Trip Report: An Army of Armadillos

This past weekend I had the pleasure to camp on Cumberland Island National Seashore. Known for its ruins of previous settlers, feral horses, and abundant wildlife, Cumberland Island is like taking a ferry to a much milder version of Jurassic Park! 

You can only access the island by ferry, so we took the 9AM out to the island to see what awaited us. 

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The Cumberland Queen II

After 45 minutes of weaving through the marshes to get to the dock, we unloaded our gear, received our permits (very important!) and walked to our campsite nearby. We actually ended up renting a large-wheeled cart to haul some of the gear/firewood we needed for our home-base! After setting up the tents and making some lunch, we set out to explore the island. It was astonishing how strange the island seemed. There were no roads, everyone was incredibly friendly, and there was a plethora of wildlife around.

The most amazing to see were the feral horses. Left there by Spanish Conquistadors in the 16th century, the horses had survived the many years due to the island being such an isolated ecosystem. They were smaller, scrappy horses that seemed to be uncaring of humans because they passed right by us without any trouble. Most of the horses were on the north side of the island, so we only ended up seeing a small family of four that pursued the salt marshes for any untrimmed grass.

The way more prevalent animal was armadillos. I have never seen so many in my life! They scattered across the grass fields of the ruins, each looking like small stones dotted across the landscape. Without much human contact, these armadillos were brave, nestling their snouts into the ground mere feet away from my camera.

Outside of the wildlife, the other main spectacle of the island were the ruins themselves. The most famous is the Dungeness Ruins, which was an old abandoned mansion from 1736 that burned down in 1959. The only remaining pieces are the masonry itself, a shell of a house that overlooks a salt marsh to the bay. It cost about 5.1 million dollars in 2018, but they paid 200,000 in 1736.

After a long day-trip around the island, my group headed back to camp and made some dinner. We stayed at Sea Camp, which was nestled under a canopy of trees right next to the beach! We also brought our own firewood to have campfires every-night.

Our group went out to the beach both nights, trying to capture some of that nighttime starry sky magic. However, both nights we were greeted by partly cloudy weather, but it didn’t stop me from trying to grab a few frames. It was remarkable how large the beach was, and how small I felt walking around at night.

After another day of walking around the island, we packed up our things and headed back onto the ferry. Overall, it was an incredible experience and I highly recommend the trip for anyone looking for a great wildlife experience. Also, I would highly suggest this trip for new campers! The site had public facilities for cold-water showers, restrooms, water, and electric outlets for those who may not be as experienced or have the gear required for total back-country submersion. Check out http://cumberlandisland.com/ for more information!

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