest of mostly live oaks and some pines under planted with with lots of palmetto, wax myrtles, a little holly and a few other plants species.)

Parallel Trail

I came back to the road via the access road to Little Greyfield Beach and again walked under a dark canopy of trees.  Several bikers passed me - they are only allowed on the roads and not the trails.

Bikers on the road north of the Ranger Station

I arrived back at the Ranger Station forty-five minutes early and enjoyed just sitting, rocking and dozing while waiting for the ferry to let us load. The sun set as we were returning and I took my last picture off the ferry before disembarking. 

As I was dozing on the ferry trip back - this time in the cabin - I overheard a gentleman talking to his companions.  He had served as a volunteer at many National Parks and was a wealth of information. He mentioned that the British had emancipated about 1200 slaves from Cumberland Island and recruited many of the men to fight in the 1812 war.  He said the British gave the slaves three choices of where to go.  I only remembered one of them being Halifax but it piqued my curiosity so I did a little more reading when I got home. It seems the British had an outpost on the island and recruited slaves to fight for them.  Then they were given their choice of Halifax, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, or Trinidad.  Trinidad was apparently the winning choice.  Here is a little more information on that time. By the time the Civil War ended, there were about 400 slaves on the island. Some of them received plots of land on the island and built a little community on the north end of the island. They became part of the Gullah people, although I believe the slaves were raising a very fine kind of cotton on the island know as Sea Island Cotton, as well as rice. Here is some more information.

Can't wait to go back and look for birds and buildings at the north end of the island.