Cumberland Island (seventh day)

Friday, Aug. 15, 2008
Wednesday's storms were intense but caused only minor damage on the island -- although we heard a tornado touched down in St. Mary's.*

We rented bikes yesterday and rode eight miles to Plum Orchard, stopping at the Stafford Cemetery on the way. There were deer and herds of wild pigs, but the most beautiful sight of the week was a young stallion galloping up and down a creek bed. When he spotted us, he raced down the creek bed and didn't stop until he was twenty feet away. He checked us out, whinnied, and galloped away. I could hardly breathe.**

Plum Orchard is a historic mansion that's being restored by the NPS. The deep wrap-around porch held a swinging daybed upon which Brad and I ate our lunch. All week I had been saving the jalepeƱo cheese and wheat crackers, vanilla pound cake, and Skittles from the MRE for the occasion. Ten-year-old food never tasted so good.***

Only minutes after we began our journey home, a terrible storm came out of nowhere, soaking us to the bone. After sealing the camera in a Ziploc, there was nothing we could do but laugh at how miserable we were.**** It was a long eight-mile ride back to camp. A long, long eight-mile ride back to camp.

The rain finally let up around dinnertime, and I made a huge pot of spaghetti with pesto and salmon. Meanwhile, Brad -- who wisely stored our wood under a tarp -- began building our evening fire. It seemed to be the only fire on the island, and it caught the attention of our next-door neighbor, a young kayaker from Scotland, who came over to borrow some kindling. He never did get a fire going. I wish I weren't so shy sometimes; I should have invited him over to sit by our fire and have a cup of hot chocolate. I planned to extend the invitation today, but he broke camp and left early this morning.

The reason we missed his departure is we left before sunrise to ride to the southern tip of the island, the best place for birdwatching. We rode our bikes the 1.5 miles to Dungeness Trail, passing through what we like to call Vulture Valley. The red-headed turkey vultures stared down at us -- quite eerily -- making us feel as if we were part of a deserted western landscape.***** Before Vulture Valley, we rode by an open field where grazing deer and skittish wild turkeys gathered.

We ditched our bikes when the trail reached the beach and walked another 2.5 miles to Pelican Banks. Along the way, we saw royal terns, least terns, herring gulls, banded gulls, brown pelicans, semipalmated sandpipers, and a tall stork-like brown bird that I'm determined to identify. Coming back, we took the boardwalk and saw two osprey flying over the marsh. We made one last stop at the public dock hoping to see manatees, but there were too many motorboats stirring up the water.

After dinner, we took our chairs down to the beach to watch the moon rise. Then back to camp for one last cup of hot chocolate. Good night, Cumberland.

Brad's footnotes
* An oak tree fell across the only path between us and the Sea Camp dock, which is where you rented the bikes. This proved, as you might imagine, inconvenient.
** I'll post a video of this later.
*** All that extra food she mentions came solely from her MRE. Those things are jam-packed with food. I ate all of mine the day before, because I'm a fat pig. OK, I did share the two large Tootsie Rolls.
**** Cussing and yelling counts as other stuff we could have done. Admittedly, I might have done some of that, until we got the camera safely sealed up.
***** Seriously. I kept waiting for the tumbleweed to roll by and a cue for the music by Ennio Morricone. It was weird.

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