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Georgia Coast

Wednesday, 24 March 2004
written by Teresa

the Crooked River estuary Travelling north along the Georgia coast, I somehow sense that we have missed the true spirit of the state. I am left with few strong overall impressions other than the miles of grassy salt marsh and wide tidal estuaries, creating an area that is neither true land nor sea but straddles and links the two aspects of its nature.

Areas of slightly higher land give rise to mixed pine and palmetto woodland with its thick undergrowth and scant open canopy while the moss draped Live Oaks produce a shadier world of mysterious beauty. At Crooked River State Park, prescribed burns attempt to protect the ecosystem from more devastating infernos and the area around the campground has the charred appearance resulting from one of these managed fires. "Dead and down" timber is up for grabs here and Sterling proceeds to cover himself and his clothes in a liberal coating of charcoal while he gathers and then saws enough wood for a huge, hopefully controlled fire. The enormous cones from the Long Leaf Pines combust with incredible ferocity, giving extra interest and excitement as we sit warming ourselves, the cool night air a few feet away.

Mounds of old oyster shells are common along this southeast portion of the coast, telling of a Native American lifestyle dating back well over a thousand years. Oysters were a mainstay of the diet and empty shells discarded in mounds that grew huge over long periods of time. The lowland coastal areas of Florida and Georgia are susceptible to flooding and early white settlers viewed any slightly higher ground as desirable, mounds included; houses were frequently built on them. Others have survived and are protected as archeological artifacts such as the ones on the Sempervirens Trail in Crooked River. Over time the shells weather and are reabsorbed into the earth producing a calcium rich soil, giving rise to a vegetation found nowhere else in the area.

Sherman's Fox Squirrel Out on the Palmetto Trail, Sterling spotted what came to be known as a Rodent of Unusual Size (RUS). It turned out to be Sherman's Fox Squirrel and as squirrels go he was certainly large. This one looked to be wedged in an old woodpecker hole with his head and front paws sticking out. He was quite content, surveying his surroundings and basking in a little warm sunshine oblivious to the interest he was generating below. We had some doubt as to how easily he might be able to extricate himself but given there were no squeals of distress we assumed he was all right and went on our way.

Our way took us north and on to fun and games with the truck. In my own mind, buying a new truck is synonymous with reliability. However, a loud pop from under the bonnet followed by a sudden loss of power always bodes ill, especially when it happens on a fast moving interstate. For those of you who are familiar with our tale, you may remember that I was driving when the F-350 broke down. It is a sad coincidence that I was again behind the wheel when this latest misfortune struck. Sterling of course cannot resist; "You've broken the new truck!"

Fortunately, while our temperatures and pressures escalate, the truck's remain normal, no dire warning lights come on and we crawl along the inside lane, hazard lights flashing and manage to limp into the nearest Ford dealer at Brunswick, billowing thick black smoke from the exhaust. The garage has the splendid name of Kings Colonial Ford, and various comments about upstart colonials float in the air, our respective nationalities surfacing momentarily.

To cut a long story short, one end of the air hose to the turbo charger has blown off and needs replacing. Of course, it is Friday and the part will not be delivered until Monday but luckily we are not far from Jekyll Island where we retire for the weekend.

We first visited the Island five years ago while living in Miami. We went out to breakfast very early one morning, got bitten by the travel bug and finally returned home five days later. There was a lot of hand washing done in those few days but this time we had the house along and so were able to throw the dirties in the laundry basket. Jekyll is another barrier island peculiar in that during the late eighteen hundreds it became the exclusive club of the American rich, allowing only one hundred members who built mansions euphemistically called cottages. These still remain in what is known as the Historic District, the whole island now owned by the State, the buildings open to the public as a bizarre museum of the new world aristocracy.

For us, the highlights of the island are on a slightly less cultured level; rentals on the bike path and the miniature golf course entertain us while the firm sandy beach offers plenty of opportunities for flying the kite and walking along the shore. On our last visit we spent Sterling's birthday at the water park but alas the temperatures are cool and it is not open yet for the season. Non the less, it's still a great place to come and play and we revert to our childhoods for a couple of days, only just resisting the temptation to buy a bucket and spade.

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