Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Camping on Cumberland Island

I have a big back log of things to blog about but I just can't resist doing this post first. This past weekend we took Echo on her first camping trip to Cumberland Island National Seashore. If you get off 95 which is the major road down the southern coast of Georgia and cross over to 17 it is an amazingly scenic drive through the small towns that dot the coast line. The area is rich in history and there are plenty of attractions to stop off at along the way making this a great road trip to take with a baby that needs frequent stops. Even stopping multiple times on the way down the trip only took us about 6 or 7 hours from Marietta.

Echo in her new, big girl car seat.

On the way down we stopped at a petting farm just outside of Savannah to let Echo see the animals. She was fascinated and loved pointing at all of them! A little further down the line we stopped in Midway, GA to view a 19th century cemetery and stretch our legs. There is something so magical about the live oaks and Spanish moss, not a bad place to be laid to rest. 

This is the grave of a lovesick man who committed suicide and was originally buried outside the walls so that he was not on consecrated ground. When the graveyard was later expanded he made it inside but his tomb is continually upturned and broken by this large tree. Legend has it that the cemetery doesn't want him there because of his unsavory end. 

One of our alligator sightings, there were several
 After one final stop in Darien, GA for lunch we continued on to stay the night in St. Mary's before catching the early ferry out to the island on Saturday morning. St. Mary's is a lovely little seaside town with some truly fantastic seafood. We had a wonderful dinner in which Echo discovered her lover for crab bisque and then played and relaxed at the docks and waterfront park in St. Mary's down town.

Mom and dad relaxing on a swing overlooking the harbor

 The next morning we were up bright and early to catch the ferry. You have to make these reservations about 6 months in advance so we didn't want to take any chances missing it! While we waited we also got Echo a little passport for the National parks. Now she can get a stamp at every National park we visit!
On the ferry. Echo is really tired here but she had a really great time on the trip, I promise :-)

Approaching the island
 I had visited Cumberland Island once before but had never camped here before. I really can't rave enough about Cumberland, it is such a magical place to visit!

Echo enjoyed playing in the dirt at our campsite which was spacious and very private due to the thick undergrowth of saw palmettos. The ground was nice and soft because it was so sandy which was a nice change from the gravel pads you find at many camp sites. The down sides were the heat and the insects. I wanted to go later in the fall when it would be cooler but they were all booked up for October by the time I called. At least our campsite was a very easy walking distance to the beach!

I wasn't sure how Echo would react to the ocean, it seems to me like it would be pretty scary if you had never experienced it before. My worried turned out to be completely unfounded, she loved it! She was completely fascinated by the wet sand and charged right out in to the waves. There's no telling how far out she would have gone if we hadn't been there to reign her in. She and Eric jumped waves together and she laughed the whole time. I have to say, I was pretty impressed with her spirit of adventure.

After our swim we took the short hike over to the Dungeness ruins. This was once a vacation home built by the Carnegies in the 1880s. Unfortunately it has fallen  in to disrepair but the ruins of the mansion and it's support buildings are still quite impressive.  It was probably only a two mile hike from our camp site but it felt longer because of the heat. Echo slept through most of it :-)

We had quite a few wildlife sightings including wild turkeys, wild horses a snake and two possums. I'm told there are armadillos on the island but haven't seen any in my two visits. Echo particularly liked seeing the horses. 

Hiking with Echo is pretty easy now that she can sit on our shoulders. We opted to not take her baby carrier because we had such limited room (everything you take to the island has to go in on the ferry and then you have to hike it to your campsite) but we did ok without it.

We had an amazing time until it was time for sleeping it was so hot and stuffy in our tents but the bugs were terrible if we left them. Echo hated the tent and wouldn't sleep in it so we ended up walking her up and down the beach all night. At one point Eric and I took our beach towels out to the beach and slept out there for a little while (the wind on the beach kept the bugs at bay). My parents were so hot and uncomfortable in their tent that they went and sat on the rocking chairs by the dock for a good part of the night.

In retrospect we probably shouldn't have taken Echo to campsite on an island for her first time camping. There was no option to bail since we had to wait for the ferry to come the next morning. I think we will be waiting until she is a little older and sleeping through the night better before we take her camping again.

In spite of all that we had a pretty fantastic time and are already looking back and laughing at our sleepless night on the beach. One other positive was that she slept for 8 hours straight the night we got home and I got my longest stretch of uninterrupted sleep since she was born! I have such a fond place in my heart for Cumberland island, if you haven't had the chance to do so yet I highly recommend you make the short trip down there from Atlanta. At least for a day trip if not for camping.

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