Horsing Around on Cumberland Island

Since nobody seemed to be a fan of kayaking with alligators, I thought I’d go with something cuter. Our last adventure in Georgia was one I had been waiting for for a very long time. Cumberland Island National Seashore has been on my list of “must visit” places for years. Every time I drove from New Hampshire to Florida I wanted to fit it in but just never could. Since we were already adventuring in Georgia, I would not be denied! Cumberland Island or Bust!

Cumberland is the largest and southern most of Georgia’s barrier islands. We would only have one day to explore and I was determined to make the most of it. We boarded the 9 am ferry in St. Mary’s and began our relaxing 45 minute journey to the island. Our fellow 148 passengers were quite a diverse group. There were cyclists, campers, hikers, fishermen and even a couple getting married.

After disembarking, we started out on the River Trail…

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We stopped near the edge of the sound and watched as the Cumberland Queen II headed back to St. Mary’s…

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The trail ends at the Ice House, this is where we got our first glimpse of the famed wild horses of Cumberland Island…

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Horses were originally brought to the island in the 1700’s. Now, a herd of feral horses resides on the island. They are left to there own device with no help from the National Park Service. Some of the horses we saw seemed a bit thin, but overall looked to be in decent health. And obviously are healthy enough to mate and produce colts. Steve sat down to watch at one of the picnic tables and I noticed how huge the live oak tree next to him was. I had to back up so far to get most of the tree in, you can hardly see him…

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You are warned to keep at least 50′ from the horses, after all, they are wild. But what do you do when you are taking a picture of the beautiful lane, lined with spanish moss laden trees…

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And the horses suddenly decide to cross the road, right where you are standing?

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You do what I did and hide behind a tree! We continued on towards the ruins of the Dungeness Mansion. Since it was nearly noon, we stopped at a picnic area and had our snacks. As I was reading the signs about the wildlife, another group of horses came by. This foal couldn’t have been more than 6 weeks old…

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In 1736 James Oglethorpe built a hunting lodge he called Dungeness. In 1796 Phineas Miller and his wife built a 4 story mansion on the site and named it after the lodge. In 1884 Thomas Carnegie, brother of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, and his wife Lucy bought Dungeness and raised 9 children there. Today all that remains of Dungeness is a sprawling shell …

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There was a time, it looked like this…

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Some of the outbuildings remain, as well as some of the statues…

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There are several other buildings from that era which are still in use. While we were walking around the mansion, I spied another family group of horses. I thought the colt was beautiful and spent lots of time taking pictures of it…

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We were almost done checking out the mansion when an altercation broke out between the horses, I have to tell you, the horses scared me way more than the alligators!!!

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We continued on to the Dungeness Beach boardwalk…

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I watched as the fiddler crabs defended their territory in the marsh…

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At the end of the boardwalk, sand dunes create a barrier to the interior of the island…

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When we finally reached the beach, it seemed deserted. One of the benefits of limiting the number of visitors to the island each day is you get to see this…

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Unspoiled, salty air bliss. We walked over a mile and a half on the beach and only saw a handful of other people. We did see a horseshoe crab skeleton…

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And one of the few people we did see was kind enough to take this picture for me…

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As we neared Seacamp Beach Campground, I stopped again to marvel at the gnarled live oaks and their spanish moss adornments…

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Our day was nearly over, the 4:45pm ferry would soon take us back to the mainland. Cumberland Island was everything I had imagined and more. We had walked about 6 1/2 miles and taken countless pictures to go through later.

If you’ve been thinking about visiting Cumberland Island, all I can say is DO IT! Hopefully we will return again another time to see the north end of the island.

My friend Dawn, from Random Bits of Trial and Error wrote a lovely post about her adventures on Cumberland Island, read about it here.

Thank you for coming along.

I’m a couple weeks behind, we are currently at our summer job in Wisconsin. I can’t wait to tell you about it!

What are you more afraid of feral horses or alligators?

Kayaking with Aligators

We only had 2 days to explore the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, not nearly enough time considering it covers 630 sq miles. The swamp is only part of the Okefenokee experience, there are also vast wet prairies, pine uplands and cypress forests. This mosaic of habitats makes the Okefenokee a “Wetland of International Importance.” The swamp itself is 38 miles long and 25 miles wide and remains one of the most well preserved and intact freshwater ecosystems in the world.

Day One

We stopped at the visitors center and asked about the 120 miles of water trails. Like hiking trails, they range from easy to difficult. We wanted to plan an easy paddle, maybe 4 or 5 hours in total. A trip to the Cedar Hammock canoe shelter sounded just right.

With the next day’s kayaking plan in place, we had the rest of the afternoon to explore. We took the 7.5 mile Swamp Island Drive. The ranger told us to be on the lookout for several species of carnivorous plants and orchids blooming along the borrow ditch. She explained the ditch was created when workers “borrowed” the material to build the road.

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Rose Pogonia
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Butterwort
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Pitcher plant

 

We crossed onto Chesser Island, which was named after the family who settled there in 1858. A short path led us to the homestead…

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It’s hard to imagine what life was like in 1927 when Tom and Iva Chesser built the homestead. The yard was kept free of vegetation to reduce the fire hazard and  to increase the chance of seeing any snakes that might wander by. There are many remnants of family’s life on the island…

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Cane syrup hearth

Our final stop on the Swamp Island Drive was the Chesser Island Boardwalk…

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We kept our eyes open for wildlife. The ranger told us a bobcat had been hanging around the boardwalk, but alas, I had to settle for lizards…

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We climbed the 40-foot Owl’s Roost Tower for a view of Seagrove Lake…

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Day Two

Our first plan was to be at the refuge early, but when I woke up, it was a chilly 63 degrees. I decided I wasn’t in a hurry! It was almost 10am when we arrived warming up quickly. We signed the paddlers’ log, we began our adventure.

We followed the Suwanee Canal for about a mile and a half before finding the entrance to the Cedar Hammock trail. Along the way, I marveled at the reflections in the tannin rich waters…

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We saw a few alligators in the canal. Despite being in a kayak, I did not feel threatened by their presence.  Okefenokee NWR-1990

Although, one surfaced so close to the front of my kayak, I could see it’s eyes but not it’s snoot. A little too close.

We left the motorboats behind when we entered the trail. They had all been courteous, slowing down to no wake speed when they passed, but I was happy to head deeper into the swamp…

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The trail was peaceful, with scores of water lilies blooming along the way…

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At the end of the trail there is an overnight shelter and outhouse.

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I got out to stretch and watch the alligator swimming by…

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As we were leaving, I noticed a baby alligator among the lily pads…

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Steve took the lead on the way back to the canal. I wonder if he saw this guy…

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I loved every minute of our paddle! From the anhinga…

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To the turtle…

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It was amazing!

Would you kayak with the alligators? Do  you think we’re nuts?

Bare Bones Beauty

We are heading to Wisconsin to work for the summer, but needed a few adventures first. There are quite a few places on the Georgia coast that have been on my “must see” list for, literally, years. We stayed at Walkabout Camp and RV, just south of Woodbine, Ga because 1) it is a Passport America park, saving us 50%, and 2) it is centrally located to so many great places.

Jekyll Island has been a destination for more than 3500 years. The Muskogian Tribes hunted and fished there, the Spanish and the English fought over it and the richest men in American played there. In 1886 it was purchased by the Jekyll Island Club.

Munsey’s Magazine called “the richest, the most exclusive, the most inaccessible club in the world. . . .” For those who represented 1/6 of the world’s wealth at the turn of the century, the Jekyll Island Club became an exclusive retreat. Families with names like Rockefeller, Morgan, Vanderbilt, Pulitzer, and Baker built the elegant Clubhouse and “cottages” in Victorian architectural styles. Read more history here

While the history is incredible, our destination was Driftwood Beach. Since it came so highly recommended by several people, I didn’t do any research before we went. What I pictured and what we found were worlds apart. I had conjured up images of little pieces of sun bleached wood scattered over the beach, brought in by the tide. Isn’t that what driftwood is? What we found can only be called a tree graveyard.

Near the north end of the island is a small parking area and a path leading to the beach. Walking along, I stopped to photograph a dead tree. I’ve always loved the bare bones beauty of skeletal trees. Their up-reaching branches naked for all to see…

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When we reached the beach, I was shocked by what we found…

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Skeletal trees, some standing, some fallen in tangled masses, littered the beach. I later learned this is due to the fact the north end of the island is slowly eroding. The uncharacteristically small waves have enough strength to carry grains of sand, but not enough to carry the mighty oaks and gnarly pines out to sea. What was once the tree line, is now the beach. Since trees can’t live in the salt water, they die, leaving behind twisted sculptures…

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It was low tide when we arrived, but it was easy to see how far up the beach the water would be in a few hours. Several of the stumps were covered in barnacles…

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And hiding in the hollows of many of the logs were critters waiting for the tides to return…

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I was pleasantly surprised by how few people were on the beach, perhaps because tourist season hasn’t really begun yet. Between the lack of people and the otherworldly appearance of the trees, the beach has a lonely, haunted feeling…

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When the returning shrimp trawlers appeared on the horizon, they could have been easily mistaken for winged leviathans coming to reclaim the beach…

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There were a few people scattered along the beach. Some getting their morning exercise…

While others were planning a relaxing afternoon…

Along with the scattered tree, hundreds of washed up cannonball jellyfish lay dead or dying on the beach. I found a great website which allowed me to identify it and let me know what other jellyfish one could expect on Jekyll Island…

Not everything was dead, sign of life could also be seen, like the tiny common spider crab that scared the bejezzas out of me when I almost stepped on it…

And the nesting area for the Wilson’s plovers…

And atop a surviving (for now) oak , a woodpecker found some lunch…

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The incoming tide swallowed the beach while sun baked seaweed waited to be drenched again…

And shorebirds scrambled for a last minute meal…

Across the inlet, the St. Simon’s lighthouse stands sentinel over the tides…

Walking back to the trailhead, I was mesmerized by the patterns of the tangled roots, imagining all sorts of images…

Steve was kind enough to go back to the parking lot and get my lensball before we walked on the southern end of the beach…

The main difference heading south is all the rocks strewn on the beach…

When we ran out of trails, we returned to the Jeep to continue our drive around the island. If we had more time, we might have stopped at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center or taken the tram through the historic district, but it was time to call it a day. Jekyll Island offered me one last photo op as we headed back to Waldo, a raccoon scurried into the marsh as we passed…

We really enjoyed our time on the island and have the picture to prove it…

 

A Trip to Canaveral National Seashore

Nature in harmony with science make Florida’s Space Coast an adventure not to be missed. I have been to the Space Coast twice, the first time in 2012 and again last week with Steve. There are several components making up the coast, you have the Canaveral National Seashore, consisting of 57,662 acres, the Merritt Island NWR, consisting of 140,000 acres which includes NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

On both occasions, my main objective was to visit Merritt Island NWR, specifically the Black Point Wildlife Drive. Both of my visits were in late March and I was surprised by the differences. The water levels were much higher in 2012 and my visit coincided with a prescribed burn.

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It’s natural for the water levels to fluctuate and we haven’t had a lot of rain this winter.

Merritt Island NWR is home to over 1500 species of plants and animals, including 15 federally listed species. It is also an important stop on the Atlantic Flyway. You never know what you might come across during a visit.

The wildlife drive is a 7 mile, one-way road through various habitats, from shallow marsh impoundments to pine flatwoods…

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With spring in the air, wildflowers are blooming, attracting lots of butterflies…

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In 2012, I was lucky enough to be visiting when a large flock of white pelicans were resting in the marsh…

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This year, we saw quite a few northern shovelers which are in the spoonbill family…

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While we were photographing them, a grackle made his presence known. He was finding a meal in the fallen palm fronds. When I got too close, he retreated to my spare tire.

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We saw flocks of blue billed ducks. I haven’t quite identified them yet…

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And tons of coots…

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The one animal you are almost guaranteed to see is alligators…

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After we finished the drive, we decided to head over to Canaveral National Seashore. On the way, we were lucky enough to see a sandhill crane with its chick…

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Using our America the Beautiful Pass, we entered our first national park of the year. I don’t think we will visit as many parks this year as last (15 in total), but we love not having to pay the entrance fees.

Our first wildlife encounter was with an armadillo. I’m fairly sure this little guy was completely blind. He was unfazed by my presence and at one point nearly walked into me…

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We also saw what I think was a box turtle on the side of the road…

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Only one of our encounters came with its own warning sign…

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I have to admit, we were a bit surprised. The seashore has 5 areas with beach access and apparently clothing is optional at beach 5. Who knew?!?!?

The one area we haven’t visited yet is the Kennedy Space Center. I’ve heard you can spend the better part of a day there, so it will have to wait until next time.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

My World Is Upside Down

Back in December, I was stalking checking on my Facebook friends when I saw a really neat picture. It was the Eiffel Tower, but it was upside down and appeared to be inside a glass sphere. What is this devilry? I immediately reached out to my best friend Google and, in no time, learned this sorcery comes from a contraption brand named Lensball. Now, we all know, I’m not much for brand names. Come to find out, lots of companies produce crystal glass spheres for photography (or meditation or sorcery). I had to have one!! I mentioned it to Steve, in passing, asking his thoughts. “Wouldn’t it be fun to play with?”

A few days went by and I couldn’t stand it any longer, I HAD to have one! So, I ordered one off of Amazon. Little did I know, my most thoughtful husband also ordered me one. Well, now they’ve arrived. What can I do with them?

First, I took it into the back yard at my dad’s house, looked around and thought, “Gee, what can I take a picture of?” Oh, I know…daddy’s neighbor’s house…

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Or, maybe just the landscape…

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These pictures were “ok” but nothing like the ones I’d seen on the internet. It must just take practice. So…I’ve been practicing!

First I drove to a local beach at sunrise to try and capture the moment…

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I edited this, rotating the sphere image, so both appear right side up

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Shameless brand awareness

 

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I rotated the entire image 180 degrees

 

Then, I took it with us on a long weekend. We went to Ponce Inlet Lighthouse…

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I took it to the park with my friend Dawn from Random Bits of Trial and Error

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Then, back to the beach…

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I certainly haven’t mastered it yet, but it sure is fun playing with it!

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What do you think? Should I keep experimenting? Do you prefer when I rotate the sphere image or leave it upside down? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Where We Find Work

One of the most frequent questions we get is how do we find work. People are always surprised by the number of websites and forums out there that are tailored to RVers. Other websites aren’t necessarily RVer specific, but have short term or seasonal jobs.

Most of the work we have found has been through Workers On Wheels. Bob and Coleen are full timers who practice what they preach. They write a weekly newsletter filled with links to articles about the lifestyle, including help wanted ads. I emailed Coleen one time about an article I’d read on their site. I wasn’t really expecting a reply, but much to my surprise, she responded within the day. Knowledgeable, friendly and helpful is the best way I can describe Workers On Wheels and Bob & Coleen.

Another website I frequently visit is Happy Vagabonds. One of my favorite things about this site is you can do a job search by state (or Canadian Province). When looking for a winter job, I certainly don’t want to see job posts in cold climates! Happy Vagabonds also has a section dedicated to volunteer positions. Not everyone is looking for pay, some people are just happy with a beautiful place to stay for a few months.

Workamper News is exactly what it sounds like. There are several levels of membership to chose from. I have to be honest, I have never gone beyond the “Intro” level. To me, with so many free sites, I just can’t justify paying to look for work. Of course there is a lot more information available with paid membership levels. Everything from job listings to an employer verification service is available for a price.

Coolworks is another place to find, well, cool jobs. Most of the jobs I’ve seen on Coolworks have something to do with the hospitality industry. You can narrow your search to jobs with camping spaces provided or just look for something that interests you. They have full-time and seasonal positions. Many of the seasonal jobs are with companies who subcontract to National Parks. Want to spend the summer at the Grand Canyon? Check out this.

A Google search of “workamping jobs” will bring up pages and pages of opportunities. Other sites-

One of the biggest things to keep in mind is your own financial situation. A lot of the jobs require a portion of your hours to cover your site/utilities. Others pay all hours worked. And still others pay nothing at all except a place to park your rig for a spell, aka volunteering.

I hope you find this helpful if you’re looking for work or a place to volunteer. I will be adding a “Workamping Resource” page in the near future with links and some basic info about each site.

Safe travels, wherever life’s road take you!

5 Truths About Our Life on the Road

When we first decided to live full time in Waldo, I had a very different idea of what our life would be like. In some ways, it has far exceeded my hopes and in other ways, it has fallen drastically short. Here are 5 things I have learned about myself and our lifestyle:

1. We are NOT on vacation.

While most of my posts deal with all of the cool places we visit, the truth is we have to work. Neither of us are old enough to collect social security, nor do we have any type of retirement. Our only source of income is from the workamping we do. I had visions of living in Waldo the way my parents did, never staying anywhere for more than a week or two before moving on, sooner if the weather turned cold or rainy. But the fact is, we usually end up being somewhere for several months, after all, we made a commitment when we took the job. Quite often I find several months to be too long. I either get bored with a place once we’ve explored the area or the job isn’t really to my liking, but again, we made a commitment. For me, selling Christmas trees in Florida was nearly the perfect job. It was short term, it was warm and the money was great. If there was a “downside”, it was we didn’t have any time to explore the area.

 

2. Two people in 400 sq/ft can be a challenge

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We had been married for 14 years when we made the leap to full-timing. I thought I knew everything I could possibly need to know about us – nope! The biggest difference between living in an RV and living in a house is if you find you need some “space”, there isn’t any. I had a home office in our house, now my office is in the same room as the kitchen, living room and steering wheel. Steve had a garage to go putter around in, now he doesn’t. We don’t generally get on each others nerves, but it happens. We don’t generally have disagreements, but they happen. The difference is we can’t go to our separate space. Living in the confines of 400 sq/ft has taught me that I need my space more than I thought I did. Don’t get me wrong, I love Steve with all my heart.  I would never want to live this life without him, but sometimes I just need my space.

3. We’ll never get to see it all

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Thanks to my grammar school teachers, I know there are 50 states. If we spent 3 months per state, we could only see 4 a year – that’s 12 1/2 years (assuming we could drive to Hawaii). While we could probably hit the highlights in each state in 3 months, we’d never have time to seek out the out-of-the-way places we both enjoy so much. Oh yea, back to #1, we aren’t on vacation. By the way, I’ve added travel maps to the blog. You can check out where we went by year. I hope to keep it up-to-date from now on.

4. We are 6 wheels away from homeless

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I know this is a bit of an exaggeration, but it isn’t far off the mark. There isn’t much worse than seeing everything you own put on the back of a tow truck. I mean nobody ever towed off our stick and brick when it needed repairs. We’ve been exceedingly fortunate, nearly every time we’ve needed repairs, we’ve been able to stay in Waldo while the work was being done. The only time we couldn’t was when the roof was done. That wasn’t an issue because we were staying at my dad’s house. Every now and then, I get a little panicky when I think about what “could” happen. I know, no sense borrowing trouble. I just can’t help it.

5. We wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for anything!

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When I compare our stick and brick life to our RV life, I realize I wouldn’t change a thing. We love our life. We have met some of the most wonderful people, in person and online, because of the way we live. We have seen places lots of people only talk about seeing. We visited 15 National Parks in 2018 plus countless state parks. And we are doing it together! I doubt it really gets any better.

 

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