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[ft-l] Cumberland Island Trip Report (part 1)

Room 11, Riverview Hotel. All Martha Stewart frills and flounce, floral 
patterns and finery, sensual and romantic. Why'd they have to give me this 
room? Argh! I need a man!

We laughed about it later, Anita and Judy and Swede and I, over a glass of 
wine in the cozy antique-filled sitting room. I swapped Room 11 in for a bed 
in the gal's suite-- not quite the same experience, but a third the price, 
and not so frustrating. "Ah, but you could always stay here on your way 
home!" Swede said. Hmmm.

But he was the only fella in our bunch of hiker gals -- jokingly referring to 
us as "The Harem" -- a retired military man with a family back home, and 
sweet and grandfatherly to boot. I was the young'n on this trip. Still, it 
looked to be a fun crew, folks from the Indian River and Central FL chapters 
of the FTA, some of whom had been to the island before and knew what to 
expect. Me, the FL Cracker greenhorn. And nothing like staying in a little 
piece of history, an 1800s hotel in St. Mary's, before setting off on a grand 
backpacking adventure...

Dolphins! Racing, chasing our ferryboat; slicing through the icy waters, 
playing in the wake. I count one pair, two, three-- it seems everywhere I 
turn, there are dolphins. This is a playground for the Atlantic bottlenose, 
where the St. Mary's and Cumberland rivers meet, where Georgia touches 
Florida at the sea. From my chilly perch on the open upper deck, I scan the 
waters for more. After a dozen, I stop counting.

Ouch. My neck aches from the weight of my pack. Something's wrong. We've left 
civilization behind -- Sea Camp, where the non-backpackers camp, trundling 
their gear the half mile from the dock to the campsite in little carts, 
enjoying their showers and privies, ah the life of luxury. We duck off the 
island's main road as we head north, up the Parallel Trail. 

A rest stop convinces me my pack has a problem. It feels like a yoke, not a 
pack. We clamber over the dunes, drop down to the sea, my first glimpse of 
Georgia's seashore since childhood. It's as I remember it-- an endless 
stretch of sand and surf, the sand so soft like talcum powder, decorated with 
shells, littered with the remains of giant horseshoe crabs. At the high tide 
line, hundreds of starfish lay splayed in patterns of purple and pink, dying, 
drying, in the warmth of the sun.

I discover the problem. I've been using this pack as luggage for the past 
year, carrying it one-shouldered from airport to taxi to train, that I hadn't 
noticed the suspension was set for the wrong torso length. Adjusted, 
restrung, it fits snug, resting the 35 lbs or so of gear snugly, putting the 
weight on my hips. My back and neck rejoice. I fairly dance down the beach 
for the next hour as we head north to our assigned campsite.

Brrr. Yankee Paradise is downright frigid as the sun fades-- the first test 
of my Nomad tent. And the jets overhead sound like so many Whisperlights 
alight. Funny thing, all the airline journeys I've taken, I never realized 
until now that the flight path into Orlando International from points 
northeast swings right out over Cumberland Island. Drat. If I tell them 
they're disturbing my wilderness experience, will the FAA listen?

Drat! Got my period. Now this means nothing to the fellas, but for the 
ladies--talk about a major bummer, being in the backcountry and having to 
pack everything out, let alone having to manage certain...ummm...logistics. 
Well, it ain't fun, and it ain't pretty. I bemoan being the only 
pre-menopausal female in the bunch...but I'm glad I'm prepared, and just 
happened to bring a BIG garbage bag and lots and lots of ziplocs.

... more to come ...
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