As mentioned in the Silver Lining In the Shutdown blog, the guests’ experience on Cumberland Island could be a blog of it’s own…Here it is:
For almost a year, my wife and I have wanted to go to Cumberland Island National Seashore. It wasn’t going to happen last spring and summer was too hot to camp, so we decided to revisit the idea this winter.
Last weekend, we had everything planned. We had a campsite reserved at Brickhill Bluff, ferry rides to and from the island, and all the backpack/tent/food/hiking gear necessary to make the 20-mile round trip hike on the island. The only problem being that the government shut down at midnight before our trip and we had already driven 6 hours down to St Mary’s.
This is where Mark, Amber, and Amelia Island Kayak Excursions come into play. After giving a ~6 mile open water kayak trip a bit of thought, my wife googled kayaks in the area and Amelia Island Kayak Excursions was the first to come up. We called up Mark and he said the idea was just crazy enough to work. We immediately drove down to the boat ramp where he met us with a tandem kayak and his own to help guide us to the right spot. I can’t express enough how flexible he was and his willingness to work with us. This isnt something the company had done before and we were calling him 15 minutes prior to wanting to be on the water. At the drop of a hat they had us outfitted and ready to get to the island to keep our weekend hopes alive.
As Mark put it, the water really spoiled us on this trip. But I cant review what didn’t happen, so as far as I’m concerned the Cumberland Sound is 24/7 always chock full of dolphins and brilliant blue water as calm and flat as glass! The entire paddle out to the island was surreal, and with temperatures in the low 60’s I was even able to wear shorts and a tshirt. Mark and Amber took pictures of us to give us something to remember from the paddle and after guiding us safely to the correct dock on the island they managed the ~6 mile trip back by themselves.
Once we were in Sea Camp, the rangers were in the process of evacuating everyone from the island because they had all made arrangements with the ferry and there was no telling when it would be operating again. With our timing being a giant blessing in disguise, we were welcomed to stay on the island and choose whatever campsite we wanted because we had our own means of getting off the island and no one else would be there except a ranger or two who stay there full time.
We might not have made it to our original campsite at Brickhill Bluff, but our time on the island was utterly fantastic as well and made us realize that this was no consolation trip by any means, it was its own grand adventure and one that would definitely be worth doing even if the ferry was running. The ruins are otherworldly, we saw more animals than we have over the past several years of hiking throughout the Smokies, and the environment is unlike most any others that I’ve ever hiked: with oak trees covered in Spanish moss rising above palm bushes of some sort and an occasional orange or clementine tree sprinkled in here and there. To be able to get there by paddle instead of a ferry makes the experience that much more special and adventurous. It’s something I highly encourage anyone to do if capable, and if Mark continues to offer the opportunity!
After thoroughly running ourselves ragged by taking advantage of every second we had alone on this island, the time came the following day to paddle back while we still had the advantage of the tide. Mark met us at the dock where the water was as beautiful as it was the day before and the dolphins were out again. He even showed us where to search for sharks teeth along the beach! We made it back in just an hour and a half and didn’t have to work too hard going with the tide. To cap off the entire weekend, we went to dinner with Mark and Amber at a fantastic seafood restaurant in the historic downtown of Amelia Island.
We made some new friends, and had an adventure we’ll be talking about for the rest of our lives. Mark and his entire family are wonderful people and very good at what they do! We cannot recommend them enough if you are looking for a getaway…whether you have a morning, an afternoon, or an entire weekend to spare!
~ Adventurers – Guests of Amealia Island Kayak Excursions