Cumberland Island, Georgia USA- Part I

You have to believe me when I tell you this, because as unlikely as it sounds, I am NOT a camper.  My idea of ‘roughing it’  is not having a stocked mini bar in my hotel room!  I should also say that I am not a camouflage wearing, multi-tool carrying or peeing out in the wilderness kind of woman either.  As a rule, I also happen to like my hot bath, electricity and food that does not come freeze dried or in a can.

I have also always thought camping to be a somewhat potentially lethal and hazardous activity when placed in the wrong hands (mine) although I do have a certain level of very high regard for those who do camp.  I’m just not one of them……or so I thought.

A while ago, I had been asked by a once dear friend if I would go camping with them and trust me, this person seriously camps.  She really is the female version of Bear Grylls.  It’s the whole: dig a hole, forage your own food and make your own shelter type of deal with her and she absolutely loves every moment of it.  From the view of my well ordered world my initial reply to her camping invitation was a mix between this:  ‘You do understand I’m not a camper’, ‘Yes, I can probably do under a three star rating’ and ‘You do know people used to camp but that was before hotels were invented!’  But deep down, I thought this invitation to be very wonderful and I found myself really wanting to do it.  Sadly, the invitation fell silent but I continued to think very seriously about the camping trip to Cumberland Island and I realized I really, really wanted to do this.

So, all of this meant one thing and that was, Google and I were about to become the very best of friends.  I mean seriously, I had absolutely no idea how to camp.  Even the very basic fundamentals of what I would need were completely foreign to me although I did know a hair dryer and a full time Sherpa were out of the question.

To say the weather was bone-chillingly cold is very restrained as it’s winter here in the US, but you will never experience what it is you do not choose.  I knew too this would be the only opportunity for me to do this and in my wanting there was enough for me to make the decision to go it alone.  Also to camp on Cumberland Island, you are required to hike all of your own items in as you cannot take your car to the island so travelling light or as light as possible is a must.  The only access to the island is via sea passage.  The island supports and observes the ‘leave no trace’ principle which I respect immensely so every single thing you take on to the island you must take off again at the end of your stay including any rubbish (garbage).  There is also a limit of 300 people at any one time on this southern most 56.9 square mile ‘wild’ barrier island.  Very luckily for me, I went after the school break and there were around 39 people on the entire island and some of those were just day visitors.  This alone for me, was absolute bliss.

Although my tent erection and camp site didn’t look much to the seasoned and experienced camper who trekked camp chairs and overly large Coleman products in, I was very impressed with my effort and that was all that truly mattered.  My camp site had a serene and neat simplicity to it which was perfect for me.

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What I loved and valued the most was that I stayed sheltered under an apparatus that I actually put up.  As fragile as it appeared, especially against the impressive backdrop of live oaks and palmetto, it shielded me from the entirety of the outside world.  I felt very safe and content in my little structure.  I am also a terrible insomniac and I manage to survive on very little sleep each night but these particular nights under the immense starry skies, I slept more fitfully and sounder than I ever have in years.

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Each day I explored a different part of the island.  Everyday I literally walked for miles and miles and miles along trails, the seashore, small tracks, the occasional boardwalk and off the beaten and well worn paths. At times my walking was without intent for my mind was quiet and very clear as I was just fully appreciating the remote beauty of the island.   Other times, in each step, my mind was busy.  I was thinking, rationalizing and I was reflective.

I thought about life and all that it holds.  I thought about being here in America and of my impending return to Australia, of the bigger and longer journey unfurling ahead of me, of challenge, of love, of uncertainty and of wisdom learnt.  I thought about strength, bravery, longing, of bullshit and of the bull-shitters, of the corrosion of ones soul and of just simply being.  It had all gone to pass and I was now leaving it behind on those sandy and very windswept dunes of the island.

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I swam in the frigid (understatement!!!)  waters of the Atlantic Ocean because it was there and I knew that I would never ever pass this way again and I would not forgive myself easily, as I my trait, had I not stripped off to my undies and jumped right in.  Please note: For inexperienced ocean swimmers and those who cannot read the conditions I do not recommend doing this as this expanse of sea has strong rips and very strong undercurrents.

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I saw the sun set and the sun rise, the great starry sky which was more beautiful and profound than I had ever witnessed it to be before, I saw my reflection in the eye of a wild Cumberland horse and I watched a majestic bald eagle spread its shadow over Cumberland Sound but for all of that, my best experience was what I actually gave to myself.

For others, I know this camping trip would have just been a Sunday stroll in a manicured park with cream cakes and tea but for me it was so very much more.  I also peed in the middle of absolutely nowhere and so impressed was I with myself, I did a few more for good measure.

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Choose wisely the beautiful opportunities which will come to you in life as one day something will fill you with such wonder and gratitude you will be overjoyed with yourself that you did not pass it up.  This was a profound experience and I knew too from this camping trip that everything was going to be okay.  It really was all going to be okay.  I have also discovered that I am far more resilient and capable and accomplished than I ever give myself credit and I think, as much as I feared camping I may have earned its respect…..and camping has certainly earned mine xx

Postscript:   After leaving the island late in the afternoon and docking in St Marys around 6pm it was then an almost 4 hour drive home.  Once home in the apartment, I soaked my weary body (which now consists of 75% snickers bars) in a hot bubble bath until my skin resembled that of a prune and the next night, I took myself out for the biggest steak and mashed potatoes I could find x

40 thoughts on “Cumberland Island, Georgia USA- Part I

  1. My dearest girl. You never cease to amaze me with what you do. Why is it you never put near enough faith in yourself nor love yourself enough for that matter. I’m drinking a very good Barossa white at the moment too so you may have to delete One day I hope you will see what we all see in that unique little being called ‘oceangirl’. Now that I have scolded you I will tell you this was wonderful. You really are a courageous little mite I’ll give you that. Take bloody care of yourself will you. I look forward to seeing what you get up to next but I worry it shall involve alligator wrangling or worse! What could be worse I can’t imagine! Still miss you at work…we all do but I do the most because I am selfish xx

    1. Thank you for those very lovely comments Garth, they hit the spot. It is so good to hear from you. Hope you enjoyed your Barossa white. I am so looking forward to some very good Hunter wines when I get back which will not be far off now. Just to ease your mind, gator wrestling will be out but I cannot vouch for not ‘red-neck wrestling’ 😉 I miss you too, take the very best of care my dear friend xx P.S….I took your ‘scold’ in the beautiful way it was meant.

  2. Every time you write something and put it up I say “this is my favorite” but this one about the island really is my favorite.

  3. Anyone can sing and dance with others but it takes a very special person to sing and dance alone. I absolutely loved this. You go girl x

    1. Hello our RV magic. That is such a great name. Thank you for your lovely comment, it was so appreciated. Enjoy your travels and take care x

  4. Hey oceangirl. How did you go with the wild turkeys. they are evil and scary. They have the tiniest brains of any animal in the world and they will stab you if they get the chance 🙂

    1. Hi Lazy Man Travelling. Your comment made me laugh so much. This was my first encounter with wild turkeys and I have to say they are an interesting looking creature but granted, not the brightest. I came across a few of them on the island. They were in little herds of about 8 to 10 although perhaps it was just the same group I kept stumbling across….who would know as they all look exactly the same. I will say that in the sunlight their feathers were quite lovely so they have that going for them at least x

  5. There is no way I could have done that especially by myself. Wow, so impressed. I loved reading this blog and seeing your photos. The black and white really captures the place so well. Are the horses really wild? And do they look as bad as what I have heard they are? Julia

    1. Hi Julia and thank you for your lovely comments. Yes, the horses on Cumberland Island are wild (and feral). The rangers give an information talk to all boarding the ferry and they explain that they are in fact wild animals and you need to keep your distance from them. You also cannot feed them or touch them.

      What I am about to write is my opinion only regarding these beautiful animals – the health of the horses is questionable. I am a horse lover, I always have been however I did not like to see them on the island as their destruction of the dunes and ecosystem is problematic. The food source for them on the island is also very poor. Think salt and poor nutrient quality coastal grasses. I did see some ‘sores’ on some and the overall body condition on some of the horses was poor to very average. I would only want what is truly best for them and their removal or continued stay is a divisive issue at present. But having said that, you really have to give it to them because they have survived and adapted to their surroundings. Seeing them made me think of our Brumbies back home in Australia and they are in the same situation as are most ‘wild’ horses around the world x

  6. You really make me laugh then you write something that is so beautiful in the wording that you almost make me cry. Believe me when I say this 🙂 you have made me cry! You can layer everything so well and it all tells a story. Every post you put up is like a story with a beginning and end and I love that. Sometimes I just want to keep on reading and I get annoyed that the story has ended. I loved this one, it was great x

    1. Thank you so much Chellsea for you lovely comments. I am so glad you see the posts as a story and not just a block of information. I hope you have a lovely day x

  7. I always kind of feel as though I am there with you. That’s a sign of good writing. You give good writing oceangirl63 🙂

  8. This is actually a very powerful blog post. It is courage saying I am scared but I am going to do it anyway. Although you write in an almost quiet prose it is intense ‘the corrosion of ones soul’ for example. Your writing gives light to those who are fearful as you are almost saying to them go out and do this because no one will do this life for you, you have to do it for yourself. I have read back through your other posts and they have an almost yearning in them and that is something that cannot be faked. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Thom for your very lovely and insightful comments. A lot of what I write simply comes from my heart and I hope that it does inspire others to do something wonderful if only once in their lives x

  9. I always feel so good after I read your stuff. You make me smile and laugh and think about things other than all of the day-to-day stuff in my life which gets really boring. I’m a mom with three kids under five and you are my escape from it all. Loved to hear your body is 75% snickers mine is 99% M&Ms 🙂 🙂

    1. Misty, thank you for your lovely comments. I think you are pretty amazing with having three children and all under five. That is some kind of wonderful and I can’t imagine you would ever have a dull moment in your home. Loved that you admitted to your M&M’s passion. I have to say my survival kit for the island included about 100 snickers and 10 bananas 🙂 Have an amazing day Misty x

    1. There is another blog post coming Hayley (part II) which will have a couple of more horse photos in it. And yes, you are most welcome to use the photo which is currently posted on the blog. Have a wonderful day x

  10. How could I improve on the previous comments!? What a beautiful piece of writing! You are speaking from your soul, painting us a picture and taking us along with you as you experience the wonders to be found in solitude and nature’s beauty . Thanks Bid. Amazing stuff … well said 🙂 xoxox

    1. Well hello again you x. Thank you for such a lovely comment. This really was a wonderful experience so I can’t take much credit as it really just wrote itself. I have discovered however that I have a couple of wonderful camping partners which I will take along next time……solitude and myself xx

  11. yeah!! so agree with what you said about how the horses on Cumberland look and they don’t look really good. I for one don’t think they should be there for these reasons – they destroy the dunes, destroy turtle nests, destroy this wildlife habitat and they are dangerous. I’m part of a lobby group who wants to see them removed, for their own good and to have them looked after properly, but the tourists and the ones who make the money off them want to keep them there. They just don’t belong there.

  12. Thank you so much for your very honest and candid comment Michael. This is something that I love. People having opinions and the ability to express themselves without persecution or verbal attack. I too like you worry about the condition of the horses. My greatest concern as an animal lover, is the health, welfare and well being of any animal. And in the end, that is the only thing that should ever count. I always believe the earth was made for all beings not just the human variety and I hope that one day a compromise or decision is made with the happiness, comfort and protection of the horses being paramount. Thank you again. Have a great week Michael x

  13. Thanks for that oceangirl63. I always enjoy a good debate and it is nice to see some straight perspective on the issue without people going crazy with their emotions. you are right in that the health and welfare of the horses should come before anything else. Maybe one day someone will make the right decision for all the right reasons. Regards, Michael.

  14. Hello Nola, so lovely to hear from you and thank you for your lovely comment. It is very easy to write about somewhere that is so lovely. Hope all is well for you. Take care x

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