Cumberland Island is a place unlike any other; it is completely uninhabited. Armadillos roam freely across walking trails, feral horses gallop on the beach, and birds flit across the untarnished sky. It is a place of serenity, practically untouched by humans.
During Christmas break of 2009, my family experienced Cumberland Island for the first time. We stayed in a quaint hotel in Saint Mary’s, Georgia, called the Riverview Hotel and in the morning, we hopped onto a ferry to the most natural and beautiful Barrier Island. Everyone on the ferry had huge backpacks and duffels because everything that you pack in must be taken with you when you leave; there are no trash cans on the island. The larger the bag meant the longer the stay, so since my family was only going for the day we luckily did not have much baggage.
Once off the ferry, we contemplated renting bikes, but eventually decided to go on foot. Once we got away from the dock, we only saw three or four other families the rest of the day. It was like we had the whole island to ourselves. The first animal we saw was an adorable armadillo, and my sister and I named him Kevin (like the bird from Up). By the end of the day we had seen so many armadillos that we had gone through all of the Up characters.
The trails were some of the most natural and beautiful trails I had ever seen. Twisted tree limbs twisted overhead and foliage crept across the path. It felt as if we were in a prehistoric forest, and I half expected to see a dinosaur around each corner. Unfortunately, the closest thing to a dinosaur we saw were the armored armadillos.
After strolling for who knows how long (time seemed obsolete while on the island), we finally reached the beach. There were hoof prints on the sand, and huge horseshoe crab skeletons scattered the beach. The best find though was a dolphin vertebra. We only saw one other person on the beach even though we were probably there for two hours.
Next came lunch where we had what I still consider one of the best sandwiches I have ever eaten. It was just ham and cheese, but the fresh air and exercise made it taste ten times better. Once we were refueled, we headed over to the ruins. The Carnegie family used to have a beautiful mansion on the island, but now all that is left are stone pillars.
A little bit away from the ruins was where we first laid eyes on the famous Cumberland wild horses. I could see the ribs on one, and I had to fight back the urge to feed it. I also saw a beautiful pregnant horse with glossy brown hair; she was the epitome of a glowing expectant mother. I could have watched the horses all day, but unfortunately we had to get back to the ferry in order to evade being stranded on the island for the night.
As we stood on the extremely windy dock, we were all sad to be leaving. The peacefulness was such a stark contrast with other places we had visited, and we did not want to depart. The forty-five minute ferry ride back was crowded and loud, and my sister and I added to that noise by singing “Wild Horses” by the Rolling Stones in the hope of someday returning to the ethereal place called Cumberland Island.
Website for St. Mary’s and the Riverview Hotel:
Cumberland Island Website:
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