Back to Jurassic Park....on Cumberland Island
It is time to head via ferry on board the Lucy R Ferguson to Cumberland Island Georgia for a weekend getaway for the Editor in Chief. Skies are overcast with a 40% chance of rain but who cares. The history of Cumberland Island (about 17 miles long and a few miles wide at points) includes pirates, British and Spanish conquests, land speculators, naturalist, plantations, and mansions from the “Gilded Age” belonging to the Carnegie family. In 1972 it was established as the Cumberland Island National Seashore for all to enjoy and is maintained by the National Park Service. There are no paved roads or vehicles allowed. We stayed on the third floor “Porch Suite” of the only commercial establishment on the island, the historic Greyfield Inn. The only modes of transportation for visitors are; bicycle, foot, or hotel tours via pickup truck and jeep. I opted for the later for most of the weekend and had a wonderful time between the rains that occurred all weekend. It was like going back in time...way back....Let me share a little of what we saw.
The Greyfield Inn is run by the Lucy Carnegie Ferguson
descendants of Retta Carnegie and her husband Oliver Garrison Ricketson, Built
in 1901, it is a Georgian porch style three story mansion nestled among the expansive
Spanish moss covered live oaks. It is well maintained and managed and with no
TV or other other modern distractions it made for a wonderful weekend getaway. Summer
is not prime bird photography season on the island but I did see wild turkey,
numerous deer, raccoons, gators, and the famous wild horses of the island. Our
tour guide “Barbara” was especially witty and informative and a delight to be
with. Barbara is a naturalist and author. I met some wonderful people at the
Inn, swapped sea stories, and had some great meals and shared some photography outings with one
particular couple (the Green’s) celebrating their 25th anniversary.
They are also from Jacksonville and we hope to see them again. Clayton is a
published and wonderful nature landscape/scenery photographer. He sent me a few photos to include also.
My first tour was on the south end of the island to the ruins of the 6,720 spreading square foot Dungeness mansion, the first of several Carnegie owned mansions on the Island. Wild deer, turkey and horses are the only inhabitants of Dungeness now. Construction began in 1884, was vacated in 1924 and burned in 1959 reportedly by a vengeful poacher who had been shot on the property. The next adventure took me on the long 4 hour tour that encompassed the high points of the entire island. We visited the small north end African Baptist chapel where JFK Jr. was married in 1996. The ride was adventurous and bumpy but breathtaking. I can only liken it to the movie “Jurassic Park” and fully expected a dinosaur to emerge from the dense live oak forest. They are called "Live Oaks" because they do not shed their leaves like most other oaks. Lightning and thunderstorms cut short our tour along the beachfront but we had a wonderful time anyway. I did manage to see a few birds (Wood Storks and Roseate Spoonbills and several herons) near the mansion called Plum Orchard. Later I tried to do a six-mile bike ride back there to photograph the birds but torrential rain and lightning turned me back about five miles into the journey. Drowned rat best describes the soggy sight that used to be me when I returned to the Inn late that afternoon. On Sunday morning I did the nature tour to the south end again and got a photo of “Dirty Harry”, a piebald whitetail deer Buck. The blond (almost white) or spotted “piebald” coloring is the result of recessive genes commonly found in inbred populations. A few of the wild horse foals also had this coloration. I spent our final morning relaxing on the porch and trying to capture (vainly) a good photo of the numerous hummingbirds as they visited the bird feeder near the porch swing. Light conditions were very dark but I managed a few shots in some brief sunlight periods.
I hope you enjoy the photos of this unconventional “bird trip”. Some of the birds might look a lot like horses or deer but pay that no mind or worry. We had a much needed and relaxing weekend. The Inn gave one a sense of going back in time to an era with no TV or modern technologies. You meet strangers who quickly become friends and share a meal like they did in the Inn days of horse drawn coach travel. Be Blessed and have a wonderful Fourth of July Weekend ahead. Harry