Georgia’s Golden Isles: discovering the Deep South’s best-kept secret

If Sapelo and Little St Simons have been quiet items of historical past and marvel; Jekyll is vacation enjoyable: I sip margaritas whereas watching waves crash on the shore, and go to sleep on the seaside as fishermen solid nets out to sea. 

Cumberland Island, my final cease, is completely different and maybe probably the most glittering of all of the Golden Isles. A nationwide park, accessible solely by a 45-minute ferry journey, it was as soon as the playground for the kings of America’s industrial Gilded Age, the Carnegies, who left behind two outrageous mansions (one now mendacity in ruins, the opposite nonetheless immaculate) and — amongst different ostentatious issues — an icehouse. Presumably these gilded G&Ts simply weren’t the identical in the event that they weren’t served on the rocks. 

However earlier than then, Cumberland was the house of the Timucua, and it’s the legacy of this Native Individuals group that I really feel most acutely right here. They known as the island Mocoma (their phrase for ‘ocean’) and so they lived in peace right here for greater than 1,000 years, fishing, looking sport, foraging for edible crops and making a few of the earliest-known pottery discovered anyplace within the New World. 

It’s right here, too, that I meet Willy Hazlehurst, the native information who’ll later present me manatees and whisper of the island’s magic — that feeling that’s so arduous to place into phrases. We hike alongside sandy paths although lush, moss-dripped forests stunted from centuries of salt air whose timber twist like dancers above our heads. Willy reveals me one among many shell middens. Apparently, the Timucua have been fairly tidy, as a result of all alongside the shores and inland waterways are monumental piles — most now buried within the filth — comprising tens of 1000’s of discarded oyster shells.

“Stick a shovel within the floor nearly anyplace,” Willy says, “and also you’ll discover the stays of their dinner.” 

Heading to the north of the island, Willy stops immediately scouring the bottom, plucking three black hooks from the silt and dropping them in my arms: fossilised shark enamel, dredged from the close by sound. 1000’s of years after they have been shaped, they’re nonetheless sharp sufficient to chop. 

Later that afternoon, we arrange camp on the sandy ground beside the river’s edge, surrounded by the cautious foraging of untamed horses and the splashing of manatees close by. We watch a full moon rise pink over the ocean dunes and a solar set over the salt marsh in a startling color I’ve by no means seen in nature earlier than coming to Georgia. 

However it’s a color I recognise now, a color that glitters in low solar, a color shared in marvel from the Timucua to the Sapelo slaves and past. It seeps into your pores and skin just like the rising tide. It’s three easy phrases: pure Georgia gold.  

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