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Hi, I’m guest Travel blogger Renee Alston of Destinations On A Dime!

Are you looking for an awesome adventure?? Well, I have just the place; Cumberland Island! Cumberland Island is one of Georgia’s best kept secrets. Cumberland is a beautiful barrier island that’s just a short 5 hour drive from Atlanta; one of the most magnificent locations in Georgia! Not only is it packed full of African-American history, but the island boost of spectacular scenes everywhere you look! From wild horses running across the island and the most magnificent sunrises you’ll ever see….

Come along with us to Cumberland Island!

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Recently, I was recruited to do something out of the ordinary; it was to go to one of Georgia’s barrier island with six young women from Spelman College for their spring break service trip. My first thought was of course, how bad it could be….

The closer we got to our departure date and the more questions I asked about what we would be doing while on the island the more my mind started to entertain all the things that could happen while there.

So, I knew it was a camping trip and I knew it was on Cumberland Island in South Georgia. I had been there several times and stayed in the dorms and cooked in the kitchen on the island. What I didn’t really know is that it was a full primitive camping trip. Yes, primitive camping; outside sleeping, cooking and eating all outdoors! So I had to get my head right for this; but it was one of the best trips ever!!

We left for Cumberland Island early Monday morning from Atlanta and were set to return at the end of the week on Friday afternoon. Monday morning we loaded up the van (with the help of our favorite Georgia Conservancy team leader; Bryan Schroder) and headed down I75 towards Savannah. With tents, pads and backpacks on top of the van we were ready for our great escape.

We drove about 4 hours before stopping for lunch. We had about another hour to go but decided to stop outside of Savannah for lunch. Pressed for time it was like a grab and go lunch at a QSR. After all there was a ferry waiting on us in St. Mary’s to take us over to Cumberland Island. Cumberland Island can only be accessed by ferry or boat; we couldn’t keep them waiting.

Upon arriving to St. Mary’s the ferry was waiting and ready to go. We took about a 30-40 ferry ride over to the island. Absolutely beautiful, dolphins and other sea life in the water as we passed through, the sun beaming down; simply beautiful!

When we arrived on the island the ranger was waiting to take us to our camp site. To our surprise there was another group of young women camping nearby; they were from a college in Maine. We pitched out tents put our food up and unload all of our belongings. We were told by the ranger that they would stop back by to tell us of what we will be doing while on the island.

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The first night on the island was the most interesting for me; no luxury hotel, no light to flick on to go to the bathroom or to get water during the night. There were all sorts of wilderness sound and animals rustling about in the bush. There was everything from wild pigs and armadillo to the sound of wild horse walking through the camp site. After encountering the possums and armadillo on my way to the bathroom I decided I would stay snuggled in my sleeping bag the remainder of the night. Yes, it was cold, the ground was hard and the surroundings were pitch black; but I endured it and yes, prayed for daylight throughout the night! But all and all it was good and it was my true introduction to real camping.

Since this was a service trip we were set to cut trails and clean the beach while there. So upon rising we had our assignments laid out, our first day was cleaning the beach. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds; we made our lunch and headed out on a 3 mile hike to the beach. It was a perfect day for it; we picked up bottles and plastic and even bones, yes bones! We sent the entire day cleaning about 7-9 miles of beautiful Atlantic Ocean beach front.

The following days we cut trails so that visitors like you and others could come down and enjoy hiking the island; we clean the beach of debris that washed ashore from the ocean. While the work was fairly intense, the gratification was immense! On Day 3 we were so exhausted that we were all fantasizing about getting back to the mainland and getting on the van to head home. While there, I must say that it was a great time to connect with these phenomenal young women and to get a taste of real outdoor living. Often times we forget what it’s like to be disconnected from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Not being on the phone or in front of the computer, not worrying about looking pretty and doing make-up and hair. This is something that I encourage you to do; get out, take your family or significant other and just relax and unwind. It’s the perfect way to open up your mind and help the environment.

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Facts about Cumberland Island:

  • 5 hour 7 min drive from Metro Atlanta
  • Cumberland Island is a wilderness preserve
  • Georgia’s Barrier Island
  • 36,000 acres of pristine maritime forest
  • Wild beach
  • Saltwater Marshes
  • Home to Georgia’s wild horses
  • People have lived on Cumberland Island

For more information on Cumberland Island and other trips for fun and service visit www.georgiaconservancey.org or www.nps.gov/cuis   you will be glad you did!

LEARN, DISCOVER, GO – visit www.destinationsonadime.com for more information on places to explore.

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