While many were freezing their tails off at the various Cold Butt hangs, some of us had a different idea about hanging and headed South to Cumberland Island National Seashore off of the coast of GA. My friends and I do this every winter in the Jan-Feb time frame as the bugs generally aren't too bad - they get fierce down there as the temperature warms the rest of the year. This year, with the East Coast getting hammered with cold, wintry weather, we hoped that we would catch a break and get some nice weather. We kind of did, at least for 3 days! We left from St. Mary's, GA at the National Park Service Ferry aboard the Cumberland Lady.
We were joined this year by my friend David's daughter, Em.
This was her second hike in her life and first trip to Cumberland. We had a 10 mile walk planned that afternoon right out of the gate! We chose to walk the road from Sea Camp Dock to Brickhill Bluff, on the St. Marys River side of the Island. Along the way, we saw some of the wild horses that populate Cumberland Island, and plenty of Armadillos - no one is exactly sure how they got on the Island, but they are everywhere!
After about 5 hours of walking, we arrived at Brickhill Bluff to winds coming from the West at about 25-30mph. On the interior of the Island we had 60 degree plus temps with a light breeze - just a few feet from the shore line the story was much different. There was one young man with another group that had an Eno set up right on the shoreline with no UQ - he lasted about 5 minutes before he bailed out. I set about hanging my new Traveler on its maiden voyage. I'm a cold sleeper at times, so I had my 3S Yeti plus my old JRB Nest that's been modified to become somewhat of a funny looking No Sniveler. That with my 3S Mamba kept me toasty, even hot at times, since the temps never got below 40 until right around daybreak.
And yes, that is Horse poop...I told you they roam the Island freely! I also used my JRB 10 x 11 tarp in "rain" mode, closing the ends off to help block the wind. It was pretty effective. I broke a Dutch Clip that night - my "free fall" was only about 4 inches since I was in cold weather mode. This was one of the older DC's, and I was fine as I brought a back up set. On this trip I went to a combo of the original Traveler straps, Dutch Clips, and Dutch Biners - I have found that the setup time with this combo is literally seconds for me. I think that I am ok with the additional weight of the straps over slings.
The next day we did some day hiking, and did a 6 or so mile loop up to the remains of Cumberland Wharf, on the northern end of the Island. A colony of workers that lived on Cumberland Island once populated this area. We stopped at the old African Baptist Church, founded in 1893. This is a tiny facility and very primitive. It's most recent claim to fame was that JFK Jr. was married there in 1996.
We walked back to Brickhill, through an area that had been ravaged by a wildfire caused by lightning the past year. These natural wildfires are an important part of the Island's eco system, but this particular one was managed to clear some swampy area before it got to the massive oak trees that are such a big part of the maritime landscape of Cumberland.
We then proceeded to walk around 7 more miles via roads and trails South to the Stafford Beach campsite, this time on the ocean side of the Island. I switched up my rig a little, hanging the Nest on the Traveler first, followed by the the Yeti. This was a colder night, and the hang was tricky due to the nature of the trees in the camp site, requiring a horizontal connection to the trees rather than vertical. I fiddled with it a good bit, but eventually got it dialed in.
Day 3 dawned cloudy and cold, and would remain that way all day. We decided to walk the remaining 3 miles on the beach back to Sea Camp as that was a big attraction for Em.
As before, we were sheltered by the trees until we reached the beach. We then had 30+ mph winds out of the North and thankfully at our back since we were walking South. It was some seriously cold walking. As we walked, we started noticing small crabs that were dead on the beach.
There were thousands of them the entire three mile walk. We later heard they might have been spider crabs that succumbed to the cold water temperatures. We reached Sea Camp campground and made camp. We had heard the forecast that heavy rain and storms were on tap for Monday morning, the day of our departure, so we rigged for rain.
David and Em did a walkabout on the South end of the Island, seeing more wild horses, wild turkey, possums and this one very cold-looking owl that just sat there and looked at them without moving.
They also walked around Dungeness, the ruins of a mansion owned by the Carnegie family that was burned by poachers many years ago.
The temperature went up during the night, a clear sign that rain was on the way, so we broke camp early in a light rain and headed to the Sea Camp Dock to await the Cumberland Lady for our ride back to the mainland. While we were waiting, an unusual sight greeted us - a submarine, probably a Los Angeles class, was being escorted to the Kings Bay Submarine base!
You can see it nestled between two sub tenders if you look closely. The rest of the wait was uneventful, as the Ferry arrived with the long-anticipated storms. We were soaked, even with rain gear. I departed, wet and stinky, for my four hour drive back to Charleston, SC. The rest of the crew headed north to Atlanta, where they were greeted by the monster ice storm that is still gripping the Southeast today.
All in all it was a great trip, and we have created a new hiking enthusiast in Miss Em! Now all that I have to do is to convert her to a hanger!