He asked me, "Babe, can I please come too?"
I said, "Some things are better alone for a woman.
And some times your romance is best left to fools."
Hark! The island, after five months I finally have landed. It was the best place, the greatest place, my only sad thought about it is that I wish I had slept on it, but I hadn't camped in years and had no supplies nor could I afford them. And I was afraid to go it alone. I wouldn't be now, but I was then. A friend told me I was brave to go on the trip alone and I never thought of it that way, only focused on the part where I wasn't so brave, to sleep alone on the island...but the hostel was bliss and I am happy to have been there, and staying there instead of a cheap motel in St Mary's across the water from Cumberland Island was brave enough for me.
I paid $12 and boarded the ferry. The other passengers were all older adults, a lot of them retirees and a father with his young daughter. I was the only passenger travelling alone.
The ferry ride was longer than I expected but the details weren't important. It was only magical in my anticipation. We docked and I ducked out of the offer for a tour and set out immediately on the path through the lazy trees breaking the sun straight ahead.
Immediately I saw four or five wild horses grazing in an open expanse of grass in between the palms. I'd read about them, been warned not to approach them, fully expected to see them, but I still wasn't prepared for them to be right there in front of me as soon as I got off the boat.
The three looked ancient, a prehistoric tumble jungle of self contained vines, each one it's individual forest.
As a child I went to preschool and summer daycamp on a farm. I rode horses every day from a very young age. When I grew too old for Prairie Hill, I went to sleep-away camp at a place called Camp Kitaki, a YMCA sponsored establishment run by a bunch of Christian hippies where we had to do vespers and trust exercises and take anti-drug pleges at the behest of stoner counselors. As soon as I was old enough I enrolled in the Ranch Camp program. We would get up at 6:30 am every day and saddle and groom the horses and get them prepared for the other campers to ride them. In exchange we were give our own horse for the session that we cared for and no one else rode. My horse was a gigantic stallion named Hawkeye, he was all black with a white star on his forehead, the biggest horse in the camp. I was given an advanced horse because I'd ridden so much in preschool and my early elementary days (I was about eleven I think when I had my Ranch Camp summer) but those were shetland ponies and this beast was beyond me. I didn't complain and spent the second half of camp with a gnarly bruise on my shin from where he kicked me but I still rode him and he let me. I got in trouble for bringing him to a full gallop when we were only permitted to ride at a canter and riding through the trails near those old pioneer gravesites I'd done rubbings of as a regular camper a few summer before is one of my happiest childhood memories. I was fairly tormented and teased when I was small and no one could touch me during those moments.
That child still in me was delighted by my first few minutes on Cumberland.
And then...my first armadillo!
A large portion of Cumberland Island was once owned by the Carnegie family. On it they built Dungeness a sprawling estate. They once owned 90% of the island and employed over 300, but as the years went by many left the island and in 1959 the mansion Dungeness burned.
The remains still stand on the island, though fenced off to explorers.
I headed down toward the beach, walking about a mile through the dunes along several paths and boardwalks before I found the water. It was completely silent. I only saw a few people on my journey and if I had been able to stay longer and walk further I know I could have had a whole stretch of beach with no one else in sight.
But I didn't take pictures of the water or the dunes or anything else. My camera's battery started running low and frankly taking pictures was distracting me from just watching. I walked along the beach for about an hour picking up seashells and listening to the surf before I had to turn back to catch the ferry. I didn't want to leave, cursed myself for not camping instead, but leave I had to. They only allow 200 people access to the island at any given time but it was the first day of December so I am sure there were fewer than that.
I waited with the other day-trippers and some exiting campers on the long porch of the ranger's lodge sitting in a rocking chair reading by the setting sun wishing I was alone.
One more night at the Hostel in the Forest then back to New York City.