Low Country Odyssey

As a child of 9 or 10 my wife was somewhat of an equine “Phenom.” Long hours spent at the local riding stable resulted in her becoming an accomplished, award winning rider in “Hunter-Jumper” competitions; and she traveled the country with a horse and a trainer pursuing her love at every available opportunity. I personally find it hard to conger up a picture in my mind of my bride as a gangly 9 year old girl in proper full dress riding togs, strapped to the back of a huge Chestnut Gelding standing over 16 hands tall; let alone pictures of her jumping six foot fences, water hazards and hedges one after another on the back of the bronze monster. The stable time needed for all this occupied much of her life from pre-teen through the teenaged years and she and her quarter horse teammate “Snit” (Real name: Seven Year Itch) were a forceful duo that won handily at jumping competitions throughout the Midwest. That love affair has dimmed through the years, but the memories have not allowed it to dim by much.

Throughout our fairly frequent travels and air adventures I have been dragged from one trail ride to another and despite really not being a “horse person” I have come to expect that wherever we end up, I will once again be sitting tall in the saddle on some stable “plug” and enjoying the view of unfamiliar country from atop the largest horse they can find me. I typically hoist my 200 pound frame to a saddle on the back of what may quite possibly be a horse who has been rescued from a day of hauling a hay wagon or manure spreader. It happened in Hawaii where we rode along the lush hills and valleys of the Kohala’s, it happened in Jamaica where we rode through monkey infested rain forests, it happened in Gettysburg where we rode across the actual battlefields of long ago, it happened in Panama where we rode up and down dormant volcanic peaks near Boquete’, and I am sure it has happened in places I don’t even recall. It’s not that I have a fear of horses or anything like that. It’s just that I am more of a “Bird Dog” man and never ever considered myself as a cowboy. Still, a horseback ride on one of our trips is as predictable as the sun rising in the east and I have become accustomed to the idea that sooner or later during our trip planning, horses will appear as an activity in one form or another.

It happened again one evening not long ago while we sat on the front deck digesting a steak hot off the grill. The sun was sliding into the woods on the far side of our lake, the bass were rising on otherwise mirror still water, and we had been reliving some of the wife’s good times with Snit. There was a brief pause in the conversation as the evening silence settled in and then from out of nowhere she blurts, “You know what we should do? We should go visit the wild horses on Jekyll Island!” The enthusiasm for these short adventures is, of course, contagious. Any day pursuing a flying adventure is better than the best day attempting to replace the missing trim on the lake house. So off I went to Air-Nav to find out the airport particulars about our newest destination. We had no real reason to go to Jekyll Island of course, and had no idea what was there, or its history, or how it came to prominence. But wild horses seemed reason enough to pack the travel duffels and lay in a magenta line to the Atlantic coast of the great state of Georgia. I reasoned that even the worst trip to the low country would get me some decent Shrimp and Grits; how bad could that be?

The “progs” for early morning 5/20 showed a rather concerning pattern of rain and TRW moving into the Ohio valley and right across our route of flight. After a moment or two of real concern over what I would be facing, I did what I always do; I picked up the phone and called Elizabeth. “Honey, can you get out of the office today instead of tomorrow?” It has become somewhat of a ritual with us. We plan our trip kind of hap-hazardly and then, typically, we leave the day before our scheduled departure with no reservations, no car, and no nothing. That’s half the adventure and has provided us with some great laughs as we make our arrangements quite literally “on the fly”. Our typical three day fly out retreat ends up looking more like a five day vacation and we are nearly always accused of being “retired” when we return to the grind.

So it was with Jekyll Island. After a bit of schedule shifting on Thursday the 19th, we departed mid-morning for Dixie, fresh seafood, grits, and cold beer. Flying ahead of the encroaching front to our west, our route took us over Dayton and Augusta and on in to Brunswick GA.; just a stone’s throw and a bridge hop from Jekyll. We had the slightest of bumps as we climbed out and the sky was friendly and solid at 5500. With a weather front bearing down on us from the west, I suspected higher would mean faster however, and so I pushed on, ultimately leveling at 9500. Smooth and quiet there, with just scattered to broken puffy cloud cover here and again, we scooted south to a fuel stop at Wendell Ford / Hazard Co., KY indicating a comfy 188 kts. ground speed. Topping the Blue Ridge Mountains this trip would be simple at 9500. Soon the ground began to rise beneath us and those long winding ridges appeared. To the west we watched the leading edge of the weather that we would ultimately outrun and never see.

Wendell Ford airport proved to be a great choice for a stop. It had friendly folks, a helpful FBO and plenty of “down home” warmth. The RV-8 always attracts some attention wherever we go and today was no exception. I had barely released the canopy when a gentleman appeared at the side of the airplane and grinned at us. “Man, ain’t that a beauty?” (Not sure here if he was talking about the airplane or the wife but I took it to the airplane.) “You build it?” “What’s your cruise speed?” “Is it IFR?” “You do aerobatics in it?” I could barely keep up but tried my best to answer each question prior to the next one coming at me. Finally, he says to me in that great southern drawl from anywhere “down there”, “Ya’ll let me gas ‘er up fer ya. G’wan in and hep yer-sef, we got plenny of dead chicken and cherry pie inside. Get a tea an’ a plate an’ join us!” We left him then to let him “gas ‘er up fer me” and enjoyed the warmth of the southern sun as we strolled and stretched our way to the FBO. We had a tea but skipped the dead chicken, used the facilities and said thanks and goodbye. “Ya gonna give us a show on yer way out?” he asked. I said I doubted that the local aviation authority would enjoy that and shuffled off to the airplane. As we pulled on the seats in the RV (you kinda wear one of these) and buckled the harnesses, I studied the airport. Hazard County kind of sits atop a ridge with drop offs all around most of the edges. If a guy was to takeoff and drop into one of those valleys between the ridges he could at least do a nice low pass over the FBO for them. In the space of a heartbeat, the Devil took the controls and just after becoming airborne the RV dropped into a valley and picked up some stream. I was simply a passenger as the aircraft accelerated. Up out of the valley we came and the Devil flew a few hundred feet above the aerodrome straight at the FBO office. A nice flyby was underway. Nearly over the building now and suddenly the airplane was rolling! The devil was grinning, the people were waving, and the devil could almost hear the cheering batch of BBQ chicken eaters as he topped the FBO inverted, completed the roll and climbed away into the blue. Back in control now; the devil banished from the cockpit, I picked up my heading and continued the climb. “Damned Devil,” I smirked. Just a couple more high spots to study after that and Augusta GA. slipped beneath us.

I knew we were getting close to let down when I could make out the slim sliver of the Atlantic Ocean following the horizon. Only a few minutes later we were joining the pattern at KBQK, “Golden Isles” amid a bevy of Gulfstreams. The Brunswick Gulfstream Service Center is located here and GA pilots are well advised to look sharp and keep an ear to the radio when entering the airspace surrounding Golden Isles Airport. Traffic can be fairly heavy and on this day we were number four to land behind a trio of one of the world’s sexiest jets.

Manning Aviation (http://glyncomanningaviation.com/) is located at Brunswick GA (Golden Isles) and has to be one of the friendliest places we’ve been. This quiet little FBO appears capable of handling anything you might need. Line service met us at the gas pumps and pumped the tanks to the lip for us while someone else brought our rental car around. We had at least planned this much. I was then marshaled to a secure hangar and shuttled back to the FBO by cart. Hangar rental for the RV, which is admittedly small, was very reasonable at just $15.00 a night. Our light bags were loaded in the trunk and as easy as that, we were off for lunch on the way to Jekyll.

The Sidney Lanier Bridge to Jekyll Island is one of those beautiful modern style suspension bridges hanging a couple of hundred feet high above the marsh grass and Brunswick River on massive twisted cables that fan out in a sun burst reminiscent of the paint on the top wing of a Pitts. Across the bridge and marsh grass lies the entry road to Jekyll Island. Just seven miles long and one and half miles wide, this barrier island is separated from the mainland by the inner coastal waterway and the six mile combination of bridge and roadway is the easiest way to get to Jekyll Island unless you fly. Jekyll is one of only four barrier islands served by a bridge allowing for access by vehicle. For years this rustic paradise was accessible only by boat with a bridge providing access about 1954 and the current replacement bridge being opened in 2000.

As is typical for us, we took this trip on a whim with a fairly complete lack of research (which you will hear more about later) and as we discovered, it is a fair bit of driving from Brunswick to Jekyll. Still, we were in Dixie and it was warm, and we did get to have a nice lunch, and we were on a “vacation” even if it was just for a few days. In the end we enjoyed every minute of this trip and while I may land at Jekyll Island and tie down next time, the folks at Golden Isle Aviation were awfully nice to us. We did tour the Jekyll airport on our journey and found it to be a fine strip although void of services. When you research this trip, the best plan might be a stop at Brunswick for fuel and then take a quick hop over to Jekyll. Check the charts when flying in this area, there are several MOA’s covering the real-estate, and St. Simmons Island has a part time control zone. Do your homework; be a courteous and knowledgeable pilot.

While we visited, we discovered a rich and intriguing past that exists on Jekyll, literally. Part of the rich past includes the use of small electric “buggies” to get around the Island with. Originally created as island transportation in 1919 and in use clear through the depression years, this unique and economical electric car called a Red Bug has been updated and reinstated as of 2006. If you are landing at Jekyll Island airport for a visit you can rent a new “Red Bug” from Red Bug Motors and tour the island to your hearts delight. The Bugs come in a variety of sizes and the island even has charging stations scattered around it so you never have to worry about running out of juice! Reservations are recommended and rental may not be possible without them in “the season” due to high demand. You can reach Red Bug Motors at: (912) 635-9330, or find them on the web at: http://www.redbugmotors.com/. The owners are pilots and business men from the island and they also own Red Bug Pizza which we found to be a great place to unwind without breaking your vacation budget. Visit the Red Bug Pizza menu at: http://www.redbugmotorspizza.com/menu.html

With limited (we were not exactly vising “during the season” some places were still shuttered) choices for lodging on the Island, we chose the Hampton Inn on Jekyll Island for a few different reasons, not the least of which was price. The Hampton seem reasonably priced when compared to other options. And its location right on the Island, under sprawling Live Oaks, at the edge of the dunes, with a boardwalk leading to the grand expanse of the Atlantic, seemed attractive to us. This place seemed to have most of what we find attractive in lodging; a pool (salt water), easy beach access, a whirlpool, a cozy fire pit for the evening debrief, and a good bar. Top that off with a very accommodating, friendly and efficient staff and there is every reason to believe that you are going to have a great trip! You can see it all for yourself on the Trip Advisor website: https://www.tripadvisor.com/SmartDeals-g35034-Jekyll_Island_Golden_Isles_of_Georgia_Georgia-Hotel-Deals.html

We were beginning to relax already. Our escape from “the great white north” was complete and our Yankee blood was beginning to thin out and warm up. Fuel stop and all we had been traveling only about 6 hours and here we were already in the low country ready to enjoy the remainder of our next great adventure. A brief stroll down the board walk lead us to a wide open expanse of Atlantic beach where we wandered and lingered and unwound until dusk as we discussed what the morning would find us doing. Since we excel at having no particular plan we thought the next day might include a swim after it warmed up a bit and a nice walk along the beach to the north would be a great way to learn the island while soaking up all the southern sun we could possibly find. The beach is in most places open and wide along the Atlantic side. We lingered along the beach near the boardwalk watching the sun climb higher and marveling at shells and sea birds until we deemed it warm enough for a dip. The ocean was warm and inviting and we sloshed across a sandy bottom through the knee deep water a good distance out before settling in waist deep water and marveling at the taste and smell of the salt water once again. Just a few yards down the beach we watched a man surf casting and I wondered what, if anything, he would catch in the relatively shallow water. We sat in the sand, in the sun until dry and then made our way farther along to the north of the island where we found the most unbelievable glut of drift wood and fallen and bleached trees. We wandered and yakked and splashed in the surf at water’s edge looking for sea creatures and simply enjoying doing nothing in particular. We lost track of how far we had traveled and when we finally decided to leave the beach and travel back to the motel inland, we discovered we were far from where we had started the day, we were tired of hoofing, we were thirsty and we were hungry. What we also discovered was that as far as we had come by beach, it was lot farther back by road! Perhaps use of the rental car and some brief explorations to the beach areas might have been a better idea!

Back at the Hampton we refreshed ourselves with a beverage and a few snacks we had gathered at the Flash Food Mart and promptly took a nap. We rose at dusk and despite it being the wrong side of the island for sunsets viewing, hit the boardwalk to the ocean where we sat in the warm sand staring out at the ocean and listening to the lapping of the waves at the edge of the earth. This was the relaxation we had been craving after a long, cold, Michigan winter. Down the beach the same man we had seen surf casting earlier that day was still there fishing, and there was a large crowd gathering with him as he was hauling away on his surf rod. Curiosity got the best of us and we too wandered down his way to see what all the commotion was about. We got there just in time to see him beach a Shark about six feet long! Someone said it was a Nurse Shark and therefore no big deal. All I could think about was the fact that we had been swimming in this very spot just this morning. I don’t recall swimming there again before we left the island!

We lingered until it was dark. Then enjoyed the cool on shore breeze on a walk back to the room. After a change of clothes, we took the car to the wharf (tired toes made this a no brainer) where we found a table at Latitude 31 and enjoyed a leisurely dinner that, of course, included seafood appetizers, fresh local Redfish and Shrimp and Grits. Us Yankees just don’t get enough fresh seafood and have to store it up when the opportunity presents itself. The menu at Latitude is one of quality rather than quantity. They produce relatively few offerings, but they are very well done. For a look at what Latitude 31 has to offer visit the site: http://latitude31jekyllisland.com/ They also offer an opportunity to “Rock the Wharf” every Sunday at their sunset party.

Tired from our forced march the day before, the next morning we took the car and began a tour of the island by road rather than by beach. One of the most interesting finds of the morning was the old Jekyll Island Club. Of course our “in depth” planning had not given us any inkling that this place existed. We were here to see horses, silly. And yet, here it was. And the more we learned about it the more we wanted to know! Something out of Asheville’s Biltmore style but smaller. Originally founded in 1886 by a group of hunters and outdoor enthusiasts who purchased the Island from John Eugene DuBignon, the original clubhouse which still stands, was completed in 1888. Referred to many times as the “the richest, most exclusive, most inaccessible hunting club in the world”, the Jekyll Island Club membership included such noteworthy moguls of the times as the Morgan’s, the Rockefeller’s, Vanderbilt’s, Aldrich’s, Field’s, Goodyear’s, Pulitzer’s, and Macy’s as well as many others.

The origins of the island after its original native inhabitants can be traced to  General James Oglethorpe the English founder of the Georgia Colony (1733) who named the island after a wealthy sponsor, Sir Joseph Jekyll of England. Oglethorpe then assigned Maj. William Horton to construct an outpost on Jekyll Island to protect an adjacent Fort on St. Simmons Island and provide food and support to those stationed there. Horton took on the island project and while living on the island constructed a “Tabby” house there, the ruins of which remain an interesting look into the history of the area. Tabby is a unique material commonly used along the Georgia coast during the 18th and 19th centuries. To create Tabby, Horton burned oyster shells to obtain lime. He then mixed the lime with sand, ash, shells and water. The thick mixture was poured into forms to create the walls that still stand today. The original Horton House was burned in a raid by those pesky Spaniards in 1742. The structure that stands today is what Horton built after the loss of the original. Horton was granted Jekyll Island as a holding in 1735. As the island continued to grow, Horton also purchased a “Great Copper Pot” for the purpose of brewing beer. That operation is believed to be the first recognized Brewery in Georgia. Horton died in 1749 and the island passed through several different owners until being purchased by Christophe Poulain DuBignon in 1772. The DuBignon family lived a plantation lifestyle for over 100 years raising mostly Sea Cotton on the island. John Eugene DuBignon was the great grandson of Christophe Poulain DuBignon and it was he who marketed the idea of the island as a hunting club.

The hunting club on Jekyll Island thrived with support from its members. Records indicate that shares in the original club sold for $600 each. Founding members soon erected the main club house and many members also built individual Cottages of their own in the Victorian style. Many of these cottages exist yet today and the volunteer preservation of structures at the club continues year after year. Originally, shooting and hunting were the accepted sports at the club and even the women were encouraged to learn shooting skills and join the hunt. Members employed a gamekeeper and what was harvested by the membership frequently found its way to the club house kitchen and appeared as the entre’ of the day.

Over the years and through different wars Jekyll Island has had a colorful and diverse history. At one time or another the island was at least in use by, if not claimed by, Native Americans, French, English, and Spanish as well as Yankee and Confederate troops. In 1910 Senator Nelson Aldrich (a member) invited financial leaders to join him on the island and formed the forerunner to the current Federal Reserve Banking System. In 1915, the first trans-continental phone call was placed between Jekyll Island, Washington-DC, Boston, New York, and San Francisco. Golf was replacing the shooting sports on Jekyll Island and by 1924 the sport was being organized and tested on the island. The introduction of metal club shafts and smaller golf balls resulted. In 1926 Walter Travis began to design the Great Dunes Golf Course on Jekyll Island. It was the beginning of a boom in the sport of Golf. The Depression and World War II years put a dent in the popular destination’s allure, and the Jekyll Island Club faded from view. In 1947 the state of Georgia purchased Jekyll Island from the Jekyll Island Club for $675,000 and the island was opened a year later as a State Park. The first bridge to the island was built in 1954 and provided easy access to a previously secluded island. The first Beach Hotel arrived in 1958. In 1965 funding was provided to pave the then grass strip serving as the Jekyll Island Airport. 1969 saw the construction of the north side fishing pier. The Jekyll Island Historic district was renamed “Jekyll Island Club National Historic Landmark District.” Renovation and preservation of Jekyll Island Club buildings and ground continues to this day as does the march of civilization. In 2015 the Holiday Inn Resort and The Westin Jekyll Island were built to serve an ever growing number of island visitors. The Jekyll Island clubhouse itself is recast as a deluxe hotel and can be booked on line just as any other hotel might be. The hotel does do some promotions, and seasonal discount packages are offered frequently. There is always something going on at the Jekyll Island Hotel as they host events all year long to entice travelers to come and enjoy the island. Learn more at: http://www.jekyllclub.com/packages/january-anniversary-special/

As I readied myself for what I was sure would be a very deep and relaxing sleep that evening it suddenly came to me. Where were the horses? We came here to see wild horses yet there seemed to be no sign of them and I had heard nothing about horses from anyone we had met. As I would learn from a local out for a walk early the next morning, our penchant for traveling “on the fly” as it were, had once again lead us to an unplanned but adventurous side trip. We were in the right state, on the right coast, but unfortunately we were on the wrong island. Close, but no cigar. Just fifteen miles south of us on the inner coastal was the darling little village of St. Mary’s which is the gateway to another of Georgia’s famed Barrier Islands; Cumberland Island. Unlike Jekyll, Cumberland Island is not anchored to the mainland by a fancy bridge and causeway. Rather, access to the largest of the Sea Islands is by Ferry from the docks in St. Mary’s. Also unlike Jekyll; Cumberland Island has wild horses!

With a cooler full of cold drinks and snackies, off we went very excited to at least be going to where the wild horses really were at last! A brief but pleasant drive along the coast finally had us pointed in the right direction and a short while later we eased into the little city of St. Mary’s. The down town area along the water front leaves you with the feeling that you have traveled back in time. You would never think from looking at the shops and storefronts that this city is home to about 17,000 friendly folks. You would also never know by looking that aside from being the gateway to Cumberland Island, St. Mary’s is also home to the Kings Bay Submarine Base which is in turn home to eight Ohio Class Submarines. And yes, we should have flown here. St. Mary’s has a wonderful airport (4J6)! It too is a “Homey” kind of place with people who love to see you, can’t wait to help you, and are pleased as hell if you come by to see them again sometime. With 4000 and 5000 foot intersecting hard surface runways in great shape and RNAV approaches to three thresholds it’s kind of a comfortable place to land. Gas prices are reasonable too! Tie downs and a courtesy car are also available.

There were dozens of wonderful places to stay in St. Mary’s. Many of them in fine old homes from a bygone era. http://www.visitstmarys.com/where-to-stay.html I am always delighted by these older homes dripping with history and gingerbread. A glut of such places is located in the Osborne St. area a stone’s throw from the waterway that has played such a roll in the area’s history. The place we liked most was Spencer House Inn in the heart of the old historic district. We could walk from there to the ferry and the owners treated us like family. Spencer House has many awards for outstanding service and quality and strives every day to make their place feel like your place while you visit coastal Georgia. Visit the owners Mike and Mary Neff at: http://spencerhouseinn.com/

As is typical of so many small cities on the sea coast, St. Mary’s is oozing history. The original town charter was signed by twenty area residents on Cumberland Island in 1787, and those charter members were each granted four lots of four acres each of high ground, and one four acre lot of marshland. Indian treaties, the slave trade, the Civil War, The War of 1812, and smuggling all played a role in the colorful and fascinating history of the area. We sat on an open air veranda at the River View Cafe sipping a “tomato” cocktail, studying the rich history of the area, and watching the boat traffic on the water just across the street. It was quiet and comfortable and homey and we vowed to return for a more in depth visit. This trip however, was about horses. Learn more about St. Mary’s at: http://www.visitstmarys.com/

The Cumberland Queen or Cumberland Lady will depart from the St. Mary’s dock daily at 9:00 AM and 11:45 AM, with the last return from the island taking place at 4:45 PM. Travel about the island is on foot or by bike and you will not find much of it paved. Trail maps are available and bathrooms and drinking fountains are scattered around the island but other than the wild life; armadillos, wild hogs, birds, sea turtles and of course horses, that is pretty much the extent of it. Bring sturdy shoes and a lunch or snacks as you will find few services on the island. If you are looking for restaurants you won’t find much. You may however make dinner reservations at the Greyfield Inn (one of the Carnegie mansions) on Cumberland Island. It is pricey but it is there. And that is all that is there. The tradeoff for all of this “nothingness” is that the island is beautiful and as long as you don’t decide to see all of it in a day, you should find it a very relaxing place to spend a day or a number of days easily. Camping is allowed by reservation if you wish to stay for more than a day. Be advised, you will need to carry everything you need for camping with you.

It was about a 45 minute ride from St. Mary’s to the island and I was very pleased to see wild ponies munching grass on the island from the rail of the boat before we had even landed! It was only shortly after we landed that I observed the “Horse Queen” in her element, determined to make friends with a wild horse despite the numerous lectures we had already had about how we should never approach the horses. A good deal of her time was spent offering up a handful of grass and cooing in a soothing voice to horses that want nothing at all to do with people. In the end Elizabeth was happy to see that these animals all appeared to be in good condition despite the rather harsh existence they endure. The disclaimer for this trip should probably read, “No humans were injured or killed during the making of this trip.” Horses are plentiful on the island with their numbers hovering around 175 or so. And, yes, they wander freely about as if they own the place. Old tales say that these horses descended from those left on the island by the Spanish. It is more likely that island horses were brought by English settlers originally and the Cumberland horses are feral descendants of those. During the Carnegie years, Thomas Carnegie (wealthy land owner on the island) introduced Tennessee Walking horses, Arabians and others in an attempt to improve the breed. The sale of these “Marsh Tackies” made him a small income. So, we had finally found the famed island of wild horses! Nothing to it. Ah yes, the reward of a well-planned journey. (How would I know anything about a “well-planned” journey?) Make YOUR plans to visit Cumberland by visiting the Ferry web-site: https://www.cumberlandislandferry.com/

One of the bigger surprises for us on our visit to Cumberland Island (besides the horses) was the ruins of Dungeness. Originally, Dungeness was a hunting lodge built on the island in about 1736 by the same General James Oglethorpe who was instrumental in the settlements on St. Simmons Island and on Jekyll Island. Years later and sometime after the Revolutionary war, the widow of Nathanael Greene (the same Nathanael Greene who “whupped up on” Cornwallis in the Revolutionary War) built a four story Tabby mansion named Dungeness on the island after her husband had acquired a large tract of land on the island as settlement of a debt owed him. That same house was occupied by the British during the war of 1812. That “Dungeness” was abandoned and burned in 1866 during the Civil War. The property was then purchased in the 1880’s by Thomas Carnegie (Brother of Andrew Carnegie) who proceeded to begin the construction of a new Queen Anne styled 59 room mansion on the island. That Dungeness was completed in 1886. Carnegie died before this Dungeness was completed. Thomas Carnegie’s Widow Lucy continued to live on the island after his death and built other mansions on the island for their children. Three additional estates were built: Greyfield, Plum Orchard, and Stafford Plantation. Upon completion of the building spree, the Carnegies owned approximately 90% of Cumberland Island. With the Great Depression in full swing, the cost of operations at the estates became overwhelming and the Carnegies departed Cumberland and left the estates abandoned in 1925. Dungeness burned in 1959 (some historians claim it was arson) and those ruins are preserved today by the National Park Service. In contrast to ruins of Dungeness, the 22,000 square foot Plum Orchard Mansion still stands, may be toured(https://www.nps.gov/cuis/planyourvisit/guidedtours.htm) and is in very good condition. For a great photo in-depth photo lay out and some history on Dungeness and the rest of the Carnegie mansions on Cumberland visit: https://roadtrippers.com/stories/the-remains-of-dungeness-mansion-are-georgias-most-haunting-ruins The island is now officially known as “Cumberland Island National Seashore.”

What an adventure! Our days were too full! We had seen too much. It was time to start thinking in terms of return flights. Back on Jekyll that night we returned to Latitude 31 for a late last supper of Oysters and Seafood Crepes, Shrimp and Grits, and Carpaccio. We toasted with a fine Pinot Grigio and then strolled back to our room at the Hampton. Sleep came easy.

We lounged the next morning while I checked the weather and filed our flight plan. The return trip to Brunswick was quiet, almost gloomy. Already our return flight to reality was beginning. I always hate the return flight. It always just seems like the fun is over. We had missed one the last spring snow storms up north while we were gone; that system was now well east and despite heavier cloud cover, a smooth and stable flight at 8500 feet found us making respectable speed. One uneventful fuel and rest stop and then “all downhill” to home. The last golden rays of a setting sun were pushing over the horizon as the RV drifted down the final. Tucked away in its hangar the little RV looked forlorn, as if it too wanted to continue the journey. I gave her a little pat on the way by just to let her know how much we appreciated her role in this most satisfying adventure. With a little more planning, the next great adventure might even be bigger! Although, I guess maybe we have determined that planning is sometimes highly overrated.

Tom Speerstra

Author: Tom Speerstra

Tom Speerstra has had an enduring love affair with aviation for over 40 years. Countless adventures have been enjoyed flying students, people, paper, and parcels in everything from Champs to Citations. He has held positions as both Chief Pilot and Director of Operations for Part 135 carriers and holds an ATP, MEII, SES ratings and a Citation type rating. Tom makes his home in Michigan with his wife Elizabeth and the two dogs Hess and Pappy.

1 Comment

  1. Susan Van Liere Susan Van Liere says:

    Holy cow! You two packed a lot in in a short amount of time. Sounds like a wonderful trip with lots of colorful history. Randy and I will have to add it to our list. Great article!