Lake McIntosh @ Line Creek Nature Area, Peachtree City, GA


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Despite my scary adventure on the southern end of the island in January, when I inadvertently got stuck in knee-deep mud, I was eager to go back to do more hiking a few days before we left nearby Kings Bay Sub Base in late March.

I just stayed out of the South End for the second hike!

Pelican at St. Mary's harbor

It was another great-weather day to go over to the island, a sunny, breezy, and warm Wednesday with temps from about 60 to 80 F. I walked over 14 miles on the island and in the small seaport town of St. Mary's, and at least another mile with the dogs near our campground that day.

After checking in with the National Park Service in St. Mary's and getting my ferry ticket at 9 AM, I walked several blocks to the new History Loop between the cemetery and waterfront park. There area a couple dozen interpretive signs about the area from the earliest inhabitants to contemporary cultures:


Somehow I lost my ferry ticket during that time but the NPS staff believed me and issued me another one. Whew! After paying $26 (senior rate) to the ferry concessionaire for the ride, I may not have gone if they'd said I had to pay again.

The Park Service charges an additional fee for the national seashore but I got in free with my NPS senior pass. 

The ferry was packed, the most full I've ever seen. It was a different one, too -- the Cumberland Lady, not the Cumberland Queen I or II. At least three ferries are used, maybe four. There were at least two dozen bicycles on board, and lots of camping equipment. More folks are taking advantage of the opportunity to take their own bikes to the island now.


The Ice House dock remains closed from last year's Hurricane Matthew so all passengers get on and off at Sea Camp.

[Addendum in September, 2017: As I write this, the whole island is closed to visitors after extensive damage from Hurricane Irma. I assume everyone evacuated and there were no injuries. I hope all the horses and other wildlife survived during the high winds and storm surge.]


I was one of the first off the ferry and headed down the River Trail near the shore to the Ice House Museum and dock, then over to the Dungeness ruins. I had seen two horses in that area from the ferry and wanted to see if they were still there.

I had a general idea of where I wanted to explore this time -- some old favorite areas and some new places I haven't hiked -- but I made part of it up as I went along. Here's my circuitous route:

Although I didn't see any of the horses close up when I got to the expansive Dungeness grounds I did see more of them in the distance in the marshes near the ruins and the boardwalks over the wetlands.

Here are a few of the pictures I took at Dungeness and from the dock the owners used decades ago:

Shadows and symmetry at the pergola

Above and below:  front of the ruins of the mansion in living color and black & white


Birds by the old Dungeness dock

From Dungeness I hiked a forest trail past an old cemetery to the photogenic boardwalks through the marsh.

Here are a couple pictures from that area:

Live oaks and palmettos dominate the maritime forests on Cumberland Island.

Viewing scopes for the marsh

There are more boardwalks over the dunes and through the forest between the marsh and Atlantic beach side of the island:

When I got to the beach I started walking south for a bit, hunting for shells, then decided to just go north for about five miles. It's the farthest I've hiked up the beach in that direction by a couple miles.

The beach is very wide when the tide is lower:

There weren't a lot of people on the beach in the morning and I saw very few on the trails or roads, either. I'm not sure where everyone went! So few are allowed on the island each day that crowds have never been a problem for me.

There were plenty of shore birds, though, and I had fun walking close to them as I hiked up the beach:



Above and below:  I love the mirror-like reflections in the shallow water

I also saw lots of horses again on this hike -- in the marshes, along the roads and trails, in the Sea Camp Campground area, and on the beach. They're everywhere and constantly moving around so I never know where to expect them. I like the surprise factor!

Some horses were either partially hidden by foliage or too far away to get good pictures. Others were right next to me and easy to photograph, so that was fun:



Dappled gray and black horse along the main island road

Above and below:  several horses and a colt on the trail to Little Greyfield Beach

I saw only a couple armadillos but could hear several rooting around in the forest. 


Somewhere between the Little Greyfield Beach Trail and the Stafford Beach Trail I saw this large rusted ball that has washed up near the sand dunes. It's about three feet in diameter:

I wasn't sure what it is. Jim says it looks like a buoy but I think it's metal so I'm not sure it would have floated unless it's hollow. Maybe it's an anchor? I didn't try to move it so I have no idea how heavy it is. Whatever it is, I was surprised to see it there.

I always find lots of living and dead sea creatures washed up on the beach as I'm walking along:

I don't mess with any of the jellyfish lying on the beach
because they might still be able to sting.

Horseshoe crabs can get pretty big.

Crab legs, anyone??  Looks like the birds got here first, by the looks of the disturbed sand.

I picked up lots of shells as the tide was going out (AM) and coming back in (PM). I found a small but perfect sand dollar and put it in my pocket instead of the bag with the heavier shells, hoping it would stay intact till I got home.

Not -- it crumbled into tiny pieces. Phooey.

However, I already had several other nice sand dollars from previous trips to Cumberland Island. I mounted one in a framed box, added beach-y words from my scrapbook collection of rub-ons, and hung it in the coastal-themed master bathroom in our new house:

I also have a large glass container filled with some of the Cumberland Island shells and sand dollars I've collected over the years:

You know what I've never found on the beaches at Cumberland?

Shark's teeth. There are a bunch on display in the ranger station. I sure looked hard for them this winter but still don't have any.


When I was nearing the Stafford Beach Trail, where I turned inland from the beach, I talked to a grandpa, mom, and teenage girl who were riding by in a golf cart and ATV with their dogs. Since visitors can't take dogs on the island, I assumed they own property there.

I already knew that a small percentage of the land on the island is still in private ownership; some roads to houses are closed to visitors and are marked as private. During our conversation the woman in the golf cart told me she's the fifth generation in her family to own that property and when she dies, it will revert to the Park Service.

Trail inland from Stafford Beach

This is the first family I've met that owns  property on Cumberland Island. The woman lives in Asheville, NC and was staying on the island with her daughter during Spring Break. Her dad lives near Jacksonville. This is just a vacation spot for the family, not a year-round home any more.

I wandered south on the narrow Pratt and Parallel Trails to the Little Greyfield Trail, which took me back out to the beach again:

A different kind of under story tree along the Parallel Trail

Trail to Little Greyfield Beach

Still a lot of hard-packed sand here, but less as the tide was coming back in again

When I got down to the Sea Camp Trail I turned back inland and walked over the long boardwalk, through the popular tent camping area, and along the path to the ranger station at the Sea Camp dock to wait for the ferry to return:


Three feral horses sauntered right by several of us hiking on the trail as they headed toward the campground:


It's a little over a mile from the beach to the dock on the Sea Camp Trail. This is where you'll see the most people on Cumberland Island because of the popularity of the campground and the shortest, most direct route from the ferry to the ocean.   

I got back to the campground about 6 PM that day and was mighty happy to take a shower. Although I didn't get mired in mud like the last time, I was still sweaty and dusty. The roads and trails were very dry.

Cumberland Island is a great place to visit for folks of all ages. Read all about it on the park website so you'll be adequately prepared to be self-sufficient while you're there. It's well worth all the effort!

Next entrycamping at Uchee Creek Recreation Area for Fort Benning, GA

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, Casey, and Holly-pup

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2017 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil