Off the coast of Georgia there is an island that seems to have come out of a children’s storybook. The weeping branches of the live oak trees are covered in Spanish moss. The moss like a lace adding even more charm to the winsome canopy above. The entire island a mystical place. The kind of place ripe for stories to be dreamt up and evolved. One can imagine it was once a home to pirates who left buried gold deep within the island’s terrain. Finding the lost treasures a quest only the bravest dare to attempt. I can only assume fairies and unicorns dwell in the enchanted surroundings. In reality there was a point when wild horses roamed free here, although they are no longer seen running through the marsh the way they once did.
At dawn golden rays of sun peek through the trees and moss. Hidden forest nymphs seemingly coax it back from it’s night time hiding place. Coral colored flowers grow on the vines climbing the trees trunks, the golden hue illuminating the various pinks and oranges in their petals. You find yourself wishing to be a wren so you can make a home in the canopy above. Blue bells and small palms grow on the ground. Pathways of fallen leaves guide your exploration of the terrain leading you to small ponds that appear unannounced through the brush. Turtles sun themselves on logs and elegant herons perch on the water’s edge. Deer feed on the flowers and grass growing from the surrounding land. The canopy above begins to sway as if in a delicate dance when the wind blows, so different from the harsh jerks of the pines on the mainland.
Eventually the maritime forest makes way to picturesque sand dunes. Small mountains of sand and plant growth giving only a peak at the blue waters of the Atlantic. Green sea grasses pop up shielding sea turtle nests in spring and summer. Closer to the water the growth on the pale hills becomes sparse, the sand becoming soft beneath your feet. Sea birds fly over head and the sound of crashing waves lead you forward to the shore.
Meeting you on the east side of the island are long wide beaches. The tide migrates a wondrous amount through the day, the push and pull of the moon dictating the constant waltz. During low tide sandbars allow foot travel far out into the waves granting you the ability to look back at a distant shore in wonderment. At the water’s edge pastel colored clams dig their way through the sand, only to be pulled up again by rolling waves. Whitecaps dot the water when storms form off the coast and the wind whips past. Ships can be seen coming in and out of port taking the northern chanell leading inland. Fishing vessels and large cargo ships loaded with crates are spotted far out in the Atlantic. Pelicans scoop down toward the water in front of you and small plover birds take quick steps through water pooling in the sand. Dolphins pass by from time to time, if you are lucky you will catch them frolicking in the water. Their fins peek at you as they flip and spin, seeming to turn catching their meals into more play than work.
The beach at the top of the island is slowly erroading away. The currents carrying and depositing the northern sand to the south end of the island. The island is rolling itself down the coast, allowing us only a brief glimpse of its current state. The erosion causes the northern tree line of the forest to push back resulting in mighty trees that once grew tall and free to wither and grey. Left behind is a graveyard of driftwood. Ghosts and skeletons haunting the sand in a mesmerizing reminder of what was. Fascinating mazes of geometrical roots create natural lines that can be traced for hours, and ladders of bare branches beg to be climbed. When the tide recedes pools of salty water collect at the base of the phantom trees. Small fish swim in these warmer pools, waiting for the tide to rise again and sweep them back to sea. Hermit crabs crawl on the roots and trunks, using the wood as shelter.
Slowly city dwellers are discovering the magic of the Island. While historic buildings show proof of years of settlements, the Island was never largely populated. The addition of luxury hotels and shops now drawing in suburbanites looking for a brief escape in the spring and summer. The location no longer quite the whispered secret it once was. While I hesitate to share this secret I will still invite you to come and find the fairy tale for yourself. See the resorts, follow the bike paths, help build the tourism economy in this tiny piece of heaven. Me, I was never one for the resorts or fancy shops. You’ll find me with the wood nymphs and fairies camping in the forest. I’ll wake to the golden sun filtering in through the branches and moss, and the sounds of the lucky birds who spend their days in paradise. I’ll follow the unpaved paths wondering about buried gold, and eventually find that the treasure was always the island itself.