I’ve been working with The Blue Goose since 2012 as a do-it-all employee. I’ve worked some at the shop in Saint Marys, but I primarily work in Irwinton, behind the scenes. The transition into the holiday season has been a tough one for me. We’ve made a lot of changes to the Goose in Saint Marys, including adding a hostel and a few new faces. School is weighing down on me, and as graduation from Mercer University approaches, I find myself constantly perusing the options I’ll have with an English degree.
October 30, I got in my car and headed to my best friend’s house in Macon. Once I reached the interstate, I headed East on I-16 on a whim. I headed to Saint Marys at 9:30 PM. Saint Marys is the kind of place that’s real enough to keep you grounded in the real world, not on vacation time, but far enough away that it provides the escape you need from every day worries.
When I rolled in at 1:30 AM, Saint Marys was sleeping. The next morning woke me up with the sunrise through the Spanish moss. I headed down to The Blue Goose on Osborne to start my workday and made it through five and a half hours of work before ditching out for fresh air and sunshine.
My quest for sunshine and fresh air led me to Crooked River State Park, just past the naval base. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to explore every detail, so I browsed. I found a short trail – The River Trail – that took me straight to the banks of Crooked River. I watched cranes and tiny crabs retreat at my approach, then cautiously venture back out into the warm afternoon. I spent about an hour climbing down an embankment of uprooted trees and walking along the salt river. I relaxed and enjoyed. I knew the real adventure would take place tomorrow, so I used the time to mentally prepare for my solo trip to Cumberland Island.
I stayed up too late that night, worrying about riding a ferry boat alone and traversing an undeveloped island by myself. I almost talked myself out of going, but Donna gave me the push I needed. As the new day arrived, I somewhat regretted my hasty decision to haul off to Saint Marys because I left my camera at home and was only equipped with my cell phone. I missed the early ferry aboard the Cumberland Queen II at 9 but made it in plenty of time for the 11:45 trip (after a frantic hunt through Wal-Mart for max deet bug spray). Adequately doused in bug spray and slurping on shaved ice from Knucklehead’s little shop across the way, I boarded the ferryboat and set out for Cumberland.
The 45-minute boat ride offered amazing sights of the Saint Marys Sound and Kings Bay Naval Base in the distance. My first glimpse of the island proved Cumberland would offer all I ever hoped for. Dense maritime forests, vast salt marshes and ruins of the Carnegie Mansion peeked through the palmetto trees lining the island. Departing the ferryboat and setting foot onto the island, I could hardly contain myself and nearly ran down the nearest trail, which led to the beach. My excitement was matched only by my desire to let go of the incessant and unnecessary worries that bogged me down for the past month. The first “evidence” of the wild horses was less than twenty yards into the trail. My pace quickened and I eventually reached the giant dunes, marbled with sea grasses and shrubs and littered with hoof prints.
I stood at the edge of the wet, hard-packed sand and the white, dry, mushy sand and took it all in. I know that a beach is a beach is a beach, but being the only person as far down the coastline as you can see in the midst of the litter left behind from a hurricane, makes you really stop and consider your position. Downed trees were scattered across the sand between piles of seashells. There was a bit of obvious human presence, like a mini fridge that Hurricane Matthew haphazardly tossed onto the shore, leaving its contents in tact and what I took as a half-buried, wooden dingy. The one and a half mile walk down the beach took forever as I lost myself in the treasures on shore.
I trudged along, picking up shells that caught my eye and made it to the next dune crossing, leading me to the historic Dungeness site. I made it there, after getting slightly lost looking for an old cemetery belonging to the Carnegie family. Upon reaching the ruins, my breath caught in my throat at the sheer magnificence and height and depth of the mansion. The sight was profound, its presence unexplainable. Not only that, but the feral horses were grazing in the open fields surrounding it. I walked through the backyard of the Carnegies’ former home and came upon another field with a pergola on one side and ten or so more horses paying me the smallest amount of attention a horse could. After a few pictures, I continued on my way, only to be stopped by two of the horses that decided to cross the path and pose for more picture five feet away from me. I moved deliberately, so as not to alarm the horses, after a couple of pictures and walked up the front driveway entrance and started the one mile walk back to the dock.
This last walk was a perfect time to reevaluate my position and exonerate my worries. I left them behind on Cumberland Island, trampled over six and a half miles of pure serenity.