Hike to Stafford Beach

Prior to my arrival to Cumberland Island I was not sure how long my hike in was going to be to get to my campsite. The way it works on this National Seashore is entirely dependent on the exact order of the phone calls. I called pretty late in the game to make my reservations and was worried because back country campsites cannot be reserved until you arrive on the island. The nearest back country campsite is 3.5 miles from the Ranger Station, but the farthest site is 10.6 miles!  So I held my breath and hoped for the best!

I arrived at the second dock on the island where the primary Ranger Station is located. All back country guests are required to attend a short informational meeting where some precautions are laid out and safety information is provided. This requirement was helpful to me since I had never been on the island before and didn’t know exactly what to expect. Fortunately, I have a lot of back country experience, so some of the information was redundant and routine to me as well. But information is always a good thing and I was glad to be at this mandatory informational meeting. We also heard that the mosquitoes were really bad. I took a mental note of this, but had no idea how true this would turn out to be! It was also here where we received our campsite assignments. I was still holding my breath when I heard the ranger say that the Stafford Beach campsite was available, so I only had to hike 3.5 miles to my destination! Whew! With my 55-pound pack, this was a relief to hear!

I left the Ranger Station to locate the trail head for the Parallel Trail, which parallels a dirt road on the island and is a more quiet and serene route–well, usually. On this particular day the mosquitoes were swarming like mad! I no sooner found the trail head when I was bit on the lip by either a mosquito or spider. I am not exactly sure but my lip immediately started to swell! I continued hiking the trail fighting the swarming mosquitoes and feeling the overwhelming humidity on this hot summer day. I kept checking my lip, which continued to swell at a somewhat alarming rate. Eventually the swelling leveled off and I was relieved to know that this minor annoyance was going to be just fine.

Arriving at the campsite was a relief of sorts but the mosquitoes continued to swarm all around me! Have you ever experienced this? I mean I’ve been around mosquitoes a lot before and I seem to be a magnet of sorts for them. I guess they like the taste of my blood! But this was unlike anything I saw or experienced ever before. When I saw “swarm” I mean it! There was simply no relief and it was a constant fight trying to perform any task. Setting up a tent is a routine procedure and one I’ve done many, many times in the past. The mosquitoes made it a little more challenging this time and I even spotted a tick as soon as I had the tent erected. Life in the outdoors if full of adventure!

I didn’t think of it at the time, but I ‘m pretty sure I could have captured some amazing mosquito photographs if I just tried. But their constant swarming and biting were more than enough to remember them! I will never forget this mosquito encounter! It was so bad that I actually thought about returning the next morning to the Ranger Station and cutting my trip short. I was glad, however, that I stuck it out because I ended up having a good experience overall and was able to capture the bobcat photographs!

 

Cumberland Island Bobcat

One morning while on Cumberland Island, a beautiful barrier island off the coast of Georgia, I was heading out to the beach and was greeted by several horses. I will share¬† more about that encounter at a later time. I situated myself in the sand beside a tree. Several horses came out in plain view and after they moved on I thought, “Let’s stay here and see if anything else comes into this opening.” Sure enough another horse came out just minutes later. I photographed this horse and he meandered over the sand dune and out of sight. I sat tight, waiting to see if anything else would come out of the opening. Sure enough, not even two minutes later I saw this bobcat!

And what a beautiful bobcat it was! Just look at it! Now I’ve been in the outdoors enough to see bobcats in the past, but never when I had my camera ready for the action. Bobcats are very weary and leery creatures. They do sneak around often at dawn and dusk but want nothing to do with humans or any other potential threats. It is indeed a rare sight to even see a bobcat, let alone be fortunate enough to photograph one!

As you can see, this bobcat carefully checked its surroundings before coming completely out into the clearing. It didn’t stay in the area long either. It was a very fortuitous experience for which I was extremely thankful! My only worries were, was the light enough and did have the bobcat in focus? It all looked decent in my camera’s LCD screen, but I wouldn’t know for sure until I got home several days later. The suspense was killing me but gladly the results were fairly good and I am very happy to share these photos of a special encounter with you. Spend some time outdoors and you never know what might happen! Isn’t wildlife photography great?!

Cumberland Island Ferry Ride

The 45-minute Ferry Ride to Cumberland Island is relaxing and filled with sights! There’s just something about being on the water!

The Cumberland Queen is the name and ferrying passengers is the game. No cars, no bikes, no pets; just passengers.

Here is a neighboring dock we passed just after launch off.

The tidal marsh ebbs and flows each day to the rhythm of the tides. Sometimes, when the tide is high, it is hard to see where the land ends and the water begins. This phenomenon created some artistic photographs and here is one of my favorites.

Getting Excited before a Photo Trip

Do you get excited before embarking on a photo trip?

If you do then you have company! I leave tomorrow to take our son, James, to the Naval Submarine Base in Kings Bay, Georgia, for submarine training. My wife, Denise, found a photo destination for me to do some wildlife photography on Cumberland Island, a barrier island off the coast of Georgia. I am hoping to see and photograph alligators, sea turtles, birds, turkey, and more.

The planning and packing are nearly finished now, but I am still a little nervous about this trip. I will be camping and hiking in the backcountry wilderness and the island doesn’t have any stores or anything to buy in terms of food or essentials. You have to pack it all in and out yourself! this obviously requires adequate and complete planning. Many years ago I did some extreme backcountry hiking and camping but that was many moons ago. Will I remember all I need to survive comfortably?

Also, I never encountered an alligator in the wild. I saw some at an alligator farm one time in Florida but that is completely different. I also heard there are three poisonous snakes on Cumberland Island. To make matters even more interesting, I just weighed my backpack today and it weighed it at exactly 55 pounds! Hmmm, and this is supposed to be fun? Yes, it will be fun; loads of fun and I can’t wait! I am extremely excited before this photo trip!