Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Cumberland, Okee, & Congaree

Cumberland Island National Seashore is located in the very southeastern corner of Georgia. From the headquarter’s town of St. Marys you can look over the river and see Florida. From Johnson City the drive is about 400 miles and is all interstate.

St. Marys is lovely small town that has been sort of pushed to the back. Nice homes and quiet streets with a few places to eat and visit. Mostly, it is worth it!

CINS is accessed only by boat. The ferry is inexpensive and runs twice daily but is not run daily during some holidays or parts of the seasons. Check ahead and make reservations. Access onto the island is nominal. The best deal for entrance fees are the National Parks passes. Remember, Cumberland Island is a park and not privately accessible.

If you’re lucky you’ll see dolphins in the river and if you are really lucky you might spy a submarine!

This trip was crowded with campers. Spring break had just started the weekend we visited but all that youthful enthusiasm went one way and we went another.

The beach is pretty much like any beach of course. The two trails out to the beach are well maintained although the southern trail has a long slug out across the dunes. There is water but has a slight salty taste to it and the toilets are flush toilets. The island is not quite as remote or wilderness as advertised.

What Cumberland does have is great nature: birds, armadillo, horses. Our count of island birds was well over my 33 species.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is west of St. Marys about 30 miles and is huge. Almost 400,000 acres makes for a really, really big place. And a lot of it is only inches deep. Essentially Okefenokee is one large lake. Not stream fed but instead feeds the surrounding creeks and rivers. We took an evening tour out into the swamp with a clear sky and some great views of night-heron and wood stork and a calling and sighted barred-owl, my first.

We have had barred owl in our forests and they can really light the evening sounds. But this one was sighted by someone in our boat and we hung around it for a while watching and listening. It was fun! The swamp at sun down takes on this beautiful and scary place. You are aware of the alligators and the water and having watched to many “swamp thing” movies or “Cool Hand Luke” spinoffs made the place come alive but not terribly welcomed. I would not want to live out here if only because it would be too lonely for me. I need people.

Congaree National Park is east of Columbia, S.C., about fifteen miles. it is relatively small (26,000 acres) in comparison to Okefenokee or the Smokies. But, you would never know it. It is quiet. You are blanketed by some of the tallest and oldest trees in the east. It is very inviting. The boardwalk about 1.5 miles and each season would show you a different forest. We were there of course in sort of a pre-spring. The grasses and low flowers had started to bloom and struggle. The trees were not much into green yet. Sort of like my back yard, still. Columbia is not all that far south of us.

For the trip, there were 15 of us and we sighted 109 species over four days and 900 miles on the odometer. The weather was mild, cool enough for a hoodie, but warm enough to go without a jacket after a short walk. All three of these places have been and will likely be for a long time, highly recommended.


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