Brian and I had a restful night anchored in the Brickhill River; the waters were calm, no bobbing around in currents. Today we would explore the Cumberland Island National Seashore, a location about which we’ve heard many cruisers rave. We kayaked ashore at Plum Orchard where there is dock access to the island.
We first visited Plum Orchard; winter vacation home built in 1898 by Thomas Carnegie (brother to steel entrepreneur Andrew Carnegie) and his wife Lucy. Plum Orchard was intended for the Carnegie’s son, George, and wife, Margaret Thaw. Lucy maintained the deed to the mansion, however, never turning it completely over to her son.
We had a very knowledgeable National Park Service guide for our private tour of Plum Orchard. Not only did our guide share all the facts pertaining to the mansion, he also spent 10-years living aboard a 27-foot sailboat in the Bahamas and shared a wealth of knowledge pertaining to fishing. Most importantly he instructed Brian how to filet a conch and gave a great tip for removing the intestines of a spiny lobster. He also recommended stockable grocery items that will be expensive in the Bahamas, such as coffee and tomato sauce.
Back to the mansion…The Carnegie’s began building on Cumberland Island in 1884 on the site of the Dungeness foundation. The Dungeness was a four-story home built in the 1790’s by Catherine Greene, widow of Revolutionary War hero General Nathaniel Greene. (We haven’t seen the Dungeness remains yet, it is located on the south end of the island.) The Carnegies wintered on Cumberland Island. Plum Orchard was yet another example of wealth without income taxes in the early 1900’s. The Carnegie children did not have to work after their uncle hit it big in the steel industry. What else to do with all this money then build vacation homes? Much like the homes we toured in Newport, Plum Orchard was filled with leisure; hunting, fishing, squash, guests, etc. When Lucy’s son, George, died his wife vacated Plum Orchard to live with her new husband. Plum Orchard was given to Lucy’s daughter, Nancy. Nancy, her second husband, and five children seemed to most use and enjoy the home. During summers the home was run by caretakers to maintain the grounds, animals, and house.
Entrance – this fireplace nook was likely the warmest spot in the house.
Gun Room – This 1898 piano is tuned, we played a round of Chopsticks. There were two of the tortoise shell looking Tiffany’s lamps in the room. The glass was twisted intricately on the inside of the shade to form the shell-look on the outside. The Gun Room displayed all of the guns and various animal heads from prized hunts. The Carnegies did venture to the arctic; old photos of the decor in the home show a polar bear rug in the entrance hallway. The cupboard behind the piano housed ammunition in neatly organized drawers.
Wife, Margaret’s bathroom – took this pic to note the rain shower head, no messing around in those days! The Mrs’ bathroom also had a bideau and heated towel racks. The knobs on the tub adjustments in all the bathrooms had ‘Hot’ ‘Cold’ and ‘Shampoo’ the latter of which had a small ring to hold a dispenser. All the bathrooms were also equipped with match holders to strike when business was done.
We had a bit of dress-up fun in George’s dressing room.
Upstairs family hallway – are you thinking ‘The Shining!?’ There was a skylight, original, just above where we took this photo. The servants had a separate, parallel hallway. The servant hallway was painted an obnoxious taxi-yellow and had glass octagon shaped doorknobs so they would know in the dark that they were in the appropriate location. The doorknobs in the family area of the house were round and smooth glass.
Butler’s Pantry – the Carnegies often served cold meals to their guests to show-off their refrigeration. The pantry held 400 place settings in the cupboards.
We really enjoyed our tour of Plum Orchard. Now off to the trails!
The scenery on Cumberland Island was very new to us and it changed as we traversed the island. We first walked through forests of Live Oak trees draped in Irish Moss.
Scampering lizards kept us on alert for what other creatures may lurk in the forest!
We passed by swampy areas.
Nearing the oceanside of the island, we found tall, thin pines and sand dunes. And still lizards!
The Atlantic Ocean
Brian found some turtle eggs. We hope they hatched and ventured into the sea rather than were eaten by raccoons or snakes.
Debris from the ocean, littered with plastic bottles and flip-flops.
We left the beach and picked up an ATV trail. Yes, eventually we realized it wasn’t a trail. It led us back to the beach. Rather than use our good sense, which we seem to use out on the water, Brian decided to continue through the dunes until we found the real trail and I followed. It was a looonnng walk!
Attack prickly plants!
Trekking up an untouched dune. King of the mountain!
Bright purple berry plant that I hope to identify, it was very pretty.
This was NOT a marker to the trail. Maybe marking a turtle nest, but no real evidence of that either. Most likely marking our 18th mile walked today.
Ocean debris – this HUGE wood frame piece from something HUGE.
So happy to find the actual trail!
Back on the road, Brian’s keen eyes spotted an alligator in a marshy area that we passed. This was only his snout and eyes so we think he was quite large.
Another alligator farther down the trail.
We crossed bridges over ponds that lead into the marsh. No alligators here.
Armadillos! We spotted 5 armadillos in the brush along our way back. They were super cute, hopping around like armored chinchillas!
This mushroom was truly this vibrant orange, no photo shopping here! Wonder if it’s edible?
There are wild horses on Cumberland Island known as “marsh tackies.” We saw hoof prints everywhere and dodged piles of manure, but never spotted a single horse. Maybe next time…