28 November 2009
Photo: Wild Horses... and a whole lot more. Please check out the photo gallery of Cumberland Island.
Cumberland Island, GA
A little back track north up the ICW and well worth it!
Welcomed by a wild horse, we began our day entering an arched forest of Living Oaks; the sunlight filtering down through the draping Spanish moss into the thick underbrush. We all were taken by the ambiance and solitude surrounding us. I'm sure that this would be a perfect setting for The Blair Witch Project or on the flip side, a tale of Swiss Family Robinson.
Although none of us are exemplary bird watchers, we all tried to identify the sounds coming from above. Usually these sombre hued forests are dressed with the vivid plumage of painted buntings, summer tanagers, cardinals, pileated woodpeckers, Carolina wrens and yellow - throated warblers. We never saw anything...and the islands white tailed deer must have been scared away with our vocal excitement.
Emerging from the shadows of the forest we found huge sand dunes and a beach that beckoned to be explored. We arrived at low tide and began our search for shells.
Steve and I proudly produced a magazine that had a great number of pages of information to help us identify our found treasures. How exciting to see adults on a on a treasure hunt, gleefully running over to one's find, hoping to look and touch and guess what it was. The largest and ugliest discovered was a Horseshoe Crab, the smallest being the Atlantic Abra. Our best finds, a Lightening Whelk and a Royal Sea Star - both alive and tossed back into the deeper water.
On lookers at the beach were Sanderlings and Sandpipers scurrying across the sand with their little legs and "shit hawks" of various varieties... Laughing, Ring-billed and Herring gulls joined by a group of proud Royal terns.
And as we left the beach to follow another path, a long boardwalk led us into a saltwater marshland. It was here that we encountered the remnants of the common raccoon and fiddler crabs. Herrings and Egrets lined the marshlands and as we headed up to higher ground, we were aware that human live was also present. We entered the Dungeness Ruins and cemetery. The old cemetery and abandoned, Carnegie-era rusty cars that are overgrown with weeds add to the timeless feel as you continue past the Dungeness ruins.
We walked for four hours. . That's nothing for a cruiser. Oh forgot to mention that we saw our first armadillo.
History: The history of Dungeness dates to James Oglethorpe, founder of the Georgia colony, who built two forts and a hunting lodge he called Dungeness on the island in 1736. In 1783, Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene acquired nearly 11,000 acres (4,400 hectares) of the island in exchange for a bad debt. His widow built her own Dungeness house in 1803, which burned in the middle of the century.
In 1881 Thomas Carnegie (brother and partner of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie), with his wife Lucy, built yet another Dungeness on the foundation of the Greene estate. This Dungeness was built in 1885 and lasted until 1959, when much of it burned. The ruins remain, though, and include what is called Tabby House, the oldest house on Cumberland Island and the only building the Carnegies spared when they rebuilt the area from the ruins of the Greene estate. The house was built around 1800 of tabby, a kind of concrete made of oyster shells, lime and sand. Tabby construction can be seen throughout Georgia's coast.
As you walk down what would have been the main sand "driveway" into the estate, you see the main house before you, well intact from the foundation but mostly gutted by the fire. The building is large and majestic and you get the sense, as you walk the sprawling grounds, that Dungeness was at one time a beautiful home.
Feral "wild" horses were all over the grounds, quietly grazing and seemingly unconcerned with us.