Cumberland Trip FAQs

  • What is the itinerary? 

    • 3/23 (Wed) late afternoon: arrive at Crooked River State Park to meet the group and inventory supplies; camp at CRS

    • 3/24 (Thu): take ferry to Sea Camp, backpack 8 miles to Yankee Paradise; camp at YP

    • 3/25: day hikes exploring the mid-section of the island; backpack 3 miles to Brickhill Bluff; camp at BB

    • 3/26 day hike to meet Carol and explore north end of island (~8-10+ miles total); camp at BB

    • 3/27 backpack 7 miles to Stafford Beach, and explore beach; camp at SB

    • 3/28 (Mon) backpack 4 miles to Sea Camp, board ferry and head home, arrive St. Mary’s 11 a.m. 

  • What do I need to bring?

    • Here’s a packing list to get you started. We’ll be supplying first aid, group cooking gear and food. More details will be forthcoming to individual participants. 

  • Who is coming?

    • Two leaders, Tal Galton and Jake Silver, and up to eight participants. We’ll share more information with each other as the group fills out. 

  • Temperature/weather? 

    • Average temps range from lows in the 50s to highs in the 70s. It could be 80, which may feel hot to many of us. March tends to be one of the drier months, but spending 5 days on the island, we should expect to encounter some rain. The ocean will be cool (mid-60s), but if the air is warm enough, some folks may want to swim. 

  • What about food? 

    • Once the group is registered, we will formulate a menu. It’ll be typical backpacking fare: rice, beans, pasta, dehydrated veggies. We will provide ingredients for the main meals and some snacks. Folks should bring their own supplies for morning beverages (coffee/tea), and any specialty snacks. We will be able to accommodate some dietary preferences (i.e. vegetarian), but not all.  

  • What about bugs?

    • Biting insects are ever-present on the island. I have explored Cumberland’s wilderness during several seasons, and March tends to be one of the better months. There will be some mosquitoes, but if it hasn’t been unusually warm and wet, they shouldn’t be too bad; they will be out in the evenings and mornings in certain locations. I highly recommend bringing your favorite repellent and/or exercising strategies to mitigate mosquitoes. You may use alternative repellents, but DEET is one of few proven deterrents. I prefer to rely on long sleeves, pants, socks, and a headnet. Ticks are ubiquitous on the island. There are strategies for avoiding them as well, but it is all but certain that ticks will catch a ride on all of us during the trip. My strategy is to pick them off at regular intervals, and to conduct a thorough tick check each night. Carol Ruckdeschel's famous strategy is to bite their heads off. The good news is that as long as they aren’t latched on for more than 24 hrs, it’s nearly impossible to contract diseases from ticks. Permethrin treated socks/pant legs may help deter them. 

  • And snakes and alligators? 

    • The subtropical ecology of Cumberland is great habitat for reptiles and amphibians. Hopefully we’ll get to see several species. Over the years I have encountered alligators, a green snake, a scarlet kingsnake, corn snakes, yellow rat snakes, water moccasins, and an Eastern diamondback rattler. Carol says that the island’s venomous snakes are accustomed to large bumbling animals (more horses than humans in the backcountry), and are loath to waste their venom on hikers. This has been my experience as well. That said, I recommend the standard precautions (watch where you step, wear closed-toe shoes and socks while hiking in the forest, and use a headlamp at night). Out of thousands of visits, the park reports <1 snakebite per year, and none in the past 4 years.  

  • The trails? 

    • We have some flexibility here: one of the nation’s finest trails is the Parallel Trail, running through the heart of the maritime forest, parallel to the main road and the beach. The main road is also a nice option; it’s a sandy path under an arch of live oaks and spanish moss, only occasionally used by a few park service and private vehicles. If you are lucky and attentive, you can find numerous shark’s teeth in the roadbed. We may also spend time hiking on the beach. Some of the less-frequented trails on the northern third of the island can be a bit overgrown.

  • How should I prepare?

    • Be sure that you are able to carry a 40 lbs. pack for several flat miles of hiking. We will be hiking up to 10 miles a day, but most hiking will be with lighter loads. In addition to physical preparation, I highly recommend that you read Untamed by Will Harlan. Used copies should be easy to come by in Asheville bookstores, or on Alibris. I also have a copy of Carol’s own book, A Natural History of Cumberland Island, but I probably won’t take it backpacking (it is heavy). You can read about maritime forests in this useful digital summary.