A Different Kind of Backcountry

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk through Jurassic Park? That’s a silly question. Who wouldn’t want to clamber through a tropical island filled with prehistoric fauna and flora. Well guess what, that is exactly what you’ll get at Cumberland Island. Minus the dinosaurs and cheesy Jeff Goldblum lines.

Spoiler Alert, this post has nothing to the with the Appalachian Trail. I know this is blasphemy, but this is my blog and I’ll do what I want.

Getting To The Island

The approach trail

The approach trail

As the name suggests, Cumberland Island is an island. In fact, it is the most southern barrier island along the coast of Georgia. Due to this fact, you have no way to drive there. Well you could if there was a bridge, but there isn’t. You’re either going to have to swim or take the ferry, and I recommend the latter. Also, I feel obliged to inform you of the following:

  • A reservation is required for the ferry and for camping.
  • There is a fee for both the ferry and backcountry camping, which is $20 and $4 per person.
  • The park limits the amount of visitors to 300 people at a given time. Book early to be one of those people.

Now that we have the requirements behind us, let’s talk about the fun part.

Land Ho!

When you step off of the ferry, the first thing you have to do is check in and go through a safety meeting. This is because some people think they’re Bear Grylls as soon as they strap on a backpack and over do themselves. While there is no elevation gain or loss and it is nearly impossible to get lost, Cumberland Island is hotter than a Hot Pocket from the Devil’s microwave. It’s for your benefit to listen to the ranger’s spiel about wildlife rules and potable water sources (the water still needs to be treated with your preferred method).

There are many trails on the island, but the Parallel Trail is the most logical choice for going into the backcountry. As you hike, you’ll be shaded by thick Spanish Moss, which drapes the oak trees likes curtains. A breeze will hit the forest that makes the palm leaves slap together, almost like the woods are clapping for your effort.  You’ll also curse the gods when you hit an open stretch and your skin begins to sizzle like bacon. Walk quietly and keep your eyes peeled for a chance to see a wildlife snacking in the brush, or strip naked and sprint for a dip on the empty beaches. Whatever floats your boat. Actually, if you don’t take the opportunity to do some skinny dipping I will be forced to question your life decisions.

The length of your hike depends on where you reserve a spot, you have the option of camping 5, 8, or 10 miles into the wilderness. There is also a campground on the island, for those of you who want to experience the beauty without the whole exercise aspect. I’ll say it again, the weather is hot. Make sure to carry PLENTY of water. I went through my entire CamelBak and two Nalgene bottles on the first day alone. If heat and humidity aren’t your cup of tea, considering doing this hike in the Fall months.

Photo Credit : Michelle Aguilar

At this point, my backpack contained box wine. Don’t judge me. Photo Credit : Michelle Aguilar

On your hike, expect to see a wide array of beautiful animals such as wild horses, deer, and dolphins. You’ll also cross paths with scum of the Earth, ticks and mosquitoes. A lot of them. The island is over run with the bastards. The ticks on the island you definitely want to watch out for, as they are the type that lay their eggs in your skin so the larva can feast.

I’m just kidding, but they do carry Lyme disease and you really don’t want that funk.

To sum up the experience, this is one of my favorite backcountry trips. It’s refreshing and out of the box. So if you’re looking for an alternative hike to the mountains, with an added bonus of the beach, then Cumberland Island is a great place for you to check out.

If you can't lay in your hammock, lay under it.

If you can’t lay in your hammock, lay under it.

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