Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Ocala NF Wasn't the Only Wild Place We Visited

After our hike in Florida, K and I met my parents in St. Mary's, GA, where they had our kid. On Saturday, we took the ferry over to Cumberland Island, most of which is administered by the National Park Service. There is a private residence at one end of the island, but the rest of the human residents are only there for a few days and have to carry all of their stuff to the campgrounds. No motorized vehicles can be brought to the island. It's a pretty cool place, actually, and somewhere I wish I had more time to explore. I may take a backpacking trip to the island before the heat and sand gnats get unbearable in March.

It's a shame that E won't remember this trip when he's older because he absolutely loved it. He spent most of his time with his head over the side of the boat shouting "water," "bird," or "boat." I, on the other hand, got a good workout following him all around the deck of the ferry to make sure only his head went over the side.

Cumberland, like several other uninhabited or lightly inhabited islands along the East Coast, is home to a herd of feral horses. The horses are mostly the descendants of animals belonging to the Carnegie family that owned the Island in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

It's amazing to think that these ruins were a mansion occupied by a wealthy and powerful family less than 100 years ago. The island was given as a gift by Thomas Carnegie to his wife, who made it the family's full-time residence after his death. While she lived, the island was a self-sufficient estate. It wasn't until long after her death that the Island was eventually turned over to the public.

By this time, E was getting grumpy. We'd already walked a mile and he'd long since run out of patience with walking. We had to take turns carrying him through the loose sand of the path that carried us through the dunes and onto the beach, not an easy task. Once on the beach, we ate lunch and E was rejuvenated by a little milk and PB&J, and instead of taking a nap like we expected, he ran off and fed the gulls with a friend he made on the ferry.

I realized that E was finally getting big enough to carry on my shoulders and that carrying him on my shoulders is much easier than carrying him in my arms. Don't worry, I don't trust him enough to not let go of my head and lean back, so I had a hand on his leg to keep him steady. It just doesn't look that way from this angle. Unfortunately, after about five minutes of riding this way, he was starting to fall asleep and I had to go back to carrying him in my arms. He managed to sleep for most of the next two miles as we passed him around to spread the load.

This is just a cool piece of sponge that had washed up on the shore. Despite the grayness of the photo (there was a heavy fog for much of the hike) this was taken after noon.

What's not to love about the live oaks growing along the coast? There probably isn't a more interesting group of trees on earth. The same species grows a straight trunk with a wide, arching canopy just a few miles inland, but on the coast the trees send great trunk-sized limbs wandering out into space like an abstract painting of Ganesh.


Julie said...

Nice photos and commentary. It sounds like a pretty cool trip. I think it's cool that you get to do this kind of thing a lot with your parents.

Oh, and I'm totally jealous of your child. I would probably be much more interested in going on trips like this if I knew that people would carry me when I got tired. That's the life.

Chris said...

I'm with Mickey: I would like to pay a visit to Cumberland Island sooner or later, although I probably prefer the beach a little warmer than you do.