Cumberland Island is a magical place. Nowhere in the Southeastern United States will you find such an expansive tract of untouched white fine sandy beach, history and lore stretching back hundreds of years, and quiet. No crowds, cars, or condos detract from this wilderness experience. On February 15th a dozen Sierrans congregated at the ferry and sailed over to the island. Despite cold windy weather we walked on a beach where water birds abounded. In addition to a beach walk, we enjoyed a presentation our delightful tour guide, where she forced us take on the roles of Chief Tomochichi, his nephew Toonahowie, William Augustus (the Duke of Cumberland), and Mr. and Mrs. James Edward Oglethorpe. We also learned how Oglethorpe built Dungeness as a hunting lodge. Many famous names in our country’s history visited the island including Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee (1756-1818), his son Robert E. Lee (1807-1870), William Bartram (1739 –1823), and Nathanael Greene (1742-1786). In the 1880’s steel magnate Thomas Carnegie (1843-1886) and his wife Lucy sought to escape the foul Pittsburgh air and built Dungeness. Thomas died before it was completed. Cumberland lore is filled with the lives, loves, fortunes, and funerals of the rich and famous.
Despite a distinct lack of experience from some of the members of our group, we enjoyed an overnight at Sea Camp. Fortunately, the Park Service provides carts to carry “stuff” the one mile distance from the boat dock to our camping spot. Since many in our group had never been to Cumberland before and several had never even been camping before, they had lots of stuff. Despite inexperience and cold weather, our entire group enjoyed visiting the old burned out ruins of Dungeness, the graveyard, and the beach. A number of our group were particularly enchanted by their encounters with the wild horses. As always, the food and company were the highlight of the trip.
Post and Photos by Dave Wilson