Heat, humidity, water with a slight sulfur taste—surely this is a foretaste of hell. However, none of the biblical warnings prepared me for the mosquitoes! Sitting under the canopy of tangled Live Oak branches at Sea Camp, I wondered what I had done wrong to arrive in Hell (let me count the ways).
On a more serious note, Cumberland Island is magical. The twisting branches of the oak trees bring to mind Tolkien’s woods. The forest is so quiet, you can hear yourself breathe. The sunlight is filtered and diffused through overarching vines and branches (making photography very difficult). Armadillos, raccoons and other creatures rustle in the palmetto underbrush. You hear the gentle splashing of water moving through the salt marsh and view crumbling mansions from bygone eras. You are blinded by sunlight reflecting off water and expansive sandy beach as you emerge from the live oak forest. Cumberland Island, Georgia’s largest and Southernmost barrier island is protected as a National seashore.
We only saw the southern tip of the island, because it is the most accessible by ferry from St. Mary’s on the mainland. There are only a limited number of spaces available for camping so prepare early. Spots are given out on a “first booked” basis at Sea camp. You can also choose to do the “back country” camping which seemed a bit too extreme for the June heat. You can also come for a day trip but you’ll be rushed. Seen from the beach, the live oak forest canopy is so tangled and dense that one is astonished to feel any sea breeze at all. But, thankfully, a little breeze did reach the tents. That being said, a portable, rechargeable air conditioner was my first search after getting back to my computer.
The Dungeness ruins (the former Carnagie mansion) give fascinating insights into the recent human footprint on the island, which came from a very expensive shoe! The island was first cleared for cotton and indigo plantations. Today’s forests and marshes testify to the forces of nature reasserting itself over human development.