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Cumberland Island: A Treasure from the Past for Today

March 17, 2013
Sandy Road

Friends visited Cumberland Island in the mid-1990’s and came back with the most wonderful description of this isolated island.

My expectations of Cumberland Island were surpassed and that is an understatement. Riding our bicycles down the main road, underneath the live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, was just the beginning of this adventure. There was much to experience – with all our senses – and to savor.

I didn’t know about Lucy Carnegie before I went and I think if I had I would have understood what I was seeing so much more. She was a woman of wealth and privilege, certainly, but she was also a colorful widow with nine children living a very “large” life here in this place – and having three hundred servants to accomplish it all surely helped!

According to what I’ve read, Lucy didn’t care much for housekeeping – who would with either two or three hundred servants (I’ve heard both numbers but cannot verify the exact number of servants she had)? She preferred to be outdoors to hunt, fish and among other things, sail. She was one of the first women sailors and her boat was called, what else but “Dungeness.”

What remains can only hint at what Dungeness once was

What remains can only hint at what Dungeness once was

She enjoyed a lavish lifestyle with lots of entertaining but what I found endearing about Lucy was her, undoubted courage, to live here in this wonderful place, raising her children alone after her husband had unexpectedly died even before the house, Dungeness, was completely finished. Many widows would have not taken the path this woman chose.

Salt marsh on the southside of Cumberland Island

Salt marsh on the south side of Cumberland Island

On the eastern, Atlantic Ocean side of the island is a vast expanse of windswept beach that goes on and on. Rising from this are the dunes and beyond them begin the live oaks that act like a canopy covering almost the entire island. There are camp sites hidden under the trees and around, behind and beyond the palmettos.

As we wound our way down the trail toward the ocean we happened upon a group of three deer who had very little concern with us. A little farther down we came across the infamous horses of the island. The second day we heard a huge gunshot and upon inquiring with a ranger discovered one of the horses had a stillborn birth that would not complete and the horse had to be put down. Sad. But, that’s life. The horses were beautiful.

Not too wild, the horses didn't seem to mind being watched

Not too wild, the horses didn’t seem to mind being watched

After a couple days exploring, we were searching the spoil piles for shark’s teeth when we decided to pop out on the beach. All this beautiful, peaceful nature and suddenly we were on a beach with the most surreal scene in front of us, totally unexpected: There was a submarine surrounded by many boats of every size and description being escorted back out to sea. I knew there was a base there but to actually see one gave me such a sense of pride in our men and women who serve our country that’s hard to describe in words. If you go to Cumberland Island, truly you don’t know just what all you will see!

Atlantic side of the island is a vast expanse of unspoiled beach

Atlantic side of the island is a vast expanse of unspoiled beach

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From → sailboat living

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