Tag Archives: Georgia

Cumberland Island National Seashore

Overview

Off the coast of Georgia, Cumberland Island National Seashore was established in 1972 and is only accessible by boat.  While kayaks and private boats are allowed, most visitors arrive by ferry from St. Marys (reservations recommended).  Much of the northern half of the island is designated wilderness with backpacking campsites dispersed near places where freshwater is available for filtration.  Bicycles can be rented once you arrive on the island (they are not allowed on the ferry) and are permitted on the many miles of roads, but not on the trails or beach. 

Highlights

Dungeness Ruins, Ice House Museum, Marsh Boardwalk, First African Baptist Church

Must-Do Activity

While it is fun to spend time beachcombing, what really sets Cumberland Island apart are the trails that cut through the maritime forest of twisty live oak trees.  Watch for feral horses, white-tailed deer, armadillos, turkeys, and other birds along the way.  Alligators can also be seen in the freshwater ponds.  Fossilized shark teeth are commonly found on the island, especially on the roads.  Guided tours in vans can be reserved, which can be a good option on rainy days or if you want to make it to the 1890s African-American settlement at the northern end of the island.

Best Trail

The island has more than 50 miles of trails and you can form loops of varying lengths by walking the beach and the inland Parallel Trail.  The trails are very well packed though sandy, and not as hard to walk on as we imagined.  The only deep sand we encountered was on the designated dune crossings between the beach and the inland forest.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Dungeness is the name of a mansion built by the Carnegie family that burned down in 1959.  It was constructed atop the ruins of a house of the same name previously owned by Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/cuis/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$10 per person or America the Beautiful pass, plus the charges for ferry tickets and overnight campsites

Road Conditions

Roads are packed sand and heavily rutted, but unless you own property on the island or take the van tour you will not have to worry about their spine-rattling condition.

Camping

Reservations are required for all overnight stays, including at the privately-owned inn.  Sea Camp offers cold showers and potable water a moderately short walk from the ferry dock.  There are numerous backcountry campsites, but all camping is limited to seven days.

Related Sites

Fort Frederica National Monument (Georgia)

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve (Florida)

Cape Lookout National Seashore (North Carolina)

Explore More – Related to American Quarter Horses, Tennessee Walkers, Arabians, and Paso Fino, what is the total population of feral horses living on Cumberland Island?

Fort Frederica National Monument

Overview

The colony of Georgia was established by James Oglethorpe to be an alcohol-free utopia open to commoners in debtors’ prison back in England.  The aristocrats quickly discarded those ideals and introduced slavery after founding a town on the Savannah River in 1733.  That same year, to the south the Spanish constructed Fort Mose as a sanctuary to slaves who fled the British.  In response, Oglethorpe created Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island, with a palisade and 10-foot wide moat around the entire town.  Further, he led an unsuccessful siege of St. Augustine, Florida in 1740.  The Spanish retaliated, but were defeated at Bloody Marsh despite owning a two-to-one advantage in soldiers.

Highlights

Museum, ruins of colonial fort, Bloody Marsh Battle Site

Must-Do Activity

Fort Frederica’s regiment was disbanded in 1749 and the town was abandoned within a decade when it was mostly destroyed by fire.  Today, visitors can walk the ruins underneath picturesque live oak trees draped in Spanish moss.  Fort Frederica National Monument is part of the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor that honors the unique traditions brought by slaves from West Africa and retained over the centuries on these isolated Atlantic coastal islands.  Cooking gumbo with okra, weaving sweetgrass baskets, and using the word “guber” for peanut are all examples of how the Gullah/Geechee culture has survived into modern times. 

Best Trail

A self-guided tour passes excavated foundations of the town underneath Spanish moss-draped live oak trees.  During our visit in 2016, Hurricane Matthew had knocked down trees closing some of the trails.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The British established Fort Frederica to stop Spanish encroachment from Florida into their American colonies.  The town that formed around the fort peaked at a population of 1,000.  Today it is a beautiful setting with tabby wall ruins and Spanish moss-draped trees.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/fofr/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None, there is no longer a toll for the F.J. Torras Causeway that accesses St. Simons Island.

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Jekyll Island State Park offers camping 13 miles southeast of Brunswick, Georgia.

Related Sites

Fort Pulaski National Monument (Georgia)

Cumberland Island National Seashore (Georgia)

Fort Caroline National Memorial (Florida)

Explore More – Fort Frederica was named for which member of the British royalty?

Fort Pulaski National Monument

Overview

Located 17 miles east of Savannah, Georgia, Fort Pulaski National Monument makes a great daytrip destination near the coast.  The 5-sided brick fort was built in 1829 along the Savannah River and named for a Polish Count who was killed-in-action during the American Revolution. 

Highlights

Historic fort with a moat, 1856 Cockspur Island Lighthouse

Must-Do Activity

The invention of rifled cannons made forts like this (and Fort Jefferson in Florida) obsolete.  Fort Pulaski was claimed by the Confederacy early during the Civil War, but it was surrendered to the Union Army in April 1862 after thirty hours of shelling from nearby Tybee Island.  It has been mostly reconstructed and is safe to explore.  Rifle and cannon firing demonstrations are held throughout the day inside the parade grounds.

Best Trail

A 0.75-mile trail leads from the fort to an overlook of Cockspur Island Lighthouse, where wading birds are often seen.  Only 3 miles down the road, also check out the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum, first built in 1773, then reconstructed after the Civil War.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Fort Pulaski has 7-foot thick walls, a drawbridge, demilune (earthworks), and even a moat around its perimeter.  The fort’s symmetry makes for beautiful photos, especially inside the powder magazines.

Peak Season

Summer, though it can be quite muggy.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/fopu/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$10 per person or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Skidway Island State Park has a campground just outside Savannah, Georgia.

Explore More – On nearby Tybee Island, Battery Garland was part of which decommissioned fort also named for a Revolutionary War casualty?

Ocmulgee National Monument

Overview

Beginning around 1,100 years ago, the Mississippian Culture became the third and final group of mound builders in the eastern U.S.  In contrast to earlier inhabitants at Poverty Point and Effigy Mounds, they were the first to rely heavily on agriculture.  Located in Macon, Georgia, Ocmulgee National Monument is one of many examples of temple mounds from this time period.

Highlights

Indian mounds, museum, film, Opelofa Nature Trail

Must-Do Activity

Artifacts dating back to 8000 BCE can be found in the National Park Service museum.  On your walk to the mounds, stop in the reconstructed 42-foot wide earthlodge.  It was an important meeting place for religious leaders (similar to a great kiva) and offers a glimpse into the Mississippian Culture.  There is also evidence of an English trading post from 1690 and trenches from the Civil War.

Best Trail

Walk from the visitor center, under the railroad tracks, and up the stairs to access the top of the 55-foot tall Great Temple Mound.  Then watch for wildlife along the Opelofa Nature Trail in the Walnut Creek wetlands.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Mississippian Culture had a complex social hierarchy, with a royal Great Sun who lived atop this flat-topped temple mound and traveled on a canopied litter carried by servants.  When a Great Sun died his people made human sacrifices so he would not enter the afterlife alone. 

Peak Season

Open year round

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/ocmu/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Indian Springs and High Falls State Parks are both about 35 miles from the monument.

Explore More – What was the population of this city in AD1000?

Appalachian National Scenic Trail

Overview

The Appalachian Trail (or A.T.) is one of only three National Scenic Trails that the National Park Service (NPS) includes in its total of 417 units, despite there being many other affiliated trails (some with their own Visitor Centers).  The trail stretches 2,185 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine, crossing 14 states, 6 NPS sites, 8 National Forests, and countless other parks.

AT6-IMGP0879.JPG

Highlights

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Shenandoah National Park, Mount Washington State Park, Baxter State Park

Must-Do Activity

Even if just for a short stretch, gets a taste for the A.T. by following the white rectangular blazes going north or south anywhere along its length.  The trail through Newfound Gap in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is especially popular.

Best Trail

The last stretch of the trail ascends Katahdin in Maine’s Baxter State Park.  My impression from the surly park employees is that they would rather not be the official end of the Appalachian Trail.  For instance, they fined record-setting Scott Jurek for public alcohol consumption and littering when he spilled some champagne celebrating his accomplishment atop Katahdin in 2015.  The funny thing about the A.T. is that it ends (or begins) on top of a mountain where you have to turn around and hike out.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The views on top of Katahdin are unsurpassed and you might get to celebrate with a thru-hiker finishing the 2,185-mile journey.

At the top!  The mountain looks similar to many of the 14ers in Colorado

Peak Season

Most thru-hikers go in the summer due to snow.  Baxter State Park closes in the winter, but most of the trail is accessible year round.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/appa/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

Fees

Free to hike, but some parks (like Shenandoah National Park) charge for admission and camping.

Road Conditions

Trailhead access can be both paved and dirt (which is the case in Baxter State Park).  The trail is only paved in a few portions like atop Clingman’s Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Camping

There are more than 160 trail shelters along the A.T. and in some places like Great Smoky Mountains National Park backpackers are required to utilize them.  Otherwise dispersed camping is mostly allowed along the entire length of the trail.

Raven flyover
Raven about the Katahdin summit!

At the peak and end of the AT

Group shot!

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A view of the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
A view looking east at the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Explore More – Approximately how many steps must a human take to cover 2,185 miles?

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