Atlanta, Ga.

Prehistory on the Road

By Denise Smith

When we arrived at the St. Mary's Port, we were asked to quickly back the 15-passenger van onto the ferry, as another craft was on its way to pick up another group of spring-break campers. I was certain I would somehow miss the barge and back into the ocean, but the ride over was serene. We saw dolphins playing in the marshy waters, wild horses grazing in pastures on land, and pelicans grazing the ocean for fish.

After a 30-minute ride, everyone was in awe of the ocean view and the Dungeness ruins as we began to dock. After getting settled again in the van, we began our journey with what felt like miles and miles of Spanish moss-covered trees along an unpaved road. We arrived at Plum Orchard, where we were granted the rare opportunity to camp.  Everyone quickly jumped out to explore where we could set up camp. Even though 80 percent of our spring-break campers had never been camping before, we were astonished at how quickly everyone adapted. The students from Florida helped our students and me set up tents, and then quickly hurried off to explore the sea nearby.

During our stay, there were two very distinct and memorable moments on Cumberland Island that will never be forgotten.  One afternoon we decided to hike Duck House Trail to the beach. As we began our expedition, we were greeted by a snake. This made us think twice about continuing, but we mustered up the will and kept on our way. We walked through a marsh, giggling while navigating our way through the sea mud. When we looked to our left and right all we saw were algae covered ponds. Our will kept telling us that nothing was watching us, but our imaginations kept conjuring up the thought that alligators had to be in the water!  Determined not to sink in the mud, we played a game of follow the leader. Once through the mud, we reached sand and thought, we must be close! One mile and a few dunes later, we finally reached the beach. The hike was well worth it, and we quickly thought, when we come back, we are coming to this beach every day!

One afternoon after spending the morning clearing Kings Bottom Trail, invigorated after coming into contact with two wild horses on our way to eat lunch, our Service Weekend volunteer leader, Claire Northcutt, shared an interesting fact with Kevin, my 13-year-old son. On the main road of Cumberland Island, sharks’ teeth can often be found. This is because the roads are conditioned with dredge fill. My son was elated to find many sharks’ teeth, and even more intrigued of the possibility that some teeth could be prehistoric.

- Denise Smith works at Ernst & Young and volunteers for the Georgia Conservancy.


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