I will confess that this is going more than 30 minutes but I wanted to share the day at the island in one blog. For a while now I have wanted to take a trip to Cumberland Island. Where is it you may ask. Cumberland Island is situated on the very tip of Georgia and is is just across the river mouth from Fernandina Beach in Florida. Of course, we are at practically at the opposite tip of Florida, so it is a good 5 hour trip just to get out of Florida. We were heading to St Mary’s in Georgia. We arrived late afternoon after spending some time exploring Fort Clinch in Fernandina Beach. More about that later this week. St Mary’s has a ferry that travels from the town directly to Cumberland Island.
Why Cumberland Island? For the longest time I have heard and read about wild horses on the island. A bit of research also told me that there were also some ruins to visit. Those two items were my goal. We arrived at St Mary’s with enough time to check into our B&B called the Goodbread House. This was a quaint multi-roomed house that had different themed rooms and a lot of knicks and knacks. Our hosts were very friendly and got us settled into the Gable and Lombard room very efficiently. I will add that the bathroom was dedicated to Marilyn Munro and Elvis Presley. Such fun.
We had to go out for dinner and so we started to walk down the main street looking for different options and finally found ourselves at a place called 401. Out in the gardens they had live music while we waited for a table to come free. The music was awesome and they had a great selection of songs. Dinner was the best, and added to that, I was able to photograph this beautiful sunset.
8am and we are packed up and ready to head out to the island. We had to go and get our tickets at a local office and pay the fee to go on the island and then it was a 5 minute walk to the ferry where everyone was waiting. I was thinking way to many people but I am happy to say that the island was so big that we really did not encounter that many people.
My goal of course was to find the horses and see the ruins, and so we began our walk down the road towards the ruins. One thing I love about Northern Florida and Georgia is the Spanish Moss that covers the trees. It kind of gives that eerie kind of feeling. We had tried to plan out how much time it would take us to get around the course we had planned. 3-4 hours which would give us enough time to make it back to the 2:45 ferry.
The island is made up of various sectors of nature, the wooded area, the marshy area, the rolling dunes and the wide open beaches. We started off by walking through the wooded area, along a long road towards the ruins. While there was not a lot of color, every so often I would spot a flower or some autumn looking leaves.
We spotted our first horses as we walked towards the ruins. I was so excited. My horses were the tame kind of wild horses. Actually we were warned that if we had apples, not to show them to the horses. They were kind of pushy in their endeavor to get to your apples. These two did not do much more than eat grass and walk away from us. But still I was pretty stoked.
There were two horses at the entrance, one was slightly bigger than the other.
Our first view of Dungeness Ruins was as we passed the horses. History has it that this was the winter home of Thomas Carnegie. He lived there with his wife and 9 children. Soon after the home was constructed Thomas died. His wife Lucy and the family continue to live there. She made alterations to the house to make it bigger. In 1916 Lucy Carnegie passed away. In 1959 the house caught on fire and today only the ruins remain. We were able to walk around the house but could not go into the ruins. Based on the ruins, the house must have been spectacular in it’s day.
In front of the ruins is where I saw my third horse, once again eating grass. This horse did show a little more interest in us. I actually loved seeing the horse against the backdrop of these incredible ruins.
We walked beyond the ruins heading towards the marshy area. On our way we saw this pack of 3 horses, and just beyond that another 3 were working there way towards this group.
We continued down a pathway, through a walkway, down a slight incline, and there we were, walking along a boardwalk towards the marshland. It was so flat and had weaving waterways. It was great to see an Osprey overhead doing some fishing, and a Great Blue Heron hanging out in the water. Richard also got to see a Spoonbill wading through the water sifting through the sand to find some treats. We did not stay to long in this area before pushing on to the sand dunes.
It would be remiss to have an island habitat, without the carrion hunters and we came across 6 Black Vultures as we walked across the sand dunes. I love the Black Vultures. The are so elegant when compared to the Turkey Vulture, who in my opinion, is really quite ugly.
The soft sand gave way to the waters edge. We were asked to cross the dunes at designated points so as not to do damage to the beautiful dunes.
In front of us, was a view of the island beach, stretching beyond where I imagined we would need to go, until Richard said we were walking to where all the people were and that looked a long long way away.
The first casualty of the ocean that we came across was a Horseshoe Crab. Apparently they are not actually a true crab. Interestingly they apparently move to shallow waters during breeding season. The female can lay up to 120 000 eggs and then the male will come along and fertilize them. Sadly most of them do not make it as the shore birds eagerly snatch up the eggs.
The second interesting item found on the beach was what appeared to be a buoy. Clearly it had been around a while and was totally rusted in places.
The second casualty that I found was this perfectly formed crab body. Look at those pincers. I happened to spend some time before the boat left watching a couple of crabs fighting with each other. Those pincers are serious weapons.
As we move down the beach we noticed a huge flock of terns hanging out at the edge of the water. As Richard walked along I was hoping that the birds would take off. They kept just moving to the end of the group. No major take off.
Just beyond the sand dunes and the sea grasses we found a fallen log. It was there that we ate our picnic lunch that the B&B has secured for us – cold meat stuffed inside pita bread, a packet of chips and some peanut butter crackers and some ice cold water. It was so peaceful and I was grateful to stop for a short while.
Heading across the boardwalk the stretched along the dunes I spotted a bit of color.
A close up on the sea grass normally known Sea Oats. The Sea Oats is a subtropical coastal grass typically found on sand dunes and beach areas.
And just like that we were heading back into the shaded wooded pathways that lead back to the campsites and the ferries. Oh yes you can camp on the island, but be warned, it is rustic camping. There is no electricity and showers are heated with a solar bag system. From what I have heard, when the sun goes down the mosquito’s and no see ems come out to play. Thankfully we were not camping, because they do love me.
One of the highlights of the trip heading back to the mainland was Richard spotting a dolphin. The pictures are not perfect, but it was an amazing moment. The dolphin was swimming just ahead of the boat and kept popping up out of the water. It traveled with us for quite a way before it dived deep. Trying to time when the dolphin would appear was hard, but it was worth hanging over the edge of the boat to see this beautiful mammal.
45 minutes later we are back at St Mary’s and ready to disembark, drop off the cooler bag, and head out. Next stop was Vilano Beach in St Augustine. However, look out for our visit to Fort Clinch later this week. We had stopped at the fort on the way up to St Mary’s.
Thank you for joining us for another month of 30 Minutes. Just a reminder that this is a circle blog. I would encourage you to take some time to visit my very talented friend Jess from Crystal of Crystal Bella Photography and see what she has for you this month. I am pretty excited to learn more about these wonderful ladies from all over the world. I would certainly encourage you to visit their pages