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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Another Small Town, Another Beach, Some History

The last day of our vacation, hubby and I made our way north over the Florida/Georgia border to another small, sleepy town hollowed out on the St. Mary's river. From here we boarded a ferry boat over to Cumberland Island... the only way to get to the island is by boat. Virtually uninhabited by humans for its entire history, there are clues from Indian inhabitants and then Spanish soldiers and missionairies who lived there in the mid-1500's.

The soft grassy marshes so familiar in this part of the country come into view first as we approach our destination from St. Mary's.
With their wealth of nutrients the marshes support large populations of fish, shellfish, plants, and birdlife.
The island is now managed by the National Park Service and seeks to keep the land as untouched by humans as possible.
Horses donated by the Carnegie's roam the entire island. They are grass-eating feral horses and because they are not fed, watered, or medicated by the park service only the strong survive.
We were warned not to feed or try to pet any of the families of horses we might come across while visiting. The stallions keep members of other families at bay by marking out their territories.
Wild turkeys were a common sight along with armadillos (which I have an aversion to since they commonly dig up and destroy plantlife here in my garden).
There was a time when Thomas and Lucy Carnegie built a 28,000 square foot mansion in the mid 1880's. This is the remains of what was their winter home. When it burned down in 1959, it had not been occupied for many years. Lots of interesting facts about how this family was self- sustaining on this private island when they acquired 90% ownership of it. They had running water, an indoor built-in swimming pool, they grew all their own food, and maintained lush gardens on several acres. Of course they had over 200 servants that worked for them and lived in supporting buildings. Most of these buildings are gone now with only a few remaining that the park service occupies for various maintenance facilities.

Not many of the original structures have been restored but the wash building for some reason still has the equipment that was used by the families' servants.
Hundreds of live oaks that have been standing for hundreds of years occupy much of the wooded area. We walked for over 3 miles once we landed. It was nice to have the shade of so many beautiful trees.
Speaking of walking. This is the magnificently wooded trail that leads to the Atlantic beach side of the island. I imagine this is much like what my own neighborhood here at Hoe & Shovel might have looked like so many years ago before homes and roads were carved out. These types of trees and palmettos are what canopy so many yards on our street.
Opening up from the darkness of that foresed walk we emerged onto the brightness of the beach. The change was just that sudden. The white sand dunes were tall and then low and horse tracks and deer tracks trailed through them.

Miles and miles of practically unoccupied Atlantic shoreline. I'm not a shell collector. But the tide was out so we couldn't help but pick up some very large and unique shells as we walked along to the sound of lapping waters and gulls feeding along the shore.

Starfish left behind on the sand after the tide went out. This one still wiggly, we urged it back to deeper waters.
Always fascinated with dragon flies, I noticed this quite large one, perched on the grass of the dunes as we were exiting the walkway from the beach.
On the boat ride back to the mainland after almost six hours of traversing this beautifully natural place, we were treated to more of nature's display and habitat of various birds. This huge flock decided to leave their roosting position in the snags and limbs on a small island visible as we passed. Literally hundreds of them gathered to fly in somewhat of a formation over the open waters as if signaled by an unseen call and as if they knew exactly where they were heading.

At first I thought they were wood storks but I'm fairly certain they are white Ibis. If anyone knows for sure, I'd love to hear from you.

The day was a highlight for us. We were outside all day with hardly a soul around us most of the time. We had packed a picnic lunch that we ate in the cool breeze on the river side of the island while watching the wild horses saunter passed us on the shoreline. We took the trails least used to explore the woodsy areas of the island and then ended up on the beach. Because the park service doesn't offer any food or drinks we were responsible to carry on whatever we thought we might need while there. It was just lots of fun and dare I say romantic.

The little river town was adorable too. We walked around to see the restored 1800's homes and ate on an open-porch restaurant overlooking the river. We tend to wonder outloud if we like these kinds of towns so much because we don't live in one or would we like to live in one because we like them so much. :-) We don't know the answer to that one yet. So for now, we'll keep visiting and we'll keep talking about it.


  1. Hi Meems, what a wonderful and you said it, romantic getaway. No crowds of people, only crowds of wild horses and birds. The washroom of the old mansion must have been wellbuilt, with metal contraptions to still be standing. Reminds me of the Biltmore in Asheville, it has a similar washroom set up. The live oaks are so majestic, the crooked limbs and the palmettos make a natural plea for simplicity. The entire spot seems serene. Thanks for taking us along. Do you think you would like to live in a small town like that? Hmmmm, maybe.
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  2. meems, Hello...You have captured Cumberland Island so beautifully. Aren't we all fortunate that many of our beautiful natural resources are park managed. Many years ago we visited the Island and I was charmed by it's beauty! I cannot imagine living so remotely or having a staff of 200 to make sure my life was comfortable.

    I can see that you whispered the Dragonfly, Ibis and other wild creatures while you were on the island, too!

    Thank you for letting us accompany you two


  3. Just beautiful!! Would hate to think I had to pick my favorite pic. Thanks for the history lesson.

  4. Great treasured trip. No other like it.

  5. Meems I really enjoyed how you showed the different habitats and their inhabitants on this island. The oaks with the palmetos under them, then that white sand with the starfish,simply beautiful.

    You were right with your guess being White Ibis for the birds in flight. Wood Storks are almost twice as big as White Ibis. The storks have black trailing edsges on their wings and their bill isn't that long and dcurved. I imagine it was quite a sight seeing the birds take off like that. One of natures gifts.

  6. Fantastic! My mother-in-law is from St. Mary's. Great to see all these photos. We're heading to Hatteras for our getaway this Sunday (anniversary). Guess all gardeners wait until October to go on vacation? :-) Cameron

  7. Meems, what a beautiful and peaceful looking place. I can see how you could spend hours there seeing all that the island has to offer. I especially liked that you felt quite alone. Rarely do we get that anymore when seeing any 'sight'. Thank you for letting us come along.

  8. frances: glad you came along for the tour of this peaceful place. It was a day out of a story book for me... one of those rare times ... and it was good timing to keep our minds off of shall we say... "world events." The town of St. Mary's is probably a little too sleepy for us... a wonderful place to visit though.

    Hi Gail,
    No, my imagination doesn't stretch that far either... what about a staff of 2? That sounds reasonable... what about any staff at all? HA. But what was amazing was how they managed to create an entire world for themselves alone on that island... in the 1800's.

    Darla: So glad you liked the photos.

    Lola: I was hoping you'd stop by for this post. I thought of you while I was up in that area... I have in my mind it is close to your garden??? What I was surprised about was the similarity in landscape choices as down here. I could only figure it is because it is a coastal area so the temps and climate are fairly similar to ours during some seasons. Is this a fair take?

  9. Lovely pictures and sounds like a you had a great getaway. many of the pictures remind me of certain places in the Caribbean, esp St Kitts.

  10. Lisa, it was the beaks that gave it away for me... as well as the black tips on the wings. I thought of you when I saw them take flight out of the tops of those trees... I knew you would know what they were.

    Did you notice the wood stork flying low to the water in the "marsh photo"?

    Cameron: October is a good time for gardeners to vacation... even though I had my sweet neighbor looking out for my veggie garden everyday while I was gone. Happy Anniversary to you... we were also celebrating an anniversary. Have a great time!

    Beckie: Not only is the island huge and they allow you to go off on your own but we were lucky enough to be there on the off season so there weren't but a handful of folks on the island. It was just the right time to be alone and we loved it.Thanks for coming along with us.

  11. Nicole, Oh how I would love to visit the Caribbean to see for myself... I have a feeling it is much more exotic than Cumberland Island... :-)

  12. Wow, that's one of the many areas of Florida that I know nothing about. Absolutely beautiful. And it's now on my list of places I want to visit. It looks so peaceful.

    And that starfish pic! Fantastic!!

  13. Oh wait... I just looked again, it's in GA, right? It's still on my list of places to visit! ;)

  14. it sounds like a perfect ending meems to a great time away. i would have liked to ride the ferry over to that amazing, quiet island. did you love seeing the wild horses?
    this little town looks very welcoming indeed. it's going to be hard for you and hubby to go back to the real world. but you will have the most incredible memories to think back on and relish.

  15. greenjeans: well, you were right. We were staying in Fernandina Beach but took a day trip up to GA. If you want to know a wonderful B&B to stay in ... e-mail me and I'll give you a great reference. Hubby and I are endeavoring to spend some long weekends in Florida towns we've not ever visited or places we haven't fully explored.... it's been lots of fun.

    Marmee: Yes, we saw the horses on the beach, and on the trail we hiked and grazing next to the ferry dock... pretty amazing really. We were back home today and I was back in the garden all day. So much to catch up on... the real world. Great memories and planning our next little getaway already.

  16. Thanks for sharing this wonderous trip, Meems ~ a romantic escape filled with glorious memories and, as always, beautiful photos.

  17. Hi Meems,

    I'm visiting you from Blotanical! Yeah, you're finally back on. Thanks for sharing all those lovely photos. The live oaks really say SOUTH to me.

  18. Joey: Photos are wonderful for helping us remember! thanks for visiting with me.

    Carolyn Gail: Well, I was up for a day I think and now I have mysteriously disappeared again... sigh. BUT I see you are there (and some other preciously missing blogs too)so that's a happy thing.

    Live oaks are most amazing aren't they?

  19. Hi Meems what a wonderful beautiful....I enjoyed every minute of that post....tku.....

  20. Cheryl,
    Happy to have you join us on our photo journey. It was a vacation to remember.

  21. Meems,
    This looks so cool!!
    I have to get the details of the B&B that is set for your "next" visit.
    This trip seems like a pretty perfect one. So glad that you enjoyed your time away.
    love to you,

  22. Meems, I'm going to post just one comment, but I've been looking at your last several posts. Your photography is stunning. It always is, but some of these shots are just exquisite.

    Your purple flowers are attractive to me, because I love purple in the garden!

    This trip you just took looks like the perfect one. I've been close to that area (Jekyll Island and St. Simon's Island) when the girls played in the National High School Golf Championships. I just loved it. Your pictures reminded me of that.


Have a blessed day,

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