Monday, March 9, 2009

3 Day Weekends Are Great!!

I love when I can take a 3 day weekend. Lately, it seems like its becoming the norm. I have been using some vacation to take the occasional Friday off. This makes for a longer weekend so I can take a cool trip somewhere. I've been bitten by the travel bug lately. I am constantly thinking about what my next trip is going to be. My A.D.D. just kicks in and I get all these cool ideas of places to go visit. Lately, I've tried to plan trips that aren't too far away so I can stay within my 3 day weekend.

The most recent trip I took was this previous weekend. The wife and I packed out packs and headed Southeast to Cumberland Island for some backpacking. We've heard pretty good things about the island and figured we'd take some time to check it out.

Around 5am on Friday morning, we put the packs in the car and headed off for the 4 1/2 hour car ride to St. Mary's, GA. When we arrived, sat along the river bank waiting for the ferry to arrive to take us across the Cumberland Sound to the island. This is one of the cool things about this place. To get on the island you have to take a ferry. The public isn't allowed to bring cars on the island. There are a few residents that live on the island and have access to vehicles but its nice to not have to worry about traffic and RV's tearing apart the integrity of this coastal haven.

After a 45 minute ferry ride, we were at the steps of the Cumberland Island National Seashore ranger station. We got our backcountry permits and filled our water bottles for our tropical adventure. While hanging around the ranger station, it was quite entertaining seeing the people who were heading to Sea Camp for the weekend. You see, at Sea Camp, the Park Service provides wheel barrows to transport as much camping gear as you'd like to your designated camp site. These aren't backcountry campsites. These sites have bathrooms and showers. Its funny seeing people transport 100 pound of gear for an overnight camping trip. Then they bring the coolers, steaks and kitchen sink. You begin to loose the whole experience of the natural solitude when you bring all the comforts of home into the woods.

After our brief entertainment, we hit the trails for our backcountry experience. This place was truly beautiful. Like I said before, there were no cars roaring around and it was nice to have this solitude. Along the trail I saw some armadillos for the first time. These little creatures are intriguing. Did you know that humans and armadillos are the only mammals who have the capability of carrying leprosy? The armadillos were everywhere. They would run across the trail with their noses deep into the ground rutting around for some dinner. Along the trail we also saw some wild horses. These horses were truly wild animals. The Park Service warns you about the horses on the island. Apparently many people have been hurt by them in the past. The horses were in no way scared to approach you and show who's boss. We tried to keep our distance.

After our afternoon's worth of hiking, we arrived at our campsite. We setup the tent and decided to head to the Plum Orchard Mansion for water. This historic mansion was about 1 mile from our campsite but it had fresh water that didn't need to be treated. When we got to the mansion, it was quite an eerie feeling being out in the middle of nowhere and seeing this huge plantation home surrounded by live oaks and Spanish moss. It was an experience you'd think was in some kind of thriller film. Once back in camp, we cooked our gourmet meal of chicken pasta Parmesan. Anything you eat in the woods tastes amazing. After our delicious meal, we got in the tent for some evening reading and to avoid the evening bugs. Unfortunately the park doesn't allow backcountry campfires so we chilled out in the tent to avoid the bugs. Soon thereafter, the sun was set and we decided to get some shut eye.

Friday night had to be the longest night I have ever slept in the woods. Without the experience of a campfire, its hard to keep yourself awake in the dark woods with nothing to really do. Camping with the wife definitely warrants sleeping in a bit as well. After debating getting out of the sleeping bag, we packed our gear and began our trek back towards the ferry docks. Saturday's hike was along some of the same trails until we had a run in with some horses that didn't want us crossing their path. After this run in, we backtracked a little to a dirt road that headed towards the beach. Once at the beach, we had some lunch and just enjoyed our time together. Its nice to have this kind of quality time with my wife. Its these experience that we'll remember for the ages.

Instead of hiking back on the trails, we made our trek back on the beach. We hiked about 5 miles along the shore. The Cumberland Island shores are so pristine. There was hardly anyone out there and better yet, no trash. This island certainly has kept its natural beauty by not allowing developments and controlling the number of people on the island at one time.

The overall experience was great. When we got back to the ferry docks, we sat on the ranger station porch rocking in the rocking chairs. We again got another dose of entertainment by watching the folks unload off the ferry with tons of gear for their overnight camping experience. Another 4 1/2 hour car ride back and we were home, tired and sore.

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