Updated: May 11
-The alarm went off way too early Wednesday morning. This was the day we had built the trip around- Cumberland Island.
We had a 30 minute drive to St. Mary's where we had to be by 8am and first we had to drop Chase off at his doggy day care for the day since no pets are allowed on the ferry. We made it to the ferry check in by 8am and stood around until 9am waiting to load. I was nervously watching to see just how many people were going to be on the boat, not really comfortable with large groups due to the virus. Since we were close to the front of the group, when they started loading we made a bee-line for the upper open air deck so that we could avoid being stuck inside with tons of people. It really worked out perfectly. The 45 minute ferry ride out to the island was a little chilly, but spotting dolphins off the side of the boat made it better.
Jenna fell asleep on daddy because it had been an early morning!
I had given all the kids their dose of Dramamine before we left that morning to avoid any seasickness, but the ride was super gentle and I think we would've been fine without it. The views approaching this practically untouched island were incredible and I snapped a few great photos.
The sun was just coming out as we landed and it was starting to warm up. After a quick bathroom break we were ready to hit the trails. We already knew we were sticking to the southern loop - a 4.3 mile hiking trail that took us to the famous Dungeness Mansion ruins, past all the employee/servant housing that has been maintained all these years, along the swamps, and over to the beach. Here's a youtube video from the National Parks website https://www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=DFAD780E-1DD8-B71B-0B5C703C1DFB9DF8
I just can't get enough of those gorgeous mossy oak lined lanes!
We really enjoyed the mansion ruins. It was just breathtaking and so easy to see why the Carnegie family fell in love with the island in the first place. Sadly, it seemed like there was a lot of missing information and history that could've been shared. The servant and employee housing, although all in good condition, wasn't open to the public. We really wanted to go in and share an educational experience with the kids and learn together. We thought maybe it was just closed because of covid, but upon peering in the windows a lot of the buildings were being used for other purposes now- like a workout gym and a storage area and a modern banquet hall. Oddly the only era room open was the old laundry house.
Hiking, hiking, and more hiking.
I don't know- there was a lot of the island we didn't even get to. It's a total of 17.5 miles long and we only took a 4.3 mile loop through the southern tip. The heat was really getting to some of the kids by mid-day, they were all still grumpy from their sunburns too so that didn't help any, and we were all more than thrilled to enjoy our picnic lunch on the beach with the ocean breeze cooling us off. It was so refreshing!!
I would definitely NOT recommend going to Cumberland in the heat of the summer. There are no cars allowed on the island, and it is so much walking and hiking and wow that would be rough in Georgia in July. There were options when booking the ferry to select to bring your bike for an additional $10 per bike. But we decided against the bikes because riding on sand would've been really difficult for our younger riders. Looking back now maybe we should have brought them because we could've covered more ground. Jared has always wanted to visit Cumberland Island and I feel like we didn't get to see much of it or give it a fair shake. Perhaps we will return someday and try it again. The Lands and Legacies tour was closed due to covid so maybe going back another time when that is open would be better. We were all quite happy when we were able to hop on the ferry for the earlier ride back to St. Mary's, otherwise we would've laid in the grass by the dock for 2 hours playing Uno waiting for our ride back.
One thing we did really enjoy about Cumberland Island was the natural habitat of it all- especially, and I can't stress this enough, seeing wild horses which Katie was pretty sure was going to make her life complete.
Some people got a little too close- they were wild animals after all.
Fortunately we got tons of sightings of the wild herds and even got to witness a bit of a tussle between stallions.
And Jenna got to chase an armadillo.
I think if we go back to Cumberland we will go on a cooler day too- since there is so much hiking it would really be better in the upper 60s rather than the upper 80s. I'm really glad we took the first boat over in the morning because we were able to get a lot of hiking in before the heat of the day set in. We got outside seating in the back of the boat again on the way home, which I had been really nervous about. It was a quiet ride back because we all quite tired from the heat. All I wanted was a shower and bed. So I jumped in and took my first shower in the bus, which was not great, but got the job done. We have some work to do on figuring out how to balance the temperature of the on demand hot water heater. I threw together a dinner of leftovers and we got ready for bed early, knowing that the next morning we were starting for home.