I stumbled upon the Georgia Blueway Paddling Trail which snakes it’s way along the ICW and through the marshes of Georgia’s coastline. Using this trail, I’ve been able to plan my journey a bit better and keep out of the open ocean and busier ICW when possible.
Tide was out as I shoved off and set down Barrel Creek to St. Mary’s.
A brief stop at the town of St. Mary’s revealed the boat ramp in shambles but an excellent kayak dock at Knucklehead’s Kayak Tours for me to use. He gave me a bunch of good advice in the way a grizzled Vietnam Vet chainsmoking cigarettes only can, then a bumper sticker to add to my growing collection under the rear hatch. The Cumberland Island Visitor center folks let me know the wilderness area of the island was off limits for hunting season so I could only arrange and pay to camp at Sea Camp, a short paddle and then a bit of a walk to camp. Instead, I thanked them and paddled on down the river with the falling tide and then up the west side of Cumberland Island as the tide rose. I passed the historic and stately homes and admired the wild horses I saw grazing on the shoreline. The miles ticked away as the tide helped me northward and I found myself at Plum Orchard around sunset.
There a fisherman who had taken part in the hunt told me I couldn’t camp there. Without a 7 mile paddle to Crooked River, I had no options but sleeping in the marsh so instead I stealth camped behind an old concrete building that had sunken into the marsh from storms.
Overnight the crunching outside my tent in the palmetto revealed itself to be a horse lazily munching away and exploring through the night. Satisfied it wasn’t a hunter or ranger, I fell back asleep to the wind in the oaks.
Making my way off Cumberland Island as early as possible, I continued along the paddling trail and soon found my way to Floyd’s River. Running low on water, I needed to find some and stopped at an abandoned military type place with many no-trespassing signs. Wearing my kayaking gear and carrying my jug, I wandered around down a road to a big dock where a small pumphouse had a spigot. Nobody stopped me and a glance at Google Maps showed this was the planned Camden Spaceport. Critical article here.
The mud here was soft and I sunk to my knees in the sticky tidal soup attempting to get back into the boat. In this region of Georgia’s coast, the tides can range up to 8-9 feet either leaving me paddling through the grass to the marsh edge or dragging the boat up sharp oyster shells and slippery muck to the shoreline. Not easy. There are few listed campsites along this route so I’ve had to get creative a few times in finding a campsite above the high tide line and with some protection.
One night on Jointer Island, I had a great view of the Lanier Bridge over to Brunswick, GA.
The wind would shift directions and the smell of trucks and the paper mill would waft my way. I’m certainly not used to being around big towns after all this time on the water. The following day I crossed the Brunswick River Channel and was about halfway through the difficulty of headwinds and fighting the tide when a large car transport ship materialized below the bridge. These big ships can move deceptively quick so I changed course and let it plow under the bridge, glad it wasn’t producing too high of a wake yet.
A quick stop at the park down by the bridge then I continued on to Southeast Kayak Adventures shop. The dock was destroyed and the marsh at low tide was nearly impassable. I did manage to get out and confirm the shop was closed and then continued over to the Marshes of Glynn Overlook Park where the oysters scraped my hull as I hauled it up on to the high tide line and chained it up below the trash manitee.
Spending the afternoon walking around, I stopped for coffee at McD’s and then headed to Winn Dixie. Just another fine winter afternoon in the south. The loud highway near my tent was an annoyance but the lights flashing on the canopy was like a light show with the many shapes and designs swirling about. Come morning, I steadily made my way to the Frederica River and upstream and across to St Simon’s Island and the historic Gascoigne Park. It was here that the live oak timbers for the CSS Constitution, “Old Ironsides”, were cut and shipped north for shipbuilding.
The next few days will be spent here on the island visiting with my folks and spending some much needed time away from the stresses of winter paddling on the saltwater.